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shopping frenzy?

November 29, 2013

christmas angel ornament

I hate the term ‘Black Friday.’  To me, the day after Thanksgiving signals the start of all that is good about the holiday season.  I would prefer the term for the day signify the start of the holiday spirit and not the start of retail frenzy.  How about ‘Magical Friday,’ or ‘Enchanted Friday,’ or even ‘Family Friday.’  How would you sum up the seasonal spirit in one word?


I am not saying I don’t enjoy visiting the stores.  I do.  But, not the ones that have long lines at midnight or that spotlight the latest ‘must have’ toy.  I prefer the stores that showcase the magic…the sparkle…the beauty of the season…the kind of store that contributes to the spirit of the season – not the spirit of commercialism.

Taken for Granite

Taken for Granite in Stony Creek, Connecticut embraces the holiday spirit by providing homemade holiday treats for visiting shoppers.

One of my favorites is Taken for Granite.  So, today’s Friday field trip on ‘Black Friday’ is a trip to Taken for Granite in Stony Creek, Connecticut to a store that helps kick off this magical time of year in a way no other store can. 

Collage Taken for Granite

seaglass ornaments

Taken for Granite

Jewlery Taken for Granite

Taken for Granite

Taken for Granite Stonington, CT

woodland ornament

And, of course, I had to include some woodland inspirations to go with my theme this year!  Enjoy!

acorn ornaments

Taken for Granite jewlery

Taken for Granite

Thanks so much for stopping by.  I hope you enjoyed Friday field trip.

Have a wonderful weekend!  Remember to enjoy pleasure in simple things, Jackie

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happy thanksgiving :)

November 26, 2013

This Thanksgiving week, as I pause to give thanks – I want to give a special thanks to you – for sharing pleasure in simple things with me.

Click here for a special gift from me to you...and…

Please enjoy all that is dear to you this Thanksgiving…

give thanks

Peace & Love, Jackie

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appreciating vanilla

November 22, 2013

ice cream at Williams-Sonoma

Have you ever thought about the flavor differences in types of vanilla extract?   With Thanksgiving so close (…think fresh vanilla whipped cream on those pies!…) I thought it would be perfect timing to share a Friday field trip to explore these differences.

To do so, I attended a vanilla ‘class’ at Williams-Sonoma – great preparation for holiday baking!  I am sharing a little of what I learned and I am also including a simple recipe for holiday gift giving – vanilla sugar.  (Wondering how I am tying vanilla sugar into my woodland holiday theme?  Isn’t tasty vanilla sugar needed for sprinkling on berries?  What better to add to a tray of fruits, nuts & berries?  Or, to give in a pretty jar accompanied with fresh berries?  Yum! )

In simple terms, vanilla extract is made by chopping vanilla beans, soaking them in a mixture of alcohol and water, and then aging the solution.

taste testing vanilla

Taste testing three vanillas in milk at Williams-Sonoma. I also had the opportunity to taste vanilla in homemade vanilla ice-cream and to taste vanilla in pumpkin bread served with vanilla whipped cream.

The differences in taste occur based on where the vanilla originates.  At Williams-Sonoma, I had the  opportunity to taste test the three most common kinds – Tahitian, Mexican and Madagascar Bourbon – the Mexican and Madagascar Bourbon beans are more strongly scented, while Tahitian are more delicate.  Mexican beans are in short supply, however, while Madagascar Bourbon beans make up about three-fourths of the total supply.

Tahitian Vanilla is grown on the island of Tahiti; this distinct member of the vanilla family is prized for its aromatic, fruity, cherry-like flavor.  A favorite of French pastry chefs, Tahitian vanilla performs best when used in low or no-heat applications, as its delicate flavor can become weakened in the presence of high heat.  Enjoy Tahitian pure vanilla extract in refrigerated and frozen treats, fruit pies and sauces, cream fillings, smoothies and shakes.  This vanilla is ideal for a vanilla ice cream that is to be served with fresh fruits or fruit desserts.

vanilla sugar as gifts

Vanilla, one of the most popular flavors in the world, originated in Mexico.  Mexican vanilla is known for its creamy, spicy flavor that has a special affinity for dishes that contain chocolate, cinnamon and other warm spices.  When properly processed, Mexican vanilla is of exceptionally high quality and flavor.  Enjoy Mexican pure vanilla extract in cookies and cakes, chocolate drinks, confections and frozen treas.  Also try it in spicy savory dishes, such as chili, tomato sauces and barbecue sauces.

tasting vanilla

Made from beans from on the island of Madagascar, Madagascar Bourbon vanilla is the king of vanillas.  It takes the name “Bourbon” not from Kentucky whiskey, but from the French Bourbon court that ruled Madagascar in the 1800’s.  Madagascar Bourbon vanilla is considered to be the highest-quality pure vanilla available, described as having a creamy, sweet, smooth, mellow flavor that blends beautifully with a variety of foods.  It is especially suited to rich foods such as ice cream and butter cream as well as cookies, cakes and confections.

