Another wonderful weekend is winding down, leaving behind sweet memories of family bike rides, thriftin’ fun, and lots of laughs. The weather went from a warm 75 degrees last week to a chilly 4o degree days, inspiring thoughts of the upcoming holiday feasts and traditions. This year I am vowing to pay a bit more attention to my gift wrapping. It’s my personal opinion that experiences are made great because of the details. I want our homemade gifts we make and give this year to be that much better because of thoughtful packaging.
Step one in this quest is to make handsome (and of course handmade) gift labels for everything. I decided that carving a bunch of different stamps would be the simplest way of mass producing gift tags. I headed to Hobby Lobby and bought a pack of simple rubber carving discs for around $2.
I already had a carving set that I had purchased years ago from the Artist & Craftsman in Charleston, South Carolina so I was ready and raring to get started on my project.
I chose to carve a simple Christmas tree and leaf first since they are rather generic and easy. Once I had them carved, Aaron cut a dowel rod into pieces for me to adhere to the stamp pads.
I used mosaic tile glue to stick the pads on and let it dry, then I gave my stamps the inaugural whirl. Success!
Hopefully I can keep the momentum going and have everything I need purchased, made, or found to make this year’s gift giving extra special. Until then, I will be perusing blogs and craft sites for ideas (like Older and Wisor- days worth of posts on awesome wrapping, tags, etc.). Tomorrow I’ll post about Roscoe’s homemade Halloween custom. Cheers!
Dessert is the most important part of a meal. Certainly not because of it’s nutritional value, but rather because it makes the mundane process of eating so enjoyable. Unfortunately, dessert is too rarely enjoyed in our lives. After the whole dinner consumption one rarely has room in their tummies to fit even the most delicious of sweets. Hence part of why birthdays are so much fun! The star of the show is the birthday cake, pie, cookie, or other delight that is meant for the person of honor to enjoy on their special day.
Celebrating Aaron’s birthday was of course no exception. His parents held a birthday dinner for him on Sunday evening featuring ribs, chicken wings, and potato salad- a total guy meal. I had the privelage of bringing the cake and decided to get it from Maxie B’s, a local bakery that makes unbelievable cakes. Normally I would have at least attempted to make a homemade cake, but our weekend trip to Boone diverted those plans. Instead, I ordered a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting.
It was delicious to say the least.
On Monday, Aaron’s real birthday, he got to pick his meal and dessert. We enjoyed 4 pounds of crab legs (!) and I whipped up his fave treat: Bananas Foster. Here’s the recipe I used from Ole’ Emeril, which is far easier than you might expect if you’ve never made this before.
- 4 ripe bananas, peeled
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup banana liquer
- 1/2 cup dark rum
- 1 pint Vanilla Ice Cream (we used Breyer’s 1/2 the fat; probably because I felt so guilty for eating all that butter!)
Cut the bananas in half across and then lengthwise. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
Holy Moly that’s a ton of butter!
Add the brown sugar and cinnamon and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Add the bananas and turning, cook on both sides until the bananas start to soften and brown, about 3 minutes. Add the banana liqueur and stir to blend into the caramel sauce. Carefully add the rum and shake the pan back and forth to warm the rum and flame the pan. (I had to use an igniter to light the pan and burn off the alcohol) Shake the pan back and forth, basting the bananas, until the flame dies.
Divide the ice cream among 4 dessert plates. Gently lift the bananas from the pan and place 4 pieces on each scoop of ice cream. Spoon the sauce over the ice cream and bananas, and serve immediately. Yum!
It has been a wonderful start to the week, particularly considering that I enjoyed dessert two days in a row to celebrate Aaron’s birthday. While I will provide a how-to on hub’s favorite dessert tomorrow, today you will have to amuse yourself with a recap of our weekend. Aaron wanted to go camping in Boone for his birthday weekend and I was more than happy to oblige. Beautiful scenery? check. Mountain festivals? check. Honing my camp cooking skills? check again.
We prepared and packed Friday night and left early Saturday morning, heading for the outskirts of Boone to avoid the Appalachian State homecoming crowd. Our first stop was the Valle Crucis Punkin Festival. It’s a small community fundraiser for the local PTA, but the steak and cheese sandwiches are yummy and the people incredibly friendly. This was the view as soon as we stepped out of the VW bus to attend.
They had a pumpkin, or ‘punkin‘ as they say, carving contest and this was by far our favorite. Who doesn’t love an airstream?!
Afterwards we stopped by some roadside stands for pickled okra and jams and then headed on down to Banner Elk to explore Grandfather Mountain. Although the crowds kept us from going to the Profile directly (warning: long wait to enter on Saturdays during peak leaf season!), we found a side trail that gave us the opportunity to hike Grandfather for free. Beats paying $37 if you ask me.
After a good hike and a few falls (Roscoe is such a good sport!), we finally headed to our campsite. We enjoyed a tasty dinner of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches with marinated chicken skewers beside a roaring fire. We were quite toasty inside the VW and were aware it was dropping down to around 30 during the night. Let’s just say it was a tad freezing when we woke up the next morning. Frost had coated everything and we made the executive decision to forego making breakfast in favor of hitting up a local diner. Awesome choice if I may say so myself!
