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february book giveaway!

January 30, 2015

sample from Feb giveaway book pleasure in simple things

As usual for me at this time of year, my mind wanders towards thoughts of warmer weather, gardening, and spending a lot more time outdoors. Even though I can appreciate some aspects of winter, it is most definitely not my favorite of the seasons.

With this in mind, you will understand why I chose The House Gardener by Isabelle Palmer as the book for the February giveaway selection. This book provides tons of ideas and inspiration for indoor gardens…a great way to brighten up cold winter days and to inspire thoughts of the next (warmer!) season ahead.

giveaway book for feb 15 on pleasure in simple things blogThrough this delightful book, Ms. Palmer will show you how to choose, grow, and decorate with houseplants, as well as guide you through the different techniques needed to care for your new “green guests.”

Included in this book are instructions for drying and pressing flowers, suggestions for specific plant types based on conditions, caring for orchids, creating terrariums, and much more!

Just leave a comment during the month of February to be entered into the random drawing at the end of the month.

And, a big congratulations to Carol at Art & Sand for being selected randomly from everyone that commented during the month of January!  Carol, you have won the January giveaway selection, The Kinfolk Table: Recipes for Small Gatherings by Nathan Williams.  This is a beautiful book and I know you will enjoy it!

For those that use Instagram, February’s challenge will be to share heart photos. At this time of year, hearts seem to appear everywhere! Be creative and share a photo of a heart you spot in an unexpected place using the hashtag #pleasuregram! Can’t wait to see what you find! ;)

Instagram challenge Feb 2015 pleasure in simple things blog

Thank you so much for stopping by! Have a wonderful weekend, Jackie xo

P.S.  If you want some inspiration to get started on some indoor gardening, click here for some terrarium inspiration!


super for the super bowl asian nachos

January 27, 2015

how to Asian nachos pleasure in simple things blog

This snack was 10 years in the making. Sound crazy? Let me explain.

About 10 years ago, my daughter worked in a restaurant that served Asian nachos. I wasn’t a big fan of Asian flavors at the time, but I was in love with the Asian nachos served at this particular restaurant. I never failed to order this each time I visited. That restaurant is no longer in business, but I have often thought of that favorite appetizer of mine and wished I knew how to make it.

restaurant Asian nachos pleasure in simple things blog

Recently, two people (one being my daughter) that once worked at the now non-existent, Asian nachos serving, Connecticut restaurant put their heads together and came up with the recipe for this fabulous appetizer. I am SO excited to share it with you because it tastes pretty spot-on to my favorite from years ago!

Ingredients (makes 16)

ingredients for Asian nachos pleasure in simple things blog

  • Package of wonton wrappers (in refrigerated in the produce section)
  • Wasabi cream sauce (I bought Kikkoman sandwich and dipping sauce)
  • 1 bottle peanut sauce (I used an 11.5 oz. bottle sold as a dipping sauce)
  • 1 cup shredded cooked chicken or approximately 12 oz. uncooked (I used 4 tenderloins)
  • 1 ½ cups shredded Mexican mix cheese
  • Scallions, chopped (for garnish)

close up photo of Asian nachos pleasure in simple things blog

Here is how I made the Asian nachos based on what I learned from the former restaurant employees!

First, I baked 4 chicken tenders in some of the peanut sauce. After the chicken was cooked, I shredded it and added the rest of the bottle of peanut sauce to it. (I made this ahead and stored in the fridge.)

Next, I used a frying pan and canola oil to fry 16 wonton wrappers. I made sure the oil was really hot and fried each side – this is a fast process – probably 20 seconds for each side. The wontons will puff up and become stiffer, but I didn’t keep them in the oil long enough to become brown. I flipped them with a fork and put them on a paper towel when I removed them from the oil.

recipe for Asian nachos pleasure in simple things blog

I made sure I had 16 nicely done wontons before starting to assemble the appetizer. (On my first attempt I had some wontons I needed to discard – they were either too brown or that I put them in the oil before it was hot enough. I got the hang of it after a few tries.)

To assemble, I lined up the wontons on an oven safe dish. (You can use a cooking sheet and transfer to a serving tray when out of the oven.) I put a heaping tablespoon of the chicken mixture – after warming it from the fridge first – onto the center of each wonton. Then, I sprinkled the shredded cheese on top of the chicken on each wonton and them under the broiler – just long enough to melt the cheese.

