As you might remember, I love gardening. Every summer I typically do container gardens. Not for lack of gardening space, but because the best spots were taken by other things, and I never had the time nor frame of mind to really tear down and build up, so to speak. I do love container gardens for many reasons, and a raised garden bed is pretty much just a big ol’ container garden!
But this year a few events worked in our favor & some great spots were open. So my woodworker Jay decided to finally build me some raised garden beds! What a great early birthday gift. And it turns out, it’s actually a super easy DIY project that you can make in one weekend.
Wow, it’s been forever since I did a Friday Fifteen! As a matter of fact, it was about 6 months ago. Sorry about that, guys. Bad blogger. But I’m back in action now… and I’ve got some sweet stuff to share! Tomorrow is the first official day of summer, so let’s run with that. SUMMER TIME, AND THE LIVIN’S EASY.
(Ten points to you if you immediately began rapping“And Bradley’s on the microphone with Ras M.G.” An extra 10 points if you then began thinking of Porgy & Bess. Zero points awarded to you if no song went through your head at all after reading that.)
But however many points you have in this little game, it doesn’t matter. Because it is, indeed, summertime. Or at least it will be in two days.
Tea lights in mason jars & flowers in old soda bottles. Like you see above, it’s just classic for summer nights. Add a traditional red gingham tablecloth and you’re set. Plus, it’s a really cheap but beautiful way to decorate for a summer party.
Uhm YOU GUYS. Speaking of parties- I bought my WEDDING DRESS(!!). It’ll only be a year on June 20th that we’ve been engaged… figured I should get around to doing some planning now. Haha. And I also started looking at venues! I might actually get married sometime this decade. EXCITING.
Now that the weather is warm, I’m DYING for fresh bruschetta. Bring on tomato season, already, please. PLEASE.
It’s also now seafood season. On Long Island, where I live, were surrounded by beautiful water so there’s always lots of fish to be eaten. Which makes me crave some Southern pickled shrimp; and don’t worry- it’s not what you think! There’s no vinegar involved.
If you’re a salsa lover, I highly recommend Gustavo’s Salsa. It’s a local business (based out of Brooklyn, NY). If you like smoky flavor & a versatile salsa that can just as easily be used as a marinade then this is for you. Make the effort to order some- it’s made in small batches & well worth the shipping fee. Seriously. Buy some.
Theres a chunky salsa I buy in my local market that’s made by them on premises, & it has cucumber & jalapeño in it. I love it! The cool cucumber and the heat of the jalapeño combined with the tomatoes & onion makes it extra special. So this watermelon salsa intrigues me.
If you’re looking for the perfect easy summer cocktail, no muddling, no mixing & no complicated ingredients… then this is the one for you: a Woodchuck Shandy. Two ingredients, plus a slice of lemon.
And if you have kids, here’s a kid friendly drink: sun tea! You can brew it right outside your front door on a crazy hot day & watch it brew! Or… you can make some cold-brew tea in your fridge on a rainy day. Get the directions here.
I am loving Penny Dreadful on Showtime. Creepy, gory, summer-TV-show goodness.
My new favorite coffee: Native Roaster‘s NYC Diesel. Amazing coffee by another local (this time Queens-based) company. Gotta support our local businesses! And when they’re this good, it’s easy to do. I’ve been making myself a full French press of it a few times a week, and saving half for iced coffee. You might’ve seen this photo of it on my Instagram.
I’m super psyched because I get to use this awesome DIY potting bench Jay made for me on the regular. From transplanting herbs, rooting seedlings and planting new plants, to clipping & sorting fresh flowers to make arrangements, and even as an outdoor buffet table when we eat outside. It’s been so convenient! And it took him ONE DAY to make! If you have Kreg tools & want to make your own, here are the instructions.
Yes- this post is ALL about those tree trunk/tree branch candle holders you’ve seen at places like Terrain or on Pinterest or Etsy. It’s really easy to make them yourself, at home, if you have some basic tools.
This idea all started when I asked Jay to make me & my mother some old fashioned Pagan-styleYule logs for Christmas.
The Yule Log started out, we believe, as part of Norse Winter Solstice celebrations. Back then, the longhouse would have a huge fireplace, and the flooring would be either stone or packed earth. Tradition says that the Yule Log began as a huge log, big enough to burn for the entire twelve-day festival. One end would be pushed into the fireplace, and as it burned away, you’d push it in some more until it was entirely consumed.
With fireplaces being less and less common these days, the practical Pagan has adapted. Some choose a small log, some twelve or sixteen inches in length, flatten it along one side to make a base, and drill from one to three holes into the top, suitable for the insertion of candles. The candles are generally (but not always) “fire” colors, with red being the most common. The log is decorated with greenery, sometimes real, sometimes artificial – pine, spruce, fir or other evergreen boughs, holly and mistletoe are a few possibilities – and the candles are lighted at sunset on the Winter Solstice. Tradition says they should burn through the night; but given safety considerations, most only allow it to burn so long as someone is around to keep an eye on it.
Pagan-style refers to how it’s a log with holes for candles, instead of a large log you burn in a fireplace. It’s also a more modern version. My dad made one when he was a kid out of a log with three holes on top. It isn’t just Pagan’s that use that style- lots of Christians have Yule logs in that way- but if I’m not mistaken, they started it.
