Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Calm After the Holiday Storm

I love the time between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s a small respite from the winter months that has a little bit of a magical lull. Kids are on school holiday, and business operations have slowed down. To me, this is the perfect time to take advantage of a little hit of quietude, and enjoy the calm after the holiday storm.

Here are some ideas about how to make the most of the halcyon days between holidays:

-Spontaneously invite friends over for drinks, dinner, or Christmas cookies. Keep these gatherings simple.  Don’t worry too much about the food.  It’s all about spending time with friends and staying cozy. Everyone has so many Christmas dishes and holiday treats still floating around, it’s easy to cobble together a meal or a festive get together from holiday odds and ends.

-Spend time with your family. Play games, go see a movie together (there are lots of fantastic, big-budget holiday productions of all genres in theaters now) or rent a movie and stay in.  These family activities can be as simple or elaborate as you want to make them, thanks to the little extra slack that comes at this time of year.

-Cultivate quiet. Everyone talks about peace this time of year; make some for yourself! Light candles, take a bath, make tea, or curl up with a new book you received as a gift this year. Take stock of this past year, and think about the things you want to bring into your life in the new year. 

The peace, silence, and stillness of late December is something to cherish. Extend hospitality, spent time, express gratitude, bring light, and have a very happy holiday.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Blending Christmas Traditions

Hot Toddies-continue traditions...

...and add new ones-No-Bake Missouri Cookies

Holiday time is a season rich with tradition. Now especially, we invest great energy and care into continuing the traditions we’ve grown to know and love. In my last post about Christmas Eve, I wrote about reinventing old Christmas Eve traditions or starting new ones tonight. The idea behind introducing a new activity or meal on Christmas Eve was to refresh the holiday experience. However, I realize that abandoning a timeworn tradition can feel strange. We feel hesitant to take the leap and try something new. 
I was puzzling over how to solve the dilemma when I had a Eureka Moment, thanks to a friend’s tree trimming, cooking making party we attended last weekend. When she extended the invitation, this friend explained that her family’s tradition was to invite their friends over to help bake and decorate the tree. I loved the way her tradition cultivated community. I also shared with her a tradition of ours: making hot toddies, our way to take that tiny edge off the stress off hanging breakable ornaments and attempting complex cookie recipes. Without missing a beat she said, “Will you make those for us on Sunday then?” And that’s when I had the Eureka Moment: 

Instead of abandoning old traditions in favor of new ones, blend and trade traditions with your friends and neighbors. Kind of a similar idea to the lesson in the saying “make new friends, but keep the old.”

Everyone was happy as a result of our tradition trade. The hot toddies were a hit with my friend’s family, and her family’s favorite Christmas cookie, No-Bake Missouri Cookies, were well received by mine. 

We also thoroughly enjoyed helping our friends with their holiday preparations. Many hands made light work. And at the end of the night, we went home with a tin full of freshly baked cookies!

What could be better? 

 I’m wishing everyone a holiday filled with love and light.

Merry Christmas to you and yours,

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Eve Traditions, New and Old

Christmas Day is for the traditional dishes, time with your relatives, and the hubbub of a full house. On Christmas Eve, you’re allowed to improvise. 

Make Christmas Eve a night for your family and about your family.  Make it about what you love. The Christmas Eve and dinner that night can be special without being over the top. This is an evening that should feel comfortable, relaxed, and casual. Plan a meal of your family’s favorite food that reflects your everyday family culture at its best. I know one family that makes hearty American chili on Christmas Eve. Another family that lived in the Southwest makes tacos and chiles rellenos. In my family, a few years ago we started making osso bucco, a stew-like Italian preparation of veal shanks my girls and husband love. 

This Christmas Eve, try a new recipe, break tradition, or start a new one. Be unconventional! Every Christmas Eve, my girls each get to open one gift each. I can’t remember how this tradition started, but it stuck and became part of our family. When the girls were little, it boosted their anticipation of Christmas Morning, which I loved to watch. As they grew, opening one present became an opportunity to savor a special gift on its own without the clutter and chaos of Christmas Morning. 