After taking the wontons out of the oven (transfer to serving tray if needed), I added the wasabi cream sauce (add a dot or more, depending on your taste).  As the final touch, I garnished with chopped scallions.

asian nachos pleasure in simple things blog

Here you go! A super Super Bowl – or, anytime – snack! So yummy!  Enjoy!

P.S. You will have wonton wrappers leftover – the perfect opportunity to experiment by using them with some homemade ravioli fillings or to create some filled desserts!

Thanks for stopping by! Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

Sharing at Craftberry Bush, The Shabby NestSand & Sisal, Elizabeth & Co, and Coastal Charm.

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special date valentine skewer

January 23, 2015

special date fruit skewers pleasure in simple things blog

What better way to commemorate a date with significance than to just spell it out…with food! I guess my ‘playing with food’ theme from earlier this week is still going strong! Once I get started with something, it is hard to stop! So, for Friday field trip today, come into my kitchen where I will share an easy and fun idea for Valentine’s Day…or, any day!

valentine fruit date skewers pleasure in simple things

I am using fruit (any melon works great) on a skewer for a Valentine meal to evoke memories of a special day.  Mini cookie cutters are perfect to cut numbers from fruit!  Do you have a date with special significance? Maybe a first meeting? Or, the date you were engaged? Maybe it is a future date – like the due date of your first baby (a great reveal!) or the closing on your first house.  Whatever the significance may be, putting it right out there on the plate is a fun way to include past or future memories to your Valentine’s Day table.

cookie cutters for Valentine fruit kabobs

Can’t think of any date appropriate to serve up? That is okay…just make x’s and o’s…or, hearts. :)  Or, at a family meal, spell out the names of your children (just monitor the sticks!)

making fruit numbers from cookie cutters pleasure in simple things blog

The fruit can be served as an appetizer or as a dessert…served with a spiced yogurt dipping sauce, melted chocolate – fondue style, or alongside a scoop of sorbet (you guessed it – I am thinking of my favorite, coconut lemongrass!).

fruit kabobs for Valentine's Day pleasure in simple things blog

I prefer a simple skewer, but if you want to get fancy, you can simulate an arrow with a few strategically placed pieces of pink paper!

making Valentine arrows from skewers pleasure in simple things

Have you thought of a day you would like to use?  Have fun with it!

Thanks for stopping by!  Have a wonderful weekend, Jackie

Sharing at NancherrowCrafts a la ModeCraftberry BushThe Shabby Nest  and French Country Cottage.


homage to squirrels on their day

January 20, 2015

Squirrel pound cake pleasure in simple things blog

I often wonder why I even like squirrels – they are just rodents, after all. And, in my yard, the pesky things are forever digging up all the bulbs I plant in my garden!

But, admittedly, I do like them…I have fed them nuts by hand from my backdoor, I have been in awe of a white one that hangs out in my yard and, I even have a squirrel feeder in a backyard tree!

Well, tomorrow is National Squirrel Appreciation Day. And, even though I don’t know exactly what it is I appreciate about squirrels, I am paying homage to them on their special day!

using a squirrel cookie cutter pleasure in simple things

In the past, I have used a squirrel cookie cutter to make cookies, pancakes, and toast embellished with a squirrel shape – what I am saying is that my homage is pretty much playing with food! And this year is no different since I have created a squirrel pound cake!

You may have tried this technique before – using a shape baked into a pound cake. If not, it is not too hard to do, but two pound cakes need to be baked. First, I made a pound cake, adding cocoa to get a dark color. (You could use food coloring if you wanted to do a different motif….say green for a Christmas tree shape, for example.) Anyway, after the pound cake was done, I cut out a bunch of shapes – in this case – squirrels. I lined up the squirrels – one after the other – down the middle of a loaf pan – until they stood from one end of the loaf pan to the other, flat against each other. Then, I made a second pound cake and spooned the batter all around and on top of the squirrels standing in the pan. After the second cake is baked and cut – Voila! Squirrels!

If you have never tried to make a pound cake with a shape baked into it, it is a fun way to add a motif to a theme party.

squirrel cake with walnut sauce pleasure in simple things blog

Because the squirrel part of the cake is actually cooked twice, I thought that part of the cake may turn out a little dry…so here is the sauce I came up with to spoon over the cake. (Of course, it had to be a nut sauce!)