Here’s some more shots from our weekend.
The birthday boy himself- 34 years young!
A steeple against the Carolina Blue sky in Valle Crucis.
All in all, it was beautiful weekend well spent with my two favorite men. The mission was to make Aaron feel special and I think I can safely say “mission accomplished”. Now it’s time to take on this busy week with halloween preparation, etsy shop product making, 9-5 work, and everything else. Let the games begin!
It is officially the end of the work day and time for some weekend fun! If you are a regular visitor to this little ole blog of mine, then you may have noticed the lack of posts this week. Unacceptable, shameful, and totally how life rolls. Between a jumble of work conferences that kept me on the move for the last week and a half to fitting in quality time with the family, it’s been a struggle to work on new projects and try out my ideas. The good news is that we are heading out for some camping fun tomorrow morning in the Blue Ridge Mountains and we couldn’t be more ready to do it.
Other than our weekend plans some monumental moments have happened or are happening soon. First and foremost, Roscoe learned to ride his bike without training wheels! Admittedly, I cried from both pride and shock that he’s growing up so quickly. The second event is that Aaron’s birthday is on Monday. Happy early 34th to my soul mate and best friend! I’ll be back next week with some weekend recaps and project updates. Til then friends, ciao!
We, my friends, are a family of marathon walkers. We don’t exactly walk marathons, but we do tend to go on multi-hour long walks/hikes/strolls at least once a week with shorter trips daily. Going these distances with two adults, a four year old, and a dog in tow means that we carry a considerable load of water and other “supplies” to ensure happy treks. One item that was constantly missing when we needed it most was a good source of energy (i.e., snacks!).
While at a work conference last week, I stumbled upon a tiny but well-stocked natural food store and, eureka!, an idea hit me. Why not make some granola bars to take on our walks? I could make them to suit our tastes and I would learn something new. So I bought some flax seed, wheat germ, wheat flour, and pumpkin seeds and proceeded to google healthy granola bar recipes later that day. I have to admit that I didn’t really like any of the recipes I found so I decided to make a hybrid.
Once they were cooked and cooled, I
victimized asked Aaron to sample them first to tell me if they were edible. The verdict? In his words they are “awesome”. Roscoe’s enjoyed them for breakfast on a recent rushed morning and I even had enough to freeze for future grubbing. The recipe’s below, but let me forewarn you: this recipe makes about 24 bars and they only keep for 5 days outside the fridge. I would highly recommend freezing a few in seperate ziplock bags and/or giving them away to friends and family asap.
Homemade Granola Bars
- 2 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts almonds (or substitute another nut)
- 1/2 cup tablespoons pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 cup flax seed
- 4 tablespoons wheat germ
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 2 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vasnilla
- 1 cup dried fruit of your choice (I used unsweetened cranberries)
- Preheat your oven to 350F degrees. Line an 13 x 13-inch baking pan with foil that overhangs the pan on all sides by at least one inch. Lightly grease the foil with cooking spray.
- Spread the oats, nuts, and seeds on a baking sheet and bake them for about 6-8 minutes, or until they are lightly toasted, stirring once or twice to insure even cooking.
- Remove the pan from the oven and set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine the flax, wheat germ, flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon with a whisk until blended.
- In a large mixing bowl, stir the oil and brown sugar with a whisk until smooth. Stir in the eggs and vanilla.
- Stir in the flour mixture just until combined, then stir in the oat mixture and dried fruit until well combined.
7. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan, spreading evenly. Bake the bars until they are set, about 25 minutes.
8. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a wire rack until the granola bars have cooled completely.
9. Lift the slab of granola bars from the pan using the overhanging foil as handles and place on a cutting board. Cut into desired size squares/bars.
If you’ve done any recent perusing of the internet, craft/DIY blogs, and/or Martha Stewart-related tutorials in the last year or two, you have probably come across the fabric pennant or flag garlands that are so popular lately. The basic concept is you take a bunch of fabric, be it scrap and/or specifically chosen, make triangle pennants and then secure them in a chain pattern to make a garland- like these examples from fellow bloggers.
(courtesy of Free People Blog)
(courtesy of Pajama Mama)
I’ve been hankering to make one myself and finally got around to it out of sheer necessity (I’ll elaborate on the purpose of this garland in the near future-read: next week follow-up). I headed over to Hobby Lobby with my 40% off coupon in hand to pick up a yard each of two coordinating prints. My next step was to create a template for my triangle pennants.
I traced the outline of the template and then cut out the triangles, leaving me with a pile of triangles.
I decided to sew two triangle together to give my pennants a little more girth and substance although I’ve seen where other folks decided to just use one piece of fabric, cutting the edges with pinking shears to finish the edges. For my last step, I used binding to connect my triangle together and ended up with a 3 yard long garland.
I think it came out pretty cute, but would prefer to use a random assortment of fabrics to create my next garland. I think it will give it a shabby chic look that will be perfect to string over our outdoor dining table to enliven our al fresco dining experience. These garlands could even be used to decorate a nursery/child’s room now that I think about it…oh the possibilities!