I encourage you to start a new tradition in your family this year. Invite over close friends, play a new game together, or transform your Christmas Eve dinner. 

Tonight, you can do whatever you want.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Nesting, Part 1

By Rosanna's eldest daughter, Alessandra Wollner
About a week ago I signed the lease on my first post-college house. Despite the house’s quirks, I’ve fallen in love. From the moment I stepped across the threshold, I could feel it inviting me to fill these rooms, to make a house a home. It was an invitation I was more than happy to accept. 

It’s a big thing, moving into the first home of one’s own. Throughout this process, I’ve devoted significant psychic energy to one question: 

What makes a house a home? 
Nearly every waking hour finds me working on the answer to this question. The more I mull it over, the more answers I find. For now, here’s what I’ve got: 

Name Your Home
In Morocco, people name their houses—Dar Dmana, Dar Zaman, Dar Malek, Dar Afram. In Arabic dar means “house.” Morrocan transplant and writer Tahir Shah devoted two whole books to depictions of life at Dar Khalifa (The Caliph’s House), his home hidden deep in the heart of a Casablancan shantytown. 

I like the idea of naming a house. It acknowledges the fact that every house has a personality and a story, like us. Naming your house works the same way a pet name does; it deepens your fondness, drawing you closer to the object of your affection.   

Everything about our new house, from the inlaid wood floors to huge, verdant garden, feels charmed. And somehow, each furniture piece and decoration we add looks like it belonged here all along. In light of this enchanted environment, it felt natural when we started calling our new home “Magic House.” 

"Dar Danai" 

The Usable Used and the Free Store 
 “Home” to me means a place with soul. Homes acquire soul over time, which is why I much prefer to live in old houses rather than new ones. Magic House was built in 1890. 

The accrual of soul is the reason I furnish my home with previously owned or vintage objects and furniture. Chips and paint scratches welcome. Some people prefer the look of new Ikea products to found objects from their local thrift shop—that’s fine. Aesthetics are, after all, a matter of taste. I will maintain one thing: it’s easier than you think to find what you’re looking for secondhand; you just have to put a little time into the search. 

Almost anything you can imagine wanting already exists out there, slightly used but still perfectly usable. All it takes is a trip to Goodwill and a quick jaunt through ebay to realize that our world is stuffed with stuff. Now that I’ve seen what’s already out there, I find it nearly impossible to justify the purchase of anything new. Buying items secondhand is the way to go. It’s environmentally responsible and pretty fun, thanks to the thrill of the chase. Finding the thing I’m searching for often requires a little digging, but when I stumble upon it at last, the discovery always thrills me. Be forewarned: it’s also a little addictive.  

If you don’t care for Goodwill or flea markets, and lack the patience for online trolling, there is another place you can look. It’s close to home, you never encounter other shoppers there, and the prices can’t be beat. I’m talking about your parents’ basement. I call it “the Free Store.” 

Luminescent, Not Fluorescent
I detest overhead lighting. It’s unpleasant and harsh. Buy lamps. Floor, table, wall, whatever. Use 60-100 watt bulbs. If you’re not in the mood to buy new lighting, at least replace the harsh bulbs in your overhead fixtures with lower wattage alternatives. Full disclosure: these bulbs aren’t environmentally noble like halogen bulbs or fluorescents, but in this case I’m willing to bend my environmental ethics a little for the sake of an agreeable ambiance. 

This one is obvious, and almost stupidly easy to execute. Here’s how: 

Buy a bag of votive candles. 
Take them home. 
Put them in holders.
Light them. 
If you don’t have holders, light the candles anyway. 

Any candlelight, even naked, adds instant warmth and sophistication to a space. Whenever my friends come over for dinner, they’re always inordinately impressed by the presence of lit candles. At which point I pull out the bag of unlit votives and reveal their country of origin: CVS. 

