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5 great ways to use sea glass

July 31, 2012

“One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach.  One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few.”
—Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Okay, after spending countless hours searching for sea glass, you are pleased with your collection this season.  Are you tempted to add it to that one big jar you have in some nondescript location?  Don’t do it!  There are better ways to put these beautiful treasures on display.  Here are five great and easy ways to use your favorite pieces of sea glass…no drill, glue, or special talent required.  (Be sure to click on the photo collages below to see the sea glass treasures full screen.)

IN YOUR GARDEN  Sea glass looks great as a decorative touch in your garden.  It gives a fresh look to a birdbath or garden container.  It is also a neat way to finish off a potted plant by covering the top of the soil.  Maybe the thank you gift for the weekend you spent at your friend’s beach house is a plant finished off with the treasures you collected while visiting. 

ON A SHELF  A great way to display favorite pieces in your home is on a shelf, bookcase, or coffee table.  Just use a couple favorite pieces to highlight them as special, or group them by color for some great impact.  They look wonderful used in combination with other natural items like driftwood or a bird’s nest.  A unique piece can look great under a small dome on your mantle.

AS A VASE FILLER  Using sea glass to fill a vase is always a great way to bring the beach into your home.  Pieces can be used in a vase with fresh flowers or to anchor a candle in a jar.  Putting pieces in a mason jar and adding an old nostalgic black and white beach photo is a great addition to a summer mantle.  If you have a large collection, filling a glass lamp is another option.  I like to use a filled vase to serve skewered summer appetizers or desserts.

MAKE AN EASY AIR FRESHENER  Gather some pieces of sea glass into a small dish or teacup to use as an air freshener.  Just add your choice of fragance oil.  I found some really great oils at a local herb store, but most craft stores also carry it.  You can pick a floral scent or something reminiscent of the sea and surf.  Yard sales or Goodwill stores are great sources for pretty dishes that are sure to sell for under a dollar.  Or, use that odd teacup you haven’t been able to throw away.

TO CREATE WRAPPING PAPER  Take a photo of some pieces of your collection.  Get a color print of it on your home printer or at the local copy center to use as wrapping paper.  An easy way to add the beauty of the sea to a gift.  Use raffia or pretty sea-colored ribbon and tie on a shell to complete the look.  Use your new giftwrap for any occasion.  It is a great departure from the giftwrap typically used for the holidays..using it brings recollections of  warm memories of the sand and sea no matter how cold it may be outside :)

Thanks for visiting, Jackie

This project is being submitted to Celebrating Everyday LIfe recycled & repurposed diy project linky party

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just coffee, donuts & chicken in philly

July 27, 2012

friday field trip

They only sell coffee, donuts, and fried chicken.  My interest was in the donuts.  I heard there were some imaginative flavors offered and I wanted to check it out.  I looked up the address of Federal Donuts…1219 South Second Street.  Great.  I usually go everywhere in Philly by walking or by public transportation, but we would save time by driving…I heard these donuts sell out early!  My sister, daughter, and I headed out early morning.

The store turned out to be a very unassuming, tiny little shop, with six counter stools and no parking in a Pennsport neighborhood.  I guess we lucked out that there was only one person in the shop when we arrived, so we were able to sit at the counter.  Lucky because we could take our time analyzing our treats…each of us eager to decide our favorite variety.

Not wanting to miss tasting any of the unique flavors, we ordered one of each from the menu of nine flavors offered…just to sample, mind you.  That included three ‘hot’ donut flavors made to order:  indian cinnamon, appolonia spice, and vanilla lavender.  These donuts were coated while hot in a sugar/spice mixture.  The other nine flavors, called ‘fancy’ donuts,  were the same great, very light cake-type donut, coated with a flavorful glaze.

A photo of Federal Donuts’ current ‘fancy’ donut flavor offerings.

The flavors offered – definitely imaginative.  The taste – awesome!  I talked to the woman working in the store and the one regular customer seated at the counter.  I wanted to know about other donut flavor offerings…could I just be happy with the nine I was trying?  No.  I had to know what flavors I may have missed.  Torture!  Flavors are changed regularly.  Some past flavors included chocolate covered banana, pina colada, mandarin-coffee, s’mores, and root beer float.  So, even after deciding my favorite flavor, it could change on my next visit when different varieties may be offered.

At first I thought donuts and chicken were a wierd combination of food items to sell, but after thinking about it, both are fried.  Plus, Federal  covers both with unique seasonings and glazes.  Chicken seasonings include harissa and za’atar (no idea what these taste like!) and the glazes are chili-garlic and honey-ginger.  Although I am not crazy about fried chicken, after tasting the donuts, I DO want to try the chicken sometime!