Walnut Sauce
1 cup maple syrup
2 Tablespoons honey
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of salt
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, chopped into small pieces
¾ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Lightly toast walnuts (optional) and set walnuts and vanilla aside. Combine remainder of ingredients in a saucepan and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat. Serve warm…when ready to use, stir in walnuts and vanilla before serving with the pound cake.

squirrel appreciation day pleasure in simple things blog

Thanks for stopping by! Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

P.S. If you are a squirrel lover, be sure to check out all the cute photos of squirrels in the squirrel photo album on my Facebook page.

Sharing with Elizabeth & Co, Coastal Charm, Cookin’ and Craftin’ and Sand & Sisal.


birch bark diy bookmark valentines

January 16, 2015

white birch heart bookmark pleasure in simple things blog

Today on Friday field trip, I am sharing how I used some decorating leftovers from the holidays to create some cute Valentine bookmarks.

My outdoors theme left me with some rustic looking leftovers and I thought birch bark would be perfect to design a bookmark. I looked through my stash of white birch bark to find some flat, but sturdy, thin pieces to make my bookmarks. Using a craft knife, I cut a rectangle approximately 1 1/2″ x 5 1/2 ” from the bark for each bookmark.

Initial heart birch bark bookmark pleasure in simpel things blog

If you haven’t collected your own bark, you may be able to find some at a high-end garden store.  (I know I have seen it sold at Terrain.)  You won’t be needing very much – depending on how many bookmarks you plan to make, of course.

Next, to embellish the bark, I used a basic wood burning tool (Girl Scouts 101) and burned a heart pattern into the bark. On some of the bookmarks, I also added an initial. You can get as create as you like with this step – add an arrow, 2 sets of initials, etc. If you don’t have the basic wood burning tool, it is a handy thing to have and you can probably find one online for $10 to $15. Don’t get an entire set – just the simple, basic tool is all you need.

birch bark bookmarks with initials pleasure in simple things blog

I used a nail and a hammer to put a hole into the top of each rectangle so I could add a ribbon to the top of each bookmark. For the ribbon, I recycled the handles from my holiday shopping bags. Does the cream color ribbon with red accents look familiar? It is from the handles of an Anthropologie shopping bag! The jute looking one is from the handle of a Terrain shopping bag! I always save the handles for projects just like this!

heart bookmarks from birch bark pleasure in simple things blog

And, that’s it! Simple, right?

I also had some cute pencils left from my holiday wrapping that I transformed for Valentine’s Day. Twig pencils that served as package tie-ons at the holidays are now packaged with ribbon scraps and paint swatches – my favorite note paper – as Valentine memo packs! (Is it just me that enjoys memorizing the names of current paint colors?! I know…I am definitely color obsessed!)

paint swatch note packs pleasure in simple things blog

What holiday decorating leftovers can you transform into Valentines?  I hope I have inspired you to create some!

Note: You can use some sandpaper to soften up any rough spots you may find on your bark. You can also attach some felt or cardstock to the back of a piece of bark if it seems too thin or is not rigid enough for a bookmark.  Most importantly, be sure to follow the safety guidelines on the wood burning tool!

Thank you so much for stopping by!

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

Sharing at Homework,  Thoughts of Alice, House of Hipsters, Nancherrow, and The Shabby Nest.


earl grey – lavender hot chocolate

January 13, 2015

recipe for earl grey lavender hot chocolate pleasure in simple things blog

Do you have a favorite hot beverage for a cold winter morning? Hot cocoa? Mulled cider? How does Earl Grey-Lavender Hot Chocolate sound? Granted, it is not for the faint of heart…a decadent, chocolaty drink with a wonderfully fragrant lavender and Earl Grey flavor combination.

enjoying earl grey lavender hot cocoa pleasure in simple things blog

When I saw a recipe for Earl Grey-Lavender Hot Chocolate in last month’s giveaway book, I knew I needed to give it a try. (Click here for more on Winter Cocktails by Maria Del Mar Sacasa.) I love using the flavor of Earl Grey in desserts and I love the flavor pairing of lavender and hot chocolate.

snow day hot chocolate pleasure in simple things blog

How do I know this?  Because I adore the hot chocolate with lavender foam served at Chocopologie in Norwalk, Connecticut!  So, if you like these flavors as much as I do, you need to give this recipe a try!  I’m calling it my ‘snow day hot chocolate!’  (Remember the Earl Grey cream puffs?  Or, the Earl Grey creme brulee?  Click on name to see!)

