Category: I love…

The Friday Fifteen: Summer’s “swan song.”

The beautiful restored carousel at Keansburg, NJ.The beautifully restored carousel at Keansburg, NJ

 

Two days before my birthday this year, my parents, Jay & I took a trip down to Keansburg, NJ. It was so much fun- I hadn’t been to the Jersey Shore in over 11 years, and I hadn’t been to Keansburg in over 15, so it was great to be back. Especially after Superstorm Sandy kicked the crap out of them two years ago, it was amazing to see how they’ve rebuilt! My family has been going to Keansburg for about 100 years; we used to own/rent homes down there & they spent the entire summer there. This photo is of my grandpa Butch (middle, with the cigarette) with (from left to right) Eugene, Marilyn, and Joey, my grandma Agnes’ siblings. And one of the Torpey boys being creepy in the door!

Grandpa Butch with Eugene, Marilyn & Joey at Keansburg, NJ, 1942.

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Friday Fifteen: Summer love.

Old bottles filled with flowers on the porch table, mixed with Ball jars & candles. Classic.

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.

Friday Fifteen: Summer love.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Now that the weather is warm, I’m DYING for fresh bruschetta. Bring on tomato season, already, please. PLEASE.
  4. 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.
  5. Speaking of shellfish: how does a Connecticut-style lobster roll sound? Pretty damn good, right?
  6. One of the coolest ideas ever… a BUNDT PAN HANGING FLOWERPOT. I have to do this with the copper bundt pan that belonged to grandma Dotty, ’cause seriously it’s this exact one.
  7. STRAWBERRY LAVENDER CARAMEL. Yes.
  8. 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.
  9. If you’re in or around the NYC area, think about taking a trip to the Queens County Farm Museum (especially if you have kids). I wrote all about it last year, and I think it’s a really enjoyable way to spend a day! Plus, if you purchase eggs or flowers from them, you’re supporting their efforts. You can also go to their website & “fund a farm animal“!
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. I am loving Penny Dreadful on Showtime. Creepy, gory, summer-TV-show goodness.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.

DIY potting bench using a Kreg jig (link for instructions).

Amish baking at it’s best… Shoo-fly pie.

Amish Shoo-fly pie.

Shoo-fly pie is one of those extremely interesting pies that’s really nothing more than sugar. It’s a goo-pie, really. Made with sticky molasses & sugar. And a little flour, and baking soda. But mostly sugar.

Obviously, it’s one of my favorite things.

So back when Jay surprised me with a new cook book, I was pleased to find out that it was this one!

The Amish Cook's Baking Book (and a recipe for shoo-fly pie!)

It’s filled with amazing pies & cakes & cookies & Amish stories. The first thing I wanted to make was the shoo-fly pie.

However, truth be told, I was hesitant to try to make a shoo-fly pie. See, Dutch Haven in Lancaster, PA makes THE BEST shoo-fly pie, ever, and I’ve eaten enough of it to know. Most shoo-fly pies aren’t as sweet as theirs, and that’s what I love about it. It’s a lot to live up to. Trust me, I know this well. Jay & I once went in three times in one day to sample it (they offer everyone who enters a sample!). We bought three to take home. And ate them. In like a week. So yes, I know all too well the high standard of shoo-fly pie.

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Sad news, pickled asparagus & such.

Before I start getting into recipes, I’m sorry to say it’s been a difficult few days for us- Jay’s grandma Dotty passed away on Saturday. We’re all really torn up, we adored her. She was an amazing cook & an amazing grandma. She wasn’t my grandma by blood but I couldn’t have loved her more if she was. What a beautiful soul, inside & out (as you can see). I’m sorry that I won’t be making her her much-requested apricot or strawberry sugar-free jam this year… she’ll be missed terribly.

My heart hurts.

Grandma Dorothy Liff October 2, 1923 - March 29, 2014.Dorothy Liff ¤ October 2, 1923 – March 29, 2014

 

This recipe was written up last week, ready to go, & Grandma Dotty was big into cooking (which I’ll be writing more about very soon). She’d have wanted to hear more about all my recipes, or what I was making, so here it is. There’s no segue into this… and I feel weird doing so… but away we go.