My favorite this visit?  My favorite ‘fancy’ donut was the fig on fig.  My favorite overall was the vanilla lavender.  (My daughter chose strawberry rhubarb pie and vanilla lavender.) I asked at the shop for the current hot seller.  Can you guess?  Chocolate coconut.  I was surprised.  The shop thought the reason was because it was the most familiar flavor to customers.

As you can see by my ‘after’ photo of the leftovers, we basically only took ‘a little bite’ of each flavor as research!

I realized after I got home that I didn’t even get a photo of my favorite flavor…I guess it just wasn’t around long enough!

Thanks for visiting!  Don’t forget to ‘like’ my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/insimplethings  or leave a comment for a chance to win this month’s giveaway book!  Only a few days left for July’s selection…a beautiful ‘coffeetable’ garden photography book.  August 1st starts the giveaway for Yes, Chef.

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great ice cream sandwiches

July 24, 2012

rice cakes & ice cream?  Oh, yeah!

This time of year, you can always find an abundance of ice cream and ice cream related recipes.  I loved Real  Simple magazine’s recipes on ice cream sandwiches made from cookies that they featured recently.  Like s’mores, these treats are a summer standard in the dessert category.  Unfortunately, Real Simple  left out the two BEST combinations…the nerve!  Here is a glimpse of my two favorites…

 

A photo of one of my favorite diy ice cream sandwiches: ginger cookies filled with key lime ice cream and rolled in coconut. The ginger cookie recipe is included at the end of this post.

The first combination is ginger cookies filled with key lime pie ice cream and rolled in coconut. To be really decadent, white chocolate can be drizzled on the top.  There are a lot of good ginger cookie recipes.  I usually don’t have crystallized ginger in the house, so I use the recipe I included at the end of this post because it doesn’t require it.

A photo of the ginger cookies used to make the ice cream sandwiches…the recipe is included at the end of this post.

I think the key to a good ginger cookie is a good ginger spice.  I use Penzy’s spices.  There is no spice like it.  It is amazingly flavorful.   If I have crystallized ginger in the house, I use Ina Garten’s recipe, which is really great and calls for the crystallized ginger.  The ice cream, if store bought, really needs to be Ciao Bella, Key Lime Graham.   No other brand or flavor compares.  Of course, if you have a shop that makes homemade nearby, that is a great option.

The second  ice cream sandwich I adore uses rice cakes in place of the cookies.  It is a combination of rice cakes, smooth peanut butter, and a good quality vanilla ice cream (or frozen yogurt).  I used Breyers.  I first came up with this combination during one of my pregnancies, and I thought the pregnancy cravings were what made it taste so good.  I was wrong.  I like them just as well when I am not pregnant!

A photo of one of my favorite ice cream sandwiches…rice cake, peanut butter, and vanilla ice cream!

I have a store locally (Stew Leonards) that makes their own rice cakes and, in recent years, also sells them with drizzled chocolate…I used the chocolate enhanced ones for this post  :)  Just spread the insides of both rice cakes with the peanut butter  before sandwiching the vanilla ice cream in the middle.

The ginger cookie recipe follows.  Hope you enjoy my favorites and hope this gets your creative juices flowing to come up with some of your own favorite combos!  Let me know if you come up with some good ones!  Thanks for visiting.  Enjoy, Jackie

Ginger Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsulphured molasses
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1-2  teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup white sugar (for rolling)

Directions

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 – 3 minutes). Add the molasses, egg whites, and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until well combined. Cover the batter with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for about 60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.   Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place about 1 cup of white granulated sugar in a medium sized bowl. When the dough has chilled sufficiently, roll into 1 inch balls. Then roll the balls of dough into the sugar, coating them thoroughly. Place on the baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart and, with the bottom of a glass, flatten the cookies slightly. Bake for about 8 – 10 minutes or until the cookies are firm but are still a little soft in the centers. (The longer the cookies bake, the more crisp they will be.   For the purposes of an ice cream sandwich, you don’t want them crisp since that would make them hard to eat.)  Cool on a wire rack.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Recipe adapted From:  Mendelson, Susan & Cruz, Joey. The Lazy Gourmet. Whitecap Books. Vancouver/Toronto: 2000.

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kitchen of the year 2012

July 20, 2012

field trip friday

I had the greatest rainy day in New York City!

Have you heard of House Beautiful’s Kitchen of the Year?  Each year, a designer is chosen to create the ultimate kitchen in Rockefeller Center and the public is welcome to visit.   It is such a fun event.  It runs for five days and there are associated activities throughout the week.  This year,  I attended on the last day because I planned to be in the city on that particular day anyway.