Yes, it is a little more work than a traditional hot cocoa to make, but creating something wonderful in the kitchen is what snow days are all about, right? This is a wonderfully hot, chocolaty treat to enjoy slowly on one of those days when you are housebound and enjoying the slow pace of a snow day!

recipe for earl grey lavender hot chocolate on pleasure in simple things blog

Earl Grey-Lavender Hot Chocolate – Serves 4
½ cup dried edible lavender flowers
½ cup loose Earl Grey tea
4 cups whole milk
4 Tab unsalted butter
½ cup natural cocoa powder
3 Tab packed dark brown sugar
6 oz. finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
Pinch salt
1 Tab vanilla extract

Earl Grey-Lavender hot chocolate pleasure in simple things

Bring lavender, tea and milk to a simmer in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let steep 15 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and discard solids. Wipe out saucepan.

enjoying hot cocoa pleasure in simple things blogIn the same pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and brown sugar and whisk together until a paste forms. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in chocolate and salt and cook, stirring, until chocolate is completely melted.

Notes: If you haven’t used lavender in cooking before, be sure to use culinary-grade lavender. I found containing the Earl Grey and lavender in a spice bag created a smoother drink texture and eliminated the need for a sieve. Don’t plan on accompanying this drink with a pastry or biscuit – it is a dessert all on its own!

Hope you enjoy this cold weather treat! Thanks so much for stopping by!

Remember to find pleasure in simple things, Jackie

Sharing with French Country Cottage, Kim Klassen Friday FindsSand & Sisal, Elizabeth & Co., and Coastal Charm.


glass blowing adventure

January 9, 2015

paperweight from glass blowing adventure pleasure in simple things blog

I love all creative arts. One place I had been eager to visit ever since I knew of its existence is Peter Greenwood’s Glass Blowing Studio in Riverton, Connecticut. Peter offers workshops for beginners with no experience and I really wanted to give it a try!

Front of Peter Greenwood's glass blowing studio pleasure in simple things blog

My idea was to visit before Christmas and create a glass blown ornament for my tree…how special would that be?! But, after discussing the workshop options with Peter before I made my visit, I decided to create a glass paperweight rather than a glass ornament. Yes, the ornament was an actual glass blowing experience, but if I took the workshop for the paperweight; I could actually make my piece from start to finish. I decided to go for the hands-on experience of forming molten glass and sculpting it into a paperweight – with Peter’s guidance, of course.

I am so glad I did. The process was fascinating.

A friend and I made the trip to the quaint little town of Riverton where Peter’s studio and showroom are located inside a historic stone church built in 1829.

glass blowing studio with pleasure in simple things blog

piece at Peter Greenwood's studio pleasure in simple things blog

I am sharing some photos from the visit on today’s Friday field trip, but I think the best way to really get a sense of the process is to watch the short video created from phone videos the day of my visit. In hindsight, I probably should have brought a video camera with me, but my friend Wendy was nice enough to take some video of my experience and I am thrilled to have it documented.

Click here for A Video on Creating a Paperweight in Peter Greenwood’s Connecticut Studio.

tools of the glass blowing trade pleasure in simple things blog

glass blowing tools pleasure in simple things blog

In some ways, I found creating glass pieces very similar to throwing pots because of the symmetry component, although working in conjunction with a 2,000 degree oven was a little more daunting! I was very much aware of the dangerous temperatures involved and was extremely cautious.

2,000 degree furnace glass blowing pleasure in simple things

The 2,000 degree oven used to create my glass paperweight at Peter Greenwood’s studio.


beginnings of a paperweight pleasure in simple things blog

The beginnings of my paperweight at Peter Greenwood’s studio in Connecticut.

glass chips from glass blowing pleasure in simple things blog

Glass chips like this are used to create the design in the paperweight…I used blue chips for mine.

When completed, the blue swirl I created in my paperweight glowed orange from the high temperature. Once cooled, the blue color would be apparent. The cooling process is done very slowly or the piece would have exploded due to the quick temperature change!

finished paperweight before cooled pleasure in simple things blog

I hope you enjoyed today’s field trip. Peter is a wonderful teacher and I highly recommend looking him up should you ever want to take a trip to Riverton and experience some of your own glass adventures!

Peter Greenwood pieces pleasure in simple things blog

Have a wonderful weekend!

Peter Greenwood pleasure in simple things glass blowing adventure

The glass master himself, Peter Greenwood.