I think this is a great guide for those of us that haven’t attended pastry school!  Thank you Williams-Sonoma!  I also learned that when adding vanilla extract to hot food, to first let the food cool for a few minutes.  When the extract is added to hot food, the alcohol evaporates, taking with it some of the vanilla flavor!

I hope you enjoyed today’s Friday field trip exploring the differences in vanilla extract!

Have a wonderful weekend and remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

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diy wire gift tags

November 19, 2013

diy holiday package tag

I adore holiday decorating and baking.  Gift wrapping, in particular, is a passion of mine and I always start thinking about design details for my packages as soon as I establish a holiday theme – months before the holiday season approaches.

I assembled some of the materials I knew I would need for my woodland gift wrapping ideas quite some time ago…hoping to squeeze in some of my planned projects in free moments.

diy wire package ties

Working 15 hour days isn’t particularly conducive to fitting in creative activities, but I did use a couple of late night hours recently to work on some gift tags I had envisioned a while back.

Using wire from the craft store, I very simply bent the wire to form words to use as gift tags on my gifts…choosing fun holiday words or the name of the gift recipient.  I chose an antique bronze colored wire and picked the strongest gauge that I could still shape using my hands.  (Pliers are an option if you would rather use a tool or don’t have significant hand strength.)  I formed a loop on either end of the word shape to use as a ribbon loop and cut the end of the wire with pliers being sure to check for sharp edges and using a file or sandpaper to smooth any rough spots…

diy holiday word ties

I shaped the words freehand, but you can certainly use a handwritten word on paper or print out a word from your computer to use as a pattern.

diy holiday gift ties

These packages will coordinate nicely with the others I have planned for my woodland theme. ;)  Wire is available in a wide choice of colors in the craft store, so you can choose one to match your own holiday theme.   

holiday woodland package

These word creations have so many uses – they can be used as ornaments, to identify a Christmas stocking, or as a wine bottle gift tag.  It is an especially great idea to use one on a gift for someone that can never find anything printed with their unique name!

diy holiday gift ties

I hope you will try your hand at some of these fun wire word gift tags for holiday packages and create some to coordinate with your own holiday decorating.

Thanks so much for stopping by.  Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

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holiday shopping trip

November 15, 2013

shopping collage

Today’s Friday field trip is a shopping trip! My woodland holiday theme has been so much fun, I thought I would share some of the great items I have come across in my travels. When I decided to put a few photos up for you to see, I never realized how much trouble I would have editing all the great things I have found!

A woodland feeling would not be complete without a cozy blanket or scarf…this one is from L.L. Bean and in a favorite color palette. And, I love the way this set of three tree candles from Crate and Barrel mixes with neutrals. The serving tray from Ballard Designs is perfect to serve ‘fruits, nuts & berries’ at your holiday gathering…make up some candied or spiced nuts to include on your cheese tray!

log cabin incense burner

Doesn’t this bring back memories? Burning Christmas tree smelling incense from a log cabin incense burner is an old time favorite…and it helps bring the Christmas tree smell to every room in your home! This beauty can be purchased at Terrain.

holiday shopping collage

In recent years, straws have been available in so many different varieties…this holiday season you can even find straws that look like birch trees! At Anthropologie, I found these lovely simulated birch bark paper straws…perfect for sipping an icy holiday beverage. No outdoor themed party would be complete without maple leaf shaped maple sugar candies…the Vermont County Store is a wonderful source to find varieties of maple candy. I had to throw in the classic plaid traveling companion! This plaid number is not just for woodland picnics…it can be used to plant small holiday trees or mosses on an entryway table or for planting some succulents or paperwhites indoors. You can purchase this classic at Orvis.

crochele on Etsy

What to wear? Of course you need to coordinate what you wear with the theme! For the little one, how about this adorable handmade creation? SO CUTE! It is available on Etsy from Crochele. Not really my style though…I am planning on wearing this long forest green dress from Anthropologie. To give others to wear, I found some great handmade jewelry pieces for gifts…the bird nest necklace is available on Etsy from Alwaysabridesmade and the silver band squirrel ring is by Elizabeth Ryan and available on her website

woodland collage

These containers by Carla Peters are available at West Elm and are perfect for a single holiday bloom or…are beautiful all on their own!