So I had some wood in the garage that had been cut from branches that were hanging too low on trees in the backyard over the summer. I was saving it for our fire pit, but then the summer ended and the weather got too cold & they were shoved into the garage & forgotten. Then my mother mentioned she wanted a Yule log, and I realized I had the perfect pieces of wood for it. And then I decided I wanted one, but with tea lights instead of taper candles. I realized they’d look great with my winter tree!
“…is Hawaii’s way, to say Merry Christmas to you…”
In case you didn’t know, “Mele Kalikimaka” is one of my favorite Christmas songs sung by one of my favorite singers: Bing Crosby. It’s also featured in one of my favorite Christmas movies, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I have my grandpa’s original record of Bing’s Merry Christmas! album which it was on, and I also have my late Uncle Pat‘s White Christmas 40th Anniversary VHS box set (from 1994) which includes the script and other reprints of film memorabilia.
I’m clearly into it.
Well, anyway, it’s here. Finally! Christmas is here. After months of preparation & anticipation. And I hope it lives up to all of that for you. For me, it’s a vintage Christmas. Vintage ornaments on the tree (and some new ones), vintage-looking colored lights.
Some of the vintage ornaments are my grandparents’, some are my great-grandparents’, and some other belonged to my parents. Like these Shiny Brite ones that were my grandpa & grandma’s…
And a few awesome hand-painted striped glass ones like this…
And still others are new! Or fairly new. Like this acoustic guitar I bought Jay in 2005 at Restoration Hardware, or the Jack Daniels crystal one Jay’s parents got him from Lenox.
There’s also this one, that Jay bought at the 9/11 museum.
And you know I have baking/cooking-related ones on there too. I’ve got a few “baking fairies” with spatulas/pastry bags/etc, a wooden spoon & whisk, a cookie cutter & Santa cookie from Yoyo, a bunch of different glass cupcakes and a personalized chef. This is a very delicate glass cupcake imported from Poland that I got at Sur La Table:
Each & every ornament has such a special meaning. Isn’t it lovely to look at your tree & have each ornament spark a memory?
And of course no tree would be complete without toys underneath it. My tree has some special vintage toys…
These toy trucks & trains are vintage. The Buddy L trucks & Ives trains belonged to my grandfather, and date back to the 1920′s/early 1930′s. The white car in the front belonged to my uncle so it’s probably from the 1940′s/early 1950′s.
And this Christmas is full of new traditions, too. Like this:
That right there is the bottom of our tree! The nice dude at the place we bought it cut the bottom inch off before he wrapped the tree and gave it to me, but you can do it yourself; either before you put it in the stand when you get it home, or after you take it down. Just slice the bottom off (if you’re doing it after Christmas, use a dry piece, not one that was sitting in water). Sand it a little on both sides, clean it, then write the date on it. I used a wood-burning tool, but I know not everyone has one of those. A Sharpie or rubber stamp works too. I’d also seal it with some kind of acrylic sealer spray (or polyurethane sealer, only if you’ve burned the date in) so the sap doesn’t become annoying.
And now I’ll have a collection of them from every year we have a real tree- which is hopefully many years. You can hang yours on the tree with a little screw in hook & some ribbon, or use it as a coaster, or just put it on a shelf like I did.
Anyway, gingerbread is one of my favorite holiday treats. I love the cookies, I love it in a spicier form like pfeffernusse and I love gingerbread cake. I don’t make it nearly enough, though, even around the holidays. I have a favorite gingerbread cookie recipe & a favorite Guinness ginger cake recipe, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy trying others. So I thought that this year, I’d make a plain gingerbread cake- no Guinness, no chocolate- and top it with some fluffy white snow.
And trees. Gotta have trees.
For the trees, I got the how-to from The Cake Blog. Pretty self-explanatory, but still. It’s a fun & easy way to make cupcake or cake toppers.
Oh, December. How I love you. Make no mistake- Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday. Hands down. However, it’s only acceptable for me to play White Christmas over & over again in December. I don’t mind watching it in February or July, but I find other people take issue. Or perhaps they just take issue with me singing all of the songs (particularly this one & this one) out loud at the top of my lungs? Anyway. I wait until at least after turkey day to break out the Bing! Also, December is the Mount Everest of baking/creating: the best crafts, recipes, and decorations are happening right around now!
This tutorial is something you’ve probably seen all over the internet.
No, not probably. Definitely. I’ve seen this concept more times in the past two weeks than I’ve seen my fiancee, it seems. I’m just repeating it here to show you how stupidly easy it is. And how fun it is. And chances are, you’ve already got the materials- or most of them- laying around the house. It’s a knockoff of a product that Anthropologie made (they made salt shaker ones too), hence the lack of water.
DIY’d jars are all over the place. Well, jars are all over the place in & of themselves, however lately it seems people are gluing all kinds of crazy shit on top of jar lids & then painting them… with adorable results. I personally glued some knobs on jars last year & made some super cute candy jars. But some other things I’ve seen: little dinosaurs, bunnies, cats, etc. All of these little knick-knacks just glued onto the lids, then painted, then the lids are screwed back on to make a completely different looking candy jar/thread holder/toy container/etc.
So why not capitalize on it for Halloween?
I decided there was no reason not to. So, ladies & gentlemen, here are my creepy little “candy specimen” jars for Halloween! You can fill them with candy, with plastic eyeballs, with rubber snakes, with whatever you want. Use them as part of your “laboratory” for a Halloween party.