We’re all patiently waiting for spring, right? I mean it technically IS spring. But we’re all waiting for it to get more spring-y. So spring veggies are a good sign, no? Now, let me just say: I don’t like asparagus. Not one bit. That said, it’s everywhere in the springtime, rearing its weird little pointy kinda flowery little  heads all over the place.

Pickled asparagus recipe!

Meh.

I don’t even like the way it smells.

Makin' some pickled asparagus!

My mother & Jay LOVE asparagus. LOVE it. I don’t have the foggiest clue why really. It’s not attractive in the least. And like I said; the smell? No thanks.

Unlike broccoli… which I plan on pickling soon as well. Broccoli has a nice, fresh smell. And it’s delicious.

Did I get sidetracked?

An easy pickled asparagus recipe!

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Tales from the thrift.

Well… it’s been a long time since I posted about my thrifty finds, hasn’t it? I think it was last June August when I posted that huge post about (almost) every awesome thing I had. But there’s a good reason for it: I haven’t really had time to go thrifting! Between everything that’s been going on with me & then the house reno stuff, it was impossible.

The other reason is that the few times I did happen to go, I didn’t find anything. Disappointment central. Then… I got lucky! Twice in a row.

So here’s a new TALES FROM THE THRIFT!*

Tales from the Thrift!

In case you didn’t know, I collect vintage stuff. Mostly housewares. And two of my favorite things to collect are vintage jars & Pyrex. I like the 1950’s/early 1960’s patterns and colors the most; the pinks, pale greens, turquoises, black & whites, etc. I love (& collect, or at least I’m attempting to in some cases) the Gooseberry, Pink Daisy, Balloons, DuchessMidnight Bloom, Flamingo, Pink Daisy, Golden Scroll, Starburst, Black Tulip, Butterprint, Medallion, Pink Scroll, Stems, Snowflake, New Dots & Barbed Wire patterns, among others. However a few of the green & bright blue patterns I like are from the late 60’s or 70’s, such as Spring Blossom.

And also like these blue snowflake/snowflake blue mixing bowls *:

1960's/1970's blue snowflake Pyrex Cinderella bowls.

The large bowl cost me around 5 bucks, the small one 3 bucks. The price on the large bowl was originally $9.00 at the thrift shop, but I got it on sale. I love my big vintage Pyrex mixing bowls. They’re actually the only vintage Pyrex pieces I use- the rest are display pieces (other than the fairly common clear pie plates, like you’ll see later in this post). I had never seen this pattern around in my travels (just on the internet), and I was amazed at the condition of these bowls! They’re practically perfect. And speaking of perfect…

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Valentine’s Day Treatsie sweets box review & giveaway!

Happy Valentine’s Day, four days early!

You know what the perfect Valentine’s Day gift is for me? Other than flowers (which I do actually love)? CANDY! I love candy. I love sweets in general, but if you buy me chocolate, especially chocolate with caramel, I’ll love you forever.

A Treatsie giveaway!

Speaking of candy, two weeks ago I was gifted with an amazing treat box from Treatsie! If you’ve never heard of Treatsie, and you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’re going to want to pay attention.

What is Treatsie, exactly?

Treatsie helps you find amazing, high-end artisan sweets you’d normally never find unless you stumbled across the shop. Try our monthly subscription sample box of multiple and ever-changing vendors or order boxes from our store to get sweets right away!

The sweets you get in a Treatsie box aren’t the kind you’ll find at big box stores. We only work with small, independent vendors. By subscribing to Treatsie, you are directly supporting small businesses around the country as every Treatsie box and store sale benefits those vendors.

And they certainly aren’t! This January box included hot chocolate pops from PopBar, lavender sea salt caramels from Lillie Belle Farms, peanut brittle from Brittle Brothers, AvenueSweets espresso caramels… this isn’t your average drug store candy. And I LOVE drugstore candy, but trust me. This is better.

A Treatsie box giveaway!

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DIY tree stump rustic candle holders.

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.

DIY rustic tree stump/tree branch candle holder.

This idea all started when I asked Jay to make me & my mother some old fashioned Pagan-style Yule 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.

-JingleBell Junction

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!

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