Category: unique

Wicked witch cupcakes.

(This was originally written for a contributor post on eighteen25, go take a look and see! And look for more posts by me over there soon.)

Aren’t these adorable? I know they are. They’re definitely not scary at all. But maybe the Wicked Witch of the West wouldn’t have been so upset if Dorothy had dropped a cupcake on her sister, instead of a house. Don’t you think?

Wicked witch cupcakes.

So, it’s getting close to Halloween. Everyone is either having a party, going to a party or expected to make something for a children’s party… or just for the kids, period. You need something easy but cute to make (and maybe use to impress people with your creativity) and I have just the thing- these!

Black and white with a little green is my favorite Halloween color combination. I usually avoid black and orange because it’s everywhere. It’s also really versatile, it can be used for witch cupcakes, monster cupcakes, vampire cupcakes… just about anything! And if you get a lot of black or black & white cupcake liners, you can also use them year-round for other things.

But anyway today we’re talking about witches. Wicked witches- who had a cupcake fall on them- with legs made of striped paper straws and shoes made of black paper. So easy!

Wicked witch cupcakes! Made with paper straws and black paper.

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Quick maple whiskey pickled carrots.

Maple whiskey pickled carrots.

I have made pickled carrots before, a long time ago. Four years ago; when my food photography was atrocious and my canning skills were n00b level. I made an adapted version of Molly Wizenberg’s recipe from her book A Homemade Life, which was basically spicy pickled carrots with rosemary. They were good and very much enjoyed by everyone who ate them, but for some reason I never again made a pickled carrot.

Until now.

Maple whiskey pickled carrots.

I really don’t know why I never again pickled carrots, really. I always thought of it when I saw beautiful multicolor heirloom carrots at farmer’s markets. I literally would see them and think, “How gorgeous would those be, pickled up in a jar?” And then I’d promptly move on and never actually do it. I’d probably just eat them in a salad or soup and that would be that.

But I recently had this genius idea. While making Jay his whiskey sour/maple whiskey pickles for the zillionth time, I thought, “Hey wait a minute… maple glazed carrots… maple whiskey pickles… what about using this recipe for pickled carrots?!” He looked at me as if I was insane (a normal occurrence) and then nodded slowly and smiled and said, “Sure…” I think he was just humoring me.

And so of course I just had to try it out. I did not have any fancy colored carrots, unfortunately, just plain old skinny organic orange beta-carotene-filled “normal” ones. However, it really would be lovely to fill up a jar with a variety of colors and sizes of carrots for this. Excellent presentation.

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Nectarine blackberry preserves with purple ruffled basil.

Nectarine blackberry purple basil preserves. #sweetpreservation #canbassador

I’ve been posting about being a “Canbassador” for the Washington State Fruit Commission quite a bit this summer. First it was cherries, I recovered a gigantic box of gorgeous straight from the orchard Rainier Fruit Co. cherries and I made some awesome recipes with them- I even managed to bake up some delicious mini-pies and make a sauce with them! Then, I got a second huge shipment of a mix of yellow peaches and gorgeous yellow nectarines. They were so beautiful sitting in bowls around my kitchen/dining room.

Nectarine blackberry purple basil preserves. #sweetpreservation

I made some peach preserves with hot peppers from our garden (you’ll see that recipe soon), peach salsa and peach peel butter with vanilla bean and apple brandy. But the nectarines. I was stumped.

Then I bought some blackberries on sale because they were beautiful and perfect and cheap. I do that sometimes. I have no idea what I’m going to do with them, but I buy them.

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Surprise in the garden: Black swallowtail caterpillars!

…just when you think you’ve seen it all…

In today’s edition of “Things I’ve Found in the Garden,” we have quite the intriguing specimen. Imagine this: it’s a hot summer weekend day. Your parents are over having drinks on the porch waiting for a barbecue, you’re watering the garden, leisurely taking some pictures of Indy…

Indy in the backyard.

And of course taking artsy pictures of your tomatoes that you will edit & filter to look like they’re right out of 1970 (because Photoshop)…

When all of a sudden, your husband calls you over, his voice sounding slightly surprised and a little skeptical, to see some “bugs” on the dill. So you walk over, completely expecting to see those crazy looking candy-striped leafhoppers that are irritating the hell out of you (and your eggplants) when you look at where he’s pointing and see this:

Black swallowtail caterpillar on Fernleaf dill.

Freakin’ caterpillars! Not that many, maybe about 5 or 6, spread out all over the Fernleaf dill. Now, one thing you should know about me is that I am a geek. A total nerd. A science and history-specific geeky nerd person. So this stuff, this nature & science stuff, it totally gets me going.