Original Art 
Original art and ambient lighting are the keys to making a space your own. Original art displays your aesthetic and creates an atmosphere unique to you. Note the adjective here—original art. Van Gogh still lifes, Matisse cutouts, and Warhol Campbell’s Soup prints do not count as original art. 

If you’re worried about cost, don’t be. Original art doesn’t have to be expensive. Take a trip in to your local thrift or antique store. I guarantee you’ll find at least one thing worth hanging on your wall that costs between $5-$50. Another good place to keep an eye out is at your weekly farmer’s or flea market. Local artists often make appearances at these venues to get their work out to the public. Etsy is another place to find a treasure trove of cool, original art. Watch out though—the site is extensive. Sucks me in every time.

My favorite way to procure original art by far is to collect work done by friends and family. When I can, I buy their pieces to support their work. Sometimes though, I get lucky and they give me a painting, print, drawing, or sculpture, much to my delight. A growing collection of paintings by my stepmother, Barbara Van Wollner, populates my walls. Whenever I move, I find a new place of honor to hang a painting by a visionary family friend, Carols Perez. Recently, we received a housewarming gift from Janet Delaney, a photographer who also happens to be a friend, mentor, and the mother of a college friend. Seeing her print in our kitchen every morning never gets old.

I love looking at these pieces and knowing someone I love created them. Needless to say, owning pieces by such brilliant artists whom I personally know also comes with an excellent set of bragging rights. 

By Janet Delaney

By Carlos Perez

By Barbara Van Wollner

Returning to the original question—What makes a house a home?—it’s obvious that our answers will vary; our homes are intimate reflections of our selves. Our homes telegraph our personalities and values to everyone we invite inside. In them we display items that expose our passions and hang photos that reveal whom we love and where we’ve come from. Regardless of how differently we answer that question that inspired this post, it’s undeniable that all of us seek the same essential things from our homes: comfort, safety, and rejuvenation. So—

How does comfort look? 
What makes you feel safe? 
What restores you? 
The key to figuring out what makes a house a home hinges on articulating the answers to these three questions and envisioning them. Once you do that, then congratulations—

you’re home. 
 *Still thinking about what makes a house a home. Check back soon for Nesting, Part 2

Magic House

Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Prep

The holidays are coming. This is an exciting time of the year filled with parties, special events, and family gatherings. For precisely the same reasons, the holiday season can also be hectic.    
Anyone who’s been responsible for holiday preparations knows what a challenge it can be to manage the many obligations surrounding this time of the year. The holidays require a lot of prep work and produce that nasty, all too familiar byproduct: stress. 

 The holidays give us two wonderful opportunities. This time we set aside to celebrate ensures that we join together and experience community, for a moment at least. These moments are precious, and unnecessary stress should not mar our happiness during this time of year. The best way I’ve found to take the edge off the holiday season is simple: plan ahead, which is especially helpful when it comes to one very important holiday activity—baking cookies.
Before the holiday festivities get into full swing, I try to do as much legwork as possible. That way, when the time rolls around for parties and gifts, I can enjoy these special moments with my family and friends to their fullest. When it comes to holiday cookies, I have two tricks.

Trick 1
Make and freeze the dough first, then thaw and bake the cookies later. This is a great strategy for cookie-making gatherings, to keep the time commitment reasonable and the labor pleasant.

Trick 2
Make and bake the cookies, then freeze them and bring them to room temperature in the tin. To thaw frozen cookies, just take the tin out of the freezer and let the cookies warm up; you don’t even have to turn on the oven. Afterwards, I make sure to store the cookies in the same tightly sealed tin in a cool, dry place.
By prepping the dough and getting a few batches baked before the holidays rev up, it means I have enough time to make cookies to give away as gifts. Every year, I bring a batch of cookies to our neighbors, either on a Rosanna platter or accompanied by a set of our holiday mugs. Heartfelt gifts are my favorite gifts to give. Homemade gifts are the most heartfelt, the clearest way to express love and goodwill. I often don’t find the time to make gifts but, with a little bit of planning ahead, I’ve found a way to find the time.

