Category: I love…

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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Mele Kalikimaka!

“…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.

Christmas tree 2013!

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…

Vintage Shiny Brite silent night ornament.

Vintage Shiny Brite Christmas greetings ornament.

And a few awesome hand-painted striped glass ones like this…

Vintage blue striped ornament.

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.

Acoustic guitar ornament, Restoration Hardware 2005.

Jack Daniels ornament!

There’s also this one, that Jay bought at the 9/11 museum.

9/11 Fidelis Ad Mortem police ornament.

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:

Glass cupcake ornament from Poland.

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…

Vintage toys on display under the tree. These are toys that belonged to a grandparent & uncle; some are from the 1920's, some from the 1940's.

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:

Cut the bottom off your (real) tree, then write or burn the date on it. Save them from year to year! Use them as coasters, ornaments, whatever. Just seal them with some acrylic spray sealant so the sap doesn't make them too sticky.

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.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!

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Holiday Friday Fifteen!

By now you should all know the deal with the Friday Fifteen. If not, then here it is in a nutshell: every few weeks (or whenever the mood strikes) I make a list of fifteen things that I’m currently into/are seasonal/I find interesting/etc. I do it on Fridays, hence the name: Friday Fifteen.

This is the first one of December & the last one before Christmas, so it’s the holiday edition!

The Friday Fifteen: Merry Christmas!

  1. The Sound of Music is traditional Christmas movie fare ’round these here parts. I can still remember being little & watching it while baking in my new E-Z-Bake oven. While Carrie Underwood did an admirable job with a (LIVE) iconic role last week, & I do love me some Stephen Moyer, but for me, there’s only ONE Maria & ONE Capt. Georg Von Trapp: Dame Julie Andrews & Christopher Plummer.
  2. If you’ve got some bad-asses on your Christmas list this year, then you should make them some “Lump of Coal” cookies! They’re a super dark chocolatey cookie that you crumple up to mimic coal. Much better to get THAT in your stocking, right?
  3. Or… maybe some polka dot cupcakes & homemade hot cocoa? Who doesn’t like hot cocoa?
  4. My new favorite blog: Fabric Paper Glue. I’m in LOVE with her dark navy living room, and I can so relate to her most prized possession post; especially because it’s very similar to mine. It’s a blog that’s full of amazing inspiration & tons of character. I’m glad I found it!
  5. Gingerbread houses!
  6. The smell of my fresh cut tree & white pine roping is making me deliriously happy. If you don’t have real cut evergreens in your house, may I suggest Yankee Candle’s “Mistletoe” scented candle & Slatkin & Co.’s “Fresh Balsam” air spray? They’re both clean, fresh, crisp & embody the perfect Christmas smell.
  7. If you can this season, open your heart & your home to a shelter pet. I’ve rescued more pets in my life so far than I can count, and each & every one was worth it. Every town has at least one local shelter, but if you don’t know of any there’s always Petfinder.com.
  8. 7-layer magic bars are one of my favorite Christmas treats. They’re also really easy to make & since they’re so rich, a little goes a long way! I think they might deserve a re-do on the blog this year.
  9. Downton Abbey comes back January 5th! I cannot wait!
  10. I’m in love with these pinecone Christmas trees from Scissors and Spoons. Definitely on my “must make” list.
  11. Another one of my favorite movies, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is in heavy rotation right now… which means this t-shirt is much needed for Christmas.
  12. I always wanted a little vintage pink tinsel Christmas tree.
  13. This paper tree DIY from A Spoonful of Sugar is extremely appropriate for me. Don’t you think?
  14. Now that it’s cold I’m once again obsessed with cowls & scoodies. What winter accessories are you into?
  15. I posted these DIY painted wooden spoons months ago, but they’re a really great idea for a handmade gift or stocking stuffer. You can even make them to match a really easy-to-sew handmade apron! (paint colors shown below: “Scallion” & “Florentine Gold”)

DIY painted-handle wooden spoons!

DIY magic: mason jar snow globes.

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!

Like these…

DIY mason jar snowglobes. Easiest winter project ever!

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 mason jar snowglobes.

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Sprinkles! A “rainbowlicious” book review & giveaway!

Back in 2011, Quirk Books sent me a delicious cookbook (this one) to review & do a giveaway for. I loved the book & every recipe in it! The frosted maple pecan cookies are some of Jay’s favorite cookies ever. So when they asked me to do a review for a new book, Sprinkles! Recipes and Ideas for Rainbowlicious Desserts, I totally had to say yes!

And I had to ask if I could give one of YOU a copy as well!

Sprinkles! Recipes and Ideas for Rainbowlicious Desserts! Makes a great Christmas gift.

I love cookbooks. I love books in general, really- especially cookbooks, how-to books or DIY/craft books. I’m in the middle of redoing things around the ol’ homestead, so I don’t have easy access to them right now. Which is another reason why I jumped at the chance to get my hands on a new one.

But the main reason? It’s December! It’s time to start thinking about Christmas baking & Christmas presents. Cookbooks like this make not only amazing gifts, but provide some inspiration when we get a little stuck for holiday treats.

A review of: Sprinkles! Recipes and Ideas for Rainbowlicious Desserts.

Sprinkles! Recipes and Ideas for Rainbowlicious Desserts: Here’s a guide to baking and decorating delicious desserts with a colorful twist: sprinkles! Of course you can scatter them over cakes and pies–but you can also swirl them into waffles, “embroider” them on cookies, and freeze them in pretty popsicles. Jackie Alpers shares dozens of creative, colorful, super-fun recipes, plus quick-and-easy projects (ideal for little kids), holiday treats, party-perfect sprinkles crafts (great for gifting!). She also offers simple tutorials for tinting sparkling sugars, concocting homemade pop rocks, and even crafting your own sprinkles from scratch. Sprinkles! is an awesome rainbow explosion of a cookbook you won’t want to miss.”

The first thing that you need to know is that the photography in the book (& on the front & back covers) is beautiful. Beautiful colors & beautiful layouts. It’s enough to make a food blogger a little jealous.

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DIY: Creepy candy specimen jars!

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?

Easy DIY Halloween specimen jars (or candy jars).

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.

Oh- & It’d be lame if I didn’t acknowledge that A Pretty Cool Life, It All Started With Paint & Joy the Baker inspired these.

Creepy DIY specimen jars for Halloween!

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