So immediately I do a Google, and come to find out some very interesting facts-

The (Eastern) Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes), also called the American Swallowtail or Parsnip Swallowtail,[1] is a butterfly found throughout much of North America. It is the state butterfly of Oklahoma. An extremely similar-appearing species, Papilio joanae, occurs in the Ozark Mountains region, but it appears to be closely related to Papilio machaon, rather than P. polyxenes. The species is named after the figure in Greek mythology, Polyxena (pron.: /pəˈlɪksɨnə/; Greek: Πολυξένη), who was the youngest daughter of King Priam of Troy.

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Green tea + Jasmine cherry preserves, for our independence.

Ahhh, Independence Day. A day where Americans can reflect on what our forefathers went through to create this nation, and to remember how far we’ve come. But mostly just shoot off fireworks and get hammered. Totes legit. Go ‘Murica.

Anyway, because I’m certifiably insane I usually like to make red, white & blue themed desserts for this weekend. Like a sweet cherry cream pie, or strawberry shortcake cupcakes, or blueberry hand pies. This year I wasn’t feeling it- it’s actually too hot to have that oven on. So I did something totally different. I made cherry preserves. Because I have a lot of cherries, in case you didn’t know.

Shout out to The Washington State Stone Fruit Commission and Rainier Fruit Co. once again for their gorgeous fruit. I love being a Canbassador!

Rainier Fruit Co. cherries! I put 'em into some green tea + jasmine cherry preserves!

But, because I’m a wackjob, these are not just ANY cherry preserves…

They’re cherry preserves made with green tea + jasmine!

Green tea + jasmine cherry preserves.

I had this tea series my dad got me for Christmas, the Boston Tea Company‘s Boston Harbour Series. And seeing that and putting that together with Independence Day, plus all these cherries I have… it gave me an idea. Why not go back to my old standby for making preserves: infusing them with tea!?

The Boston Tea Party was pivotal in the formation of the United States, after all. It should get some credit!

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“A little party never killed nobody…” (whoa- I’m married!)

Marilla + Jason | Pixel Perfect Photography | New York City Hall wedding #bridesinblack #offbeatbrides

Union by Robert Fulghum


Holy crap. Yes, we’re married. I’m a Mrs.

First kiss as a married couple! | A New York City Hall wedding (Photo by Janai McNeil of Pixel Perfect Photography) #bridesinblack #offbeatbrides #nycbrides

We finally did it. After almost 12 years together, knowing each other for almost 15 and with  almost 2 of those years being engaged, we tied the knot/jumped the broom/took the plunge/bought the cow/hooked up the ball & chain/got hitched on Friday, April 3, 2015. And what a beautiful day it was.

Not so much weather wise. It was definitely still a mixture of “March” & early April (April showers & all that) in New York City weather time. And so it was rainy, but not heavy, just an annoying off-and-on drizzle that made NYC look even moodier than usual. It was gray, but it wasn’t even that cold (around 60° F), despite getting snow less than 2 weeks before. I didn’t so much mind the weather, to tell the truth. No one did. I actually quite liked it.

Dancing in the streets | A New York City Hall wedding (Photo by Janai McNeil of Pixel Perfect Photography) #bridesinblack #offbeatbrides #nycbrides

We planned this wedding in roughly 2 1/2 months. A little less. That’s it. Granted; I had already bought my dress a year before and we basically knew exactly what we wanted. But after I was so sick in December & hospitalized for two days, I realized we were stupid to wait any more. I mean, why? Add to that the deaths of the two NYPD police officers on December 20th, combined with the fact that the doctor told us about a patient with what I was close to- a thyroid storm- going into cardiac arrest and being resuscitated, I thought, WE ARE STUPID FOR WAITING. Why the hell didn’t we just do it right after we got engaged? No clue.

But we did it.

And we did it our way. Click on through to read EVERYTHING! And I do mean everything, so be prepared- there are a LOT of pictures here… A LOT. So here goes: my big fat wedding post!

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Bacon bourbon.

Bacon fat-infused Maker's Mark bourbon.

A couple of years ago, you wouldn’t have thought I’d be interested in doing much of anything with whiskeys or bourbons. Bacon… well, let’s be honest. Bacon is the ONE reason I couldn’t be 100% vegetarian. I have managed to keep most meat products out of my mouth most of the time. The two weaknesses I have? Chicken and bacon. I don’t know why. Maybe because they’re delicious.

Anyway, I have a lot of bourbon here to work with. You think you understand that statement but until you’ve seen a photo of the amount of bourbon Jay has, or seen it in person, you don’t really understand.

And the only one I really like? Maker’s Mark.

Bacon fat infused bourbon.

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