The 1,000 square foot, 2012 kitchen was designed by Mick De Giulio.  My three favorite things in the kitchen did not even relate directly to cooking!  Not the stove, oven, or any of the appliances…my favorites were:

1.  The butler’s pantry.  WOW.  I have always dreamed of having one of these.  Every show house I go to seems to have one and I WANT ONE.  Too beautiful considering it is not a room your company would ever see!  The best part about the 100 square foot space was the cove ceiling with venetian finished gilded iron lights.

2.   Another thing I loved was the fireplace in the kitchen.  Could you imagine making s’mores in your kitchen?  Great item.  I am also a huge fan of white,  so I loved the white seating and table in front of it.  I guess it may not be real practical for some families…but,  who is talking about practical?

Photo of the fireplace in the 2012 Kitchen of the Year.

3.  Probably my very favorite thing in the entire kitchen wasn’t even a permanent part of the display…I am talking about Executive Chef Michael Ferraro from Delicatessen.

Photo of Executive Chef Michael Ferraro from Delicatessen

He was giving a presentation on preparing a pan roasted herbed chicken with shaved brussel sprouts.   A very informative presentation and a super guy.  I was so glad I got the chance to meet him.  I was just disappointed I could not fit in a visit to his restaurant this trip – a rainy day would have been a great time to have some great comfort food…next time.

Can’t go wrong with truffle oil! Photo of Chef Ferraro from Delicatessen giving a demonstration at the 2012 Kitchen of the Year.

A photo of Chef Ferraro during a demonstration at the 2012 House Beautiful Kitchen of the year – inserting herbed butter under the skin of a chicken to be pan roasted

 

A photo of the pan roasted herbed chicken and shaved brussel sprouts prepared by Chef Ferraro at the 2012 House Beautiful Kitchen of the Year. I got to taste!

If you want to see more photos of the 2012 Kitchen of the Year, you can check out the House Beautiful website  www.housebeautiful.com/koty     To see more about Chef Ferraro and Delicatessen http://delicatessennyc.com/

Any other day, visiting the Kitchen of the Year would have been the highlight of my day – not this day…I had the chance to spend time with my great friend  Lisa, and also had the opportunity to watch her lovely and talented daughter perform in the Rockettes Showcase!  Bravo Regan!  :)

Thanks for visiting!  Enjoy your weekend, Jackie

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diy painted glass vase

July 16, 2012

easy color-coordinated vase

Have you painted the inside of an old jar yet?  It seems to be very popular right now.  When I first started seeing them around, I had to laugh, because when I was young, painting old jars was something my friends and I  would do at the summer playground when we ran out of all other craft materials…after exhausting all the supplies for making tile ashtrays and gimp keychains.

Over the years, I have painted an occasional jar as a nostalgic activity.  I haven’t really been motivated to do it lately…not, that is, until I was in Anthropologie the other day and saw the many jars the store was using as props for their in-store displays.  They had painted the insides of mason jars.  But, rather than painting each jar a solid color, several colors were used in each jar.  The result was almost a tie-dyed look.  Using pastel colors in similar hues, I thought the effect was really beautiful.

With my coneflowers in full bloom, I decided to paint a jar in colors to coordinate with the color of the coneflower  blooms.  I have purple coneflowers, so I would use subtle shades of lavender and gray.

It is such an easy process…if you haven’t yet tried it, don’t feel intimidated.  You can’t mess up :)  Simply pour a little paint into the jar and swirl it around to cover the inside of the glass…that’s it!

I found out that my craft store plastic paint bottles were perfect for the multi-color application.  I just squeezed the various colors into the jar and swirled them around.  I added a little splash of silver too, just to add a little sparkle.  You can control the pattern the paint creates by controlling which colors hit the glass first.  Let some paint drip from the top to the bottom of the glass.  Then, pour some paint in the bottom of the jar and swirl it around, tipping it to cover the sides.

If you make an experimental jar first, you can get the feel for how you can control the pattern of the paint covering the glass.  I experimented on a couple of Snapple jars that were in my recycling bin, but I saved a mason jar for the vase I intended for the coneflowers.

The great appeal of this project is being able to create a vase in any color scheme you choose, at virtually no cost – repurposing old jars and leftover paint.  It’s easy to instantly create a vase to match a color scheme for a party or a room in your home.