Hi-ya and thanks for jumping on over from Better/After (love that site). Since I posted about the couch a few weeks ago I thought I’d be helpful and provide you a direct link to the post about it. I think it’s one of those revamps where you either love it or hate it…thankfully we lurve it! Anyhoo, thanks for stopping by- I hope you’ll browse awhile and send me a link so I can check out your blog, too.
Part of our evening ritual as a family is to go for a walk around the neighborhood. It’s the perfect opportunity to catch up one another on our days and get some much needed exercise. During our walks, we’ve found a variety of treasure that our neighbors have deemed either no longer useful or “trash”. We’ve picked up planters, chairs, tables, and even a scooter for Roscoe that he adores…all for free!
I’m sure you can figure out the point of today’s post- we hit the motherload of roadside treasure, dumpster diving, whatever you want to call it. Before I reveal, however, here’s a little background. When we sold/moved from our old house almost two months ago, we had to leave our gas and charcoal grills since we had built them into a whole outdoor cooking island. That left us without a way to grill out which was rather devastating given that this is how we cook half our meals.
So fast forward. On our walk, we came across this bad boy.
A Vermont Castings Grill. We knew it was nice because the grill plates were cast iron and the thing was heavy! We practically ran back home to get the car and toted this sweet find home. I googled ”Vermont Castings” and found our model.
This, folks, is an $800 grill. That works perfectly. That someone was throwing out. I still can’t believe it. I guess the saying holds true once again- one person’s trash really is another’s treasure. Can’t wait to grill out tonight!
This past weekend was stellar in oh so many ways. It started with a jaunt to First Friday celebration in Downtown Greensboro, complete with an indie market, outdoor music festival, art demonstrations, a picnic, and perfect weather. It was just the type of experience we needed to erase the stresses of the past week and ease into the comfort of each other’s company. Come Saturday morning it was time to hit the road at the crack of dawn so we could get to my parent’s house in Little River, South Carolina. My mom’s sister and her hubs had come down from Buffalo, New York for a visit and we did not want to miss out on the festivities or their company.
From the moment we arrived it was a whirlwind weekend well spent. Our first stop was the Shrimp & Jazz festival on the Little River waterfront. Let’s just say we gorged ourselves on seafood.
Our weekend wasn’t entirely focused on eating, however. We also managed to fit in some beach time and shell hunting.
On Sunday we headed on down to the boardwalk and Sky Wheel in Myrtle Beach, complete with snacks of fried goodness and cotton candy at the local venues. Everything from the weather to the views was simply awesome.
While it’s good to be home, I have to admit that I felt a bit homesick upon our return. There’s something about salt air, ocean water, and family that just makes everything feel right with the world. Nevertheless, it’s time to return to reality and get ready for the work week ahead (whoo-hoo).
Sluuurrrppppp! That would be the sound of me last night finishing up my latest culinary adventure: Borscht Soup. I am sure your immediate reaction to reading that was the same as my husband’s. He immediatly asked “and what is that?” with a slight look of fear. Did I let that deter me? Of course not. At least I was going to use a recipe for this dish and it certainly won’t be the worst thing I’ve ever made him eat (that’s a story for another day). The reason behind my desire to make this was simple: it requires seasonal veggies that I don’t normally use (i.e., beet). This was my attempt to challenge myself to go outside our gastronomic comfort zone and (hopefully) excite my tastebuds.
So what is in Borscht? In this particular recipe, there was cabbage, beetroot, carrots, onions, potatoes, and tomatoes…in essence a stew.
The end result was pretty spectacular if I may say so myself. Hubs helped himself to two heaping bowls. Roscoe wasn’t a big fan, but he also didn’t try it. I chalk that up to regular 4 yr. old fickleness.
Just in case you want to give it a go yourself, here’s the recipe.
SWEET & SOUR CABBAGE, BEETROOT, & TOMATO BORSCHT
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4-6 raw beets, peeled and chopped
4-6 russet potates, chopped
1 can tomatoes
1/2 a head of cabbage, thinly sliced
5 cups vegetable stock
Ground chicken, beef, OR turkey (I used organic chicken)
4 tbsp white sugar
4 tbsp white wine OR apple cider vinegar
Sour cream, to garnish
A good crusty bread for dipping and soaking up broth!
Put meat in heavy bottom pan and cover with water, crumbling in one veggie bouillon cube. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer until meat is cooked. Put all your veggies into a stock pot or large pan and pour in veggie stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium and cook for 30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Add sugar and vinegar to soup and cook for 10 minutes. Add more sugar and/or vinegar depending on how you like your sweet/sour ratio. Stir in dill and serve immediately with a dollop of sour cream and fresh dill on top. Bon apetit!
We enjoyed ours outside on the patio by candlelight since it was so pleasant with a light chill in the air- a perfect ambience to enjoy a piping hot bowl of hearty soup. I think the only thing that could have made this meal better is a nice glass of red or a hearty belgium beer. Only a few more months before my preggo self can indulge that sentiment!