Pre-baking your holiday cookies is just one example of how to plan ahead during the holidays. Use this idea as a rule of thumb—apply it to gift shopping, party planning, and holiday meal preparation to ensure you enjoy this holiday season to its fullest, brightest extent.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holla Hallah!

by rosanna's eldest daughter, alessandra wollner

When people invite you to their home for dinner, don’t come to their doorstep empty handed.

My mother never told me this lesson in so many words, but she did raise me well. Countless times before we went over to someone’s house, I watched her wrap up a pair of taper candles, stop to pick up the prettiest bouquet from the market, select a bottle of wine before leaving the house, or present a host with a set of Rosanna mugs.

Fresh out of college, the prettiest bouquets are the ones I filch from someone else’s backyard. The bottles of wine are, more often than not, two buck Chuck. Because I live in California, I can’t avail myself of free Rosanna product from my mother’s Seattle warehouse, much to my chagrin.  

Besides the challenge to find cost effective gifts for my hosts, I want them to know how much I appreciate and value their hospitality. This is why I have started making bread.

I’ve discovered that bread is an ideal item to bring to dinner. Presenting your hosts with something homemade is a heartfelt way to say thank you. And the best part about bread is that it doesn’t disturb anyone’s menu planning. Bread is a food that is incredibly beautiful and tremendously comforting. There’s such variation to this food that you can almost always find a recipe to suit the occasion and will mean something to the people who are feeding you. Lately, I’ve been going to a lot of dinners celebrating the day of rest, and so I’m making and bringing along hallah, a Jewish egg-bread similar to brioche.

Not all of us have time to make bread. I didn’t either until just recently. Not only that, all manner of dough used to deeply intimidate me. Now, I’m working through that fear. Making bread works for me. It might not work for you, but who knows?

Maybe it will.

p.s. Thanks to Smitten Kitchen for this bomb hallah recipe!


Thanksgiving a time when we celebrate a variety of important things. To name a few:   harvest bounty, community, and being American. regardless of religion. Thanksgiving is also special because it is an adaptable holiday. It give us the opportunity think about our heritage as a country, all that’s good and what needs to be improved, as well as the heritage that is unique to our family. We are free to give thanks for what we have in whatever way we like.

For all these reasons, Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday to share, especially with foreigners. Inviting someone from another country to participate in this quintessential American tradition is to learn what the United States is all about. After all, the first Thanksgiving was multi-cultural—a moment celebrated by colonists from different places in Europe and Native Americans together.

It’s also true that the best way to learn something is to teach it. If you want to understand what the United States stands for, and think carefully about how it prompts us to be grateful, here’s your opportunity.

Here are some things to think about this Thanksgiving, whether you have a foreigner at your table or not:

-What does this country have that you couldn’t live without?
-What is your favorite aspect of “American life?”
-What about this country do you hope will never change?
-What makes you proud to be an American?

Wishing a very happy Thanksgiving to all.

Monday, November 22, 2010



Visa & MC accepted on purchases over $50
Cash is faster! We only have one credit card machine and the line gets backed up
Parking is on street or in the gravel lot across Holgate. We kindly ask that you do not park in the Goodwill parking lot.
Must be present to shop. Orders will not be accepted via phone or email.
Please, for safety reasons, do not bring small children.
No refunds or exchanges. Please check all items for damages and defects before leaving. We also ask that you make sure all sets are complete, we will not be able to issue a refund after the sale is final.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thoughts on Thanksgiving: Part 2

In response to the question

What do you think is the most important thing to put on a Thanksgiving table?  

I have two words: 
Fresh food.

At Thanksgiving especially, I strive to make sure everything on the table is homemade and make a point of using only natural ingredients. No margarine, no cranberry sauce in a can, and no instant gravy. This meal is as much about the time, effort, and love it takes to prepare as it is about the actual eating of it.