Give it a try!  Please post a photo of your creation on my facebook page:    https://www.facebook.com/insimplethings

Note:  I put a plastic cup inside the jar to contain the water.  I don’t think the water sitting in the paint would provide a happy result ;)

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favorite childhood book

July 13, 2012

friday field trip

What is the first book you remember from your childhood?  When I posed this question to people I know, some common responses were Pat the Bunny and Good Night Moon…I remember reading these titles to my children, but have no recollection of them from my own childhood.  The first, and only picture book I remember was Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel  by Virginia Lee Burton…What does that say about me, I wonder?   It is a great book, mind you, but not exactly the kind of ‘warm and fuzzy’ titles mentioned by my friends.

With that in mind, I fast forward to a day recently when a friend gave me some of those trendy topic cards…you know the ones…they  suggest topics to  start dinner conversation?  Well, the ones I received suggest activities, and this was the first card I pulled out of the pack:


So, I guess I could have chosen to read Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel.   I didn’t.   I decided  to go with the first book I remember really enjoying reading by myself…the flashlight under the covers, I will risk getting in trouble, it’s so good, I like this whole reading thing book.  For me, that book was, without question The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary.

Interesting revelation that the two ‘milestone books’  from my childhood were both considered  ‘boy books’…particularly back at the time I was enjoying reading them.  Interesting.  My Friday field trip was to the local Barnes and Noble rather than the library.  I thought I might want to buy a copy of the book to keep for my bookshelf.   But, when I saw the cover illustration had been changed – modernized and looking very different from the original book  – I decided against it…it just didn’t look like the same book.

I planted myself in one of the comfy chairs in the corner of the bookstore and went about reading my book…to the left of me a girl was reading Psychology Today and to the right, a young man was reading Help Cure Cancer Through Nutrition.  There I sit, in the little reading circle, with a book from the children’s section written for an eight-year-old reading level…I wonder what the two neighboring readers thought about my selection?

I’m surprised how much of the story I did not remember, considering the book had such a profound effect on me.  Mrs. Cleary, now over 90 years old, was considered a trendsetter back in the 1960’s. She was a librarian that decided to write books for children when she discovered that school age children, particularly boys,  couldn’t find books that were written for people ‘like them.’

So, I wonder how I ended up with The Mouse and the Motorcycle…it was definitely taken out of my grade-school library, but I wonder how I chose it…Did the title or cover appeal to me?  Did the librarian recommend it to me?   I will never know.   I just know that last year,  when I was asked to name the top six books – of all the books read in my lifetime – that have had the biggest impact on me, The Mouse and the Motorcycle made the list.

Thanks Ms. Cleary, for instilling a life-long love for reading into my life.

To read more about Beverly Cleary, visit her website:  www.beverlycleary.com

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change your perspective challenge

July 10, 2012

living in the moment

Have you heard of life coaches?  I was talking to friend recently who told me a life coach had totally changed the lives of two people she knew.  How?  Simply by helping these two people change their perspective.  Can a change in perspective have that profound an effect?

Living in the moment is something I am really working  on.  I am trying not to have regrets about the past or get too crazy about planning for the future.  How many times have I thought if I could just manage to get everything ‘just so’,  I could relax…it is an easy way to miss the moment.   Sometimes it is hard not to think about how different things could be with one little change.

I remember after seeing the movie A Bronx Tale years ago – a great movie about the Bronx during the 1960’s that was Robert DeNiro’s directorial debut (wonderful music – get the soundtrack!) –  I wondered how the young boy’s whole life would have changed if he just didn’t live near the Sonny character! Contemplating the answer to that question was a big motivator for me on whom and what I would surround my kids with as they grew up.  Our environment obviously has a huge effect on who we are and how we perceive life.

How can one moment  change your life?  Are you up for a challenge to participate in an exercise to change your perspective?  If so, I have two pieces of ‘homework’ you might want to consider completing:

1.  Read the book Q:  A Novel  by Evan J. Mandery.  It is a very thought-provoking book that will help you appreciate your own life and consider the consequences of actions carefully.  The author has a cool way of using pop culture references to illustrate his points.

2. Watch the 1998 movie Sliding Doors starring Gwyneth Paltrow.  Here is a little preview:

http://www.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK//video/screenplay/vi1557175833/

A great illustration on how the change of a single action can change everything!

For me, I want to live in the moment, but be aware that all I do does have consequences… so I need to do the best I can do, in all I do…without getting too crazy – since some things are just simply out of my control.  And, changing perspective is always a good thing…what did you see in the cloud photo in the beginning of this post…from my perspective it was a mermaid :)

Let me know your thoughts :)

 

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in search of a ‘beachy’ wine

July 6, 2012

friday field trip

This week’s Friday field trip is to a liquor store…not very characteristic of me, since I am not a big drinker and I am not usually the one in the family to make the trip to the liquor store… but, I am on a mission…I am looking for a ‘beachy’ bottle of wine!  I am one of those people that has to love the packaging as much (or more) than the product I am purchasing.