Carla Peters for West Elm

Even though I plan on making my woodland themed ornaments (like my acorn ornaments :) for starters), I managed to find something available for the tree that got me excited….the perfect treetopper (at Terrain) for a woodland Christmas…isn’t he great?

terrain tree topper

I hope you enjoyed our little woodland holiday shopping trip today for Friday field trip. Here in Connecticut it has turned very cold and definitely brings with it thoughts of the holidays (of course Christmas songs playing in all the stores certainly helps this along lol!) Thanks so much for stopping by…

Have a wonderful weekend and remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

Please note: The photos in today’s post were not taken by me. They are photos from the respective websites where the products are sold.

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the season to count blessings

November 12, 2013

gratitude quote with fall leaves

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I find myself reflecting on all the blessings in my life.

gratitude quote

Especially when things get difficult, I try to pause and remember that I have so much to appreciate.

giving thanks quote with fall leaves

Today, I share with you some sentiments I find relevant as I reflect on giving thanks.

gratitude quote with fall leaves

I have paired some favorite quotes with photos I have taken that help capture the beauty of fall in Connecticut.

being thankful quote

Thanks for being one of my blessings…

give thanks

I am thankful you have chosen to stop by today. :)

Enjoy.  Feel free to share… and,

Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

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to each his house

November 8, 2013

It Takes A Village

I recently happened upon a really great project called “It Takes a Village”  inspired by artist and illustrator Denise Benett Minnerly and I want to share it with you for today’s Friday field trip… 

It Takes a Village

Art installation

Ms. Minnerly created a collective project that consists of many hand crafted houses made out of clay.  So cool. 


It takes a Village

Terrain displayed an installation of this project in their Westport store.

it takes a village

The idea is to have these houses furnish the floor of an art gallery.  The houses are used as metaphors to illuminate each individual’s identity.

denise minnerlyl

Participants were given a ball of clay and guidelines on creating a house.

It takes a village

Their imaginations were only limited by the size of their ball of clay and a few basic guidelines.

it takes a village denise minnerly

denise minnerly art installation

Isn’t it a great project?  I can think of ways to adapt the idea to a Thanksgiving Day activity!

Thanks so much for stopping by.  Have a fabulous weekend and remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

To read more about “It Takes a Village”, visit

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repurposing clothespins

November 5, 2013

days of week clothespins

I guess being born a Virgo and a firstborn explains how the simplest of organizing ideas can get me excited.

Using extra clothespins as an organizing tool is a perfect example…yes, I find this exciting!

Who hasn’t used a clothespin to hold a chip bag closed? 

But, by adding a few stamped letters and a freebie refrigerator magnet, I gave a few clothespins some more specific daily assignments.  Days of the week clothespins are a great way to help organize the week’s menu by clipping recipe cards onto the appropriate day that you will need them… an easy way to have some clothespins doing double-duty in your kitchen.  Also a great way to remember a coupon you may need to use on a specific day during the week.

clothespin decor

You can also add a little character to some old style clothespins by adding a coat of whitewash and then using a little sandpaper to give a worn appearance.  I like to use these as ‘clips’ for markers on my appetizer trays…here for a dessert tray, I also added a splash of gold to go with a gold theme. 

I am also incorporating some clothespins into my woodland holiday theme table decor…using a glue gun to add some pheasant feathers and some scrap velvet to some clothespins, they will stand in for more traditional napkin rings.  I always have plenty of feathers on hand, but if you don’t have access to game bird feathers, you can certainly pick some up at the craft store.

clothespin advent calendar

Another use for wooden clothespins to tie into my woodland theme is to use them with mini brown bags to create a natural element Advent calendar…stamp the days on the clothespins and clip natural materials to bags you have filled with surprises.

jar for thanks

A jar full of leaves from the backyard serves as a ‘jar of thanks’ …a slip of paper from each guest on Thanksgiving Day, giving a message of thanks, is folded and included in the jar to be read later in the day.

Do you have any great uses for wooden clothespins?

Thanks so much for stopping by.  Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

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monthly book giveaway for november!

November 1, 2013

Penguin and the Pinecone

penguinYikes!  November already?!  That month sure went fast!  The October giveaway selection of Backyard Foraging signed by author Ellen Zachos goes to Jennifer!  Congratulations!

This month’s giveaway is a picture book that tells a special story of friendship…

a perfect gift for any little one on your holiday gift giving list.

One of my friends introduced me to Penguin and Pinecone by Salina Yoon and I just fell in love with the book!

In keeping with my woodland holiday theme this season, the story is set in the forest and offers some great tie-in gift options…

I can’t wait to show you the gifts I am creating to give with the book!  Be sure to check in to see my ideas for gifts to use with this charming storybook!

Leave me a comment here or on twitter, facebook, or instagram to be entered to win this lovely storybook!

Have a great start to the month!  Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie   Instagram users, read on…

For November’s Instagram challenge use hashtag #pleasuregram to share your woodland inspired photos!

aaaaPicMonkey Collage