Growing up, I remember my grandmother made every single Thanksgiving dish from scratch. If you don’t know where to start with from-scratch cooking, you don’t have to look much farther than two generations back. Refer to old family recipes from your grandparents’ generation, before ready-made, instant food became widely available. During that era, there was nothing but homemade.

A Thanksgiving made with fresh ingredients from nature instead of from a can make for a meal that has something special. The extra effort and mindful attention to detail set this dinner apart from the everyday meals. The long hours in the kitchen are something to take pride in and to cherish. Cooking, after all, is one of the most basic and intuitive expressions of love.

This Thanksgiving, I encourage everyone to make their holidays as fresh as you can —

Not organic,
Not green,
Not eco-friendly,

just fresh.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thoughts on Thanksgiving

Only nine days until Thanksgiving, and counting.

Thanksgiving is an especially significant American holiday because every one celebrates it—regardless of religion. As most holidays do, Thanksgiving marks a moment when families come together. I have quite a lot to say about Thanksgiving and its significance, but what I’d really like is to hear from you. I want to use this blog as a place to start conversations, which are crucial components that help create community.

Ready? Here’s the question:

What do you think is the most important thing to put on a Thanksgiving table?  

Make your answers as personal or as widely applicable as you like. I'll post my answer at the end of the week. 

I'm excited to read your answers!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Warehouse Sale

* * *11/19 UPDATE* * * We are no longer having 2 sales. The new date is December 10-12. 

Rosanna wanted to be able to say THANK YOU for the continued support through the years. She will also be on hand to autograph Coming Home

Fri - 12/10 from 9a-5p (Rosanna appearance 9-5)
Sat - 12/11 from 9a-5p (Rosanna appearance 10-2)
Sun - 12/12 from 9a-5p (Rosanna appearance 10-2)

IT'S SALE TIME...but instead of 1 sale, we're having 2! Both sales will be held at our current location of 440 S Holgate St Seattle, WA 98134. Rosanna's warehouse is moving locations in January and we want to start fresh! Beyond collectible Rosanna tableware, Deruta and some slightly defective pieces, we'll have furniture (antique & office) available. For those that attend the Warehouse sale and spend $150 or more, you will receive an additional 10% off your purchase at the Moving sale (receipt required.) Hope to see you there!!!

Warehouse Sale

 December 4th & 5th from 9a-5p

Moving Sale

December 17th & 18th from 9a-5pm     


Visa & MC accepted on purchases over $50
Cash is faster! We only have one credit card machine and the line gets backed up
Parking is on street or in the gravel lot across Holgate. We kindly ask that you do not park in the Goodwill parking lot.
Must be present to shop. Orders will not be accepted via phone or email.
Please, for safety reasons, do not bring small children.
No refunds or exchanges. Please check all items for damages and defects before leaving.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Show Must Go On

As entertaining as it is to entertain, throwing big dinner parties can get rather expensive. We all know that keeping connection in your life is important. How to have people over but stay within your budget? Here's one possible solution: 

Last week I attended a birthday party that allowed the hosts to entertain on a low budget. The party was both low stress and highly creative.

First of all, the party was a potluck. Spreading out the cooking responsibilities among guests kept costs low and cleanup at a minimum. But the best part of the party was the main event—a reading of the 1940’s play Light Up The Sky by Moss Hart. The hosts assigned each guest a part ahead of time and sent a script.

This kind of party is a trade off. It is less expensive, but it does require more planning. But the planning is worth it. A play reading makes for a creative, unusual, and refreshing gathering. After a glass of wine, shy performers lose some timidity and those of us with frustrated inner actors (yes, that would be me) get the chance to flex our thespian muscles.

If you’re interested in throwing a dinner-theater dinner party, here are a few tips:

-Choose a play available online. That way you can email your guests the script and not worry about making photocopies
-Get your invitations out well in advance, so your actors have time to read their lines through and get comfortable with the play
-Pick a show with a clear era or theme. Encourage everyone to dress the part
-Make the event a potluck or a dessert party to take the cooking pressure off
-Pick a play with a large ensemble so that as many people as possible can participate. If there are too many parts, double up!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Reinventing Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a holiday that belongs to all Americans. There are certain hallmarks of the day—turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie. There is the pleasure of returning to the same meal each year.  But let’s be honest; the same food year in, year out can also get boring.