At this time of year, there should be plenty of beautiful  summer labels to choose from…my only criteria is that it can’t be a red and it can’t be expensive.  (Although I am pretty sure for the right awesomely beautiful label/bottle, the criteria may just fly out the window.)

Instead of showing you photos of a liquor store or some of the contenders, I will cut right to the chase and show you photos of the winning bottle!  It is a wine called SeaGlass.  Love it!  This bottle happens to be a sauvignon blanc.

 

Now, this selection is merely by aesthetics.  I won’t know if the the taste measures up until the tasting,  over the weekend.  The label indicates it is a perfect choice for light summer fare, so it sounds perfect!   I will give you a full critique of the tasting on my facebook page, if you want to check it out at the end of the weekend.  https://www.facebook.com/insimplethings

 

Great, isn’t it?  Growing up, I always called the glass I collected along the shore, ‘beach glass,’ but it seems most people use the term ‘sea glass.’  Either way, it is beautiful.  The website for the manufacturer, SeaGlass Wines, is just as beautiful…if you want to check out their other varieties of wine, or just admire their website: www.seaglasswines.com

With temperatures in Connecticut in the 90’s, I think I will put my bottle of SeaGlass right in the fridge to cool down until the testing!

Does anyone have a ‘beachy’ bottle photo they would like to share on facebook or twitter?  I would love to see them!

 

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happy 4th!

July 3, 2012

1 comment

book giveaway winner for june!

July 2, 2012

22 britannia road by amanda hodgkinson

Congratulations to Liza Hawkins, blogger at (a)Musing Foodie for winning the author autographed copy of 22 Britannia Road!  See details for how to win July’s giveaway selection:  http://www.pleasureinsimplethings.com/book-giveaway/

Amanda Hodgkinson’s first novel did not have a common beginning.  It was accepted by the first agent she contacted and taken on by a publisher almost as quickly.  Not a common story; but not a common book.  Many critics are comparing Ms. Hodgkinson’s work to that of Tatiana De Rosnay in Sarah’s Key and, I must admit, I enjoyed it with the same enthusiasm.

The British author, now residing in France, made two Connecticut stops while in the United States.  One of these was at Fairfield University.  It was at this visit, sponsored by the University’s MFA in Creative Writing program, that I had the opportunity to hear Ms. Hodgkinson speak about herself and her New York Times bestselling debut novel.

A photo of Amanda Hodgkinson, author of “22 Britannia Road.”

Ms. Hodgkinson’s sparkling personality lit the room as she spoke to a crowd comprised of, largely, writing students.  Her own experience attending an MFA program was while her children were small. She credits the formal training for giving her validation and the confidence to continue pursuing her profession.  One particular professor she had announced to her “you will be a writer.”  For Ms. Hodgkinson, hearing she had what it took to be a writer gave her the confidence to go forward.  The formal writing program she attended was very unstructured, and she credits her experience as a journalist with helping her to condense her ‘ramblings.’

Ms. Hodgkinson has been writing a weekly column for a paper in France, where she has resided for the last six years.   Her husband lured her to France with the promise of a place to write ‘among the sunflower fields.’  This first novel, 22 Britannia Road, tells the effects of war on a family during peace time; a family desperately trying to put itself back together after the Second World War.  Silvana and Janusz are young newlyweds when they are separated…Silvana and her infant son, Aurek learn to survive by disappearing into the forests of Eastern Europe, while Janusz serves in the war and flees to France.  At the war’s end, Janusz decides to search for his wife and son.  When the family is reunited, they travel to England together for a fresh start, struggling to create a home.  But, as time goes on, many secrets are revealed to strain what little holds the family together.

Written in present tense, the novel slowly reveals the past with the back-story within the novel…alternating between the past and present, showing how the past influences the present.   The novel smoothly switches between the three character’s (mother, father, and son) points of view, taking the reader into war time and what happens as its result.

Though she did not experience the effects of war time herself, the aspects of relocating to a new country were very real to Ms. Hodgkinson.  She relocated to a new country at the same time she was working on the novel…moving to France with her husband and daughters – where she did not know the language or country – much like the family she portrays in this post war novel.

I was thrilled to get the chance to meet Amanda Hodgkinson during her visit to the U.S. and I look forward to her next piece of work.

22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson is a wonderful debut novel.  I would love to hear your reactions to the book after you read it!

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