Consider reinventing, or rather, reinvigorating Thanksgiving this year. Doing something new doesn’t mean you must pore over the pages in design magazines. It doesn’t mean making radical departures from the foods your family knows and loves. After all, comfort is an essential and beautiful part of the Thanksgiving meal.

My idea is simple: refresh tradition by returning to tradition. 

Add diversity to your Thanksgiving meal by tapping in to your family’s culinary roots. Think of new/old ways to prepare classic Thanksgiving fare. For example, if your family is French, you can use the turkey innards to make a pate. If your family is Middle Eastern or North African, make a cous cous dish showcasing squash. A Hispanic family might prepare a dish with corn as the main attraction. A Chinese family could cook the turkey using the preparation used to make BBQ pork or Peking duck. This year, incorporate the spices and flavors of your childhood into your Thanksgiving meal to create a holiday that’s both novel and deeply familiar.

Because much of my family comes from Italy, we’ve added squash ravioli with brown butter and sage to our Thanksgiving menu. Unless you choose to make the ravioli yourself, this dish is an easy crowd-pleaser.

Squash (or Pumpkin!) Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage Sauce

Ingredients (serves 4)
1 package FRESH, not dried, squash or pumpkin ravioli
4 tbs salted butter
2 cloves garlic
7 large sage leaves
pinch of sea salt
¼ cup chopped hazelnuts (optional)

1.      Add salt and set water to boil for ravioli in a medium pot.
2.      Peel 2 cloves of garlic, smash to release flavor.
3.      Wash and de-stem sage leaves
4.      Chop hazelnuts coarsely. Set aside.
5.      To make the sauce, melt the butter in a medium saucepan and add the garlic and sage. Cook until the sage is crispy and the butter has begun to turn brown. Add salt to taste. Remove the garlic and discard.  
6.      When the water begins to boil, add the ravioli. (Attention! Fresh pasta takes only 3-4 minutes to cook. Time accordingly.) Strain pasta in sink, in strainer.
7.      Arrange 6-8 ravioli on each plate. Drizzle with the butter sauce and sprinkle with hazelnuts. Serve immediately.

Local products are always best your best bet. However, if you can’t find squash ravioli near you, here are some vendors that sell this type of ravioli nationally and will ship: scroll down to the “Ravioli” section
Marx Foods

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Passing the Carving Knife

We have carved pumpkins as a family since my eldest daughter was a baby. We've carried this tradition with us through the years, the fresh smell of pumpkin heralding the true arrival of fall. As the years march on, the comfort of repeating a treasured tradition is one of the things I most look forward to. However, there comes a point when it's time to make a change to alter a tradition to fit a new moment in life. This year found a gaggle of 13 year-old girls sprawled across my front porch, hard at work scooping guts and carving pumpkins.

This is the last year my daughter Francesca will spend at the school she has attended since she was 5 years-old. This group of girls has grown up together. Next year they will scatter to attend various high schools throughout Seattle. Because this was their last Halloween together, I wanted to make this year especially special. I took extra care to decorate the house with squash, displays featuring Day of the Dead figurines and traditional Mexican sugar skulls, and as many candles as I could find room for. It wasn't a scary house; it was a magical Halloween house, with girls in their costumes flitting in and out all afternoon. 

My extra effort didn't go unnoticed. More trick-or-treaters rang our doorbell than I'd ever seen. Parent after parent complimented our decorations, telling me they and their children had been drawn in by the twinkling lights and the festive atmosphere. Tradition is a great unifier. When there is warmth, love, a sense of community, and an open invitation to join in, you can feel it.

Incorporating Francesca's friends into our family Halloween tradition was a great joy. Keep your traditions close to your heart. But also keep refreshing them. You never know who might come knocking at your door.

Happy (belated) Halloween,