Thanks for stopping by! Remember to enjoy pleasure in simple things, Jackie

Sharing with Elizabeth & Co., Nancherrow, and House of Hipsters.


chocolate granola recipe

January 6, 2015

packaging chocolate granola pleasure in simple things blog

This past holiday, my woodland theme warranted some loosely defined forest food – like ‘nuts and berries’ as appetizers…glazed nuts in both sweet and savory glazes included. But, in addition, every year I make some holiday takeaways – homemade treats wrapped in individual servings to give as gifts or to use as delicious, edible favors.

The rosemary shortbread trees I make every year were perfect for my theme this year, but I also added some dried fruit roll-ups and some granola. What outdoor theme would be complete without granola?

chocolate granola takeaways pleasure in simple things blog

The chocolate granola I chose to make this year came from one of my favorite cookbooks – a la Mast – and it certainly gives granola a whole new meaning! (Click here for more on the cookbook.)

chocolate granola favors pleasure in simple things blog

This granola is the perfect treat to package in small servings….I used cellophane bags, baker’s twine, and personalized labels (yes, I did make home made two words intentionally lol…I thought it gave it more emphasis to the fact that it was, indeed, made at home.)  I love this granola as a topping on plain yogurt, but it is also great to add some crunch to a pancake – maybe chocolate chip!

I made chocolate granola for the holidays, but it may be the perfect thing to make for a Valentine’s Day brunch (I will use it to make yogurt parfaits – layering yogurt, fruit, and chocolate granola in a pretty stemmed glass.) or to slip into a Valentine’s Day school lunch bag…also makes a nice bite to take on the ski slopes or on a winter hike.

This Chocolate Granola Recipe makes 5 cups.  Enjoy!

chocolate granola recipe pleasure in simple things blog
Chocolate Granola Recipe (makes 5 cups)
1 cup almonds, roughly chopped
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup honey
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
½ cup cacao nibs
½ cup dried cranberries
5 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine almonds, pecans, and rolled oats with honey and brown sugar. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool. Melt butter with cocoa in a saucepan. Mix together cacao nibs, cranberries, and the roasted mixture. Stir in the melted butter mixture. Mix in the chopped dark chocolate.

olate granola in yougurt pleasure in simple things blog

Notes:  The cocoa nibs may be hard to find unless you live near the Mast store in Brooklyn, but you can probably find some at your local Whole Foods or gourmet food store. The labels I used for my holiday packaging came from Tiny Prints (click here for the website) and can easily be modified for Valentine’s Day or any other occasion by utilizing one of the many designs available…or make your own!

chocolate granola for breakfast pleasure in simple things blog

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Remember to find pleasure in simple things, Jackie

Sharing at The Shabby Nest, French Country Cottage.

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restoration hardware gallery in ct

January 2, 2015

mixing textures at Restoration Hardware pleasure in simple things blog

Don’t you love walking through Restoration Hardware? Their use of a neutral color palette, thoughtful mix of textures, and minimal use of accessories is definitely right in line with my taste. And, the light fixtures? O.M.G.

lighting at Restoration Hardware in CT pleasure in simple things blog

All the stores are worth a visit, but if you happen to live near Boston, Greenwich, Atlanta, or West Hollywood; you have access to a very special store – the Restoration Hardware Gallery Store. If you don’t happen to live near these places, you can catch a little glimpse of what you are missing on today’s Friday field trip to the Connecticut store.

restoration hardware gallery in connecticut

Formerly on Greenwich Avenue, the store moved a short distance up the street to occupy the old historic Greenwich Post Office and become one of the four RH gallery stores. But, this did not happen until after the space was completely gutted and renovated. Click here to see more about the project.

The grand scale and dramatic lighting of this magnificent store make for a museum-like experience…

a collage of restoration hardware

magnificent lighting at RH pleasure in simple things blog

The store displays a luxury lifestyle with dramatic interior and exterior installations of home furnishings in a gallery setting.

stair case at Restoration Hardware in CT pleasure in simple things blog

bathroom at Restoration Hardware pleasure in simple things blog

Some pieces are a little too masculine for my taste and some a little too heavy on the industrial vibe, but for the most part, I would love to own any one of Restoration Hardware’s furniture pieces (if I had a large enough space to accommodate it, of course!).

chair at Restoration Hardware pleasure in simple things blog

textures at Restoration Hardware pleasure in simple things blog

I love examining paint finishes and have had fun trying my hand at recreating (in look anyway) them in some of my refinishing projects using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.

table setting at Restoration Hardware pleasure in simple things blog

table accessory at Restoration Hardware pleasure in simple things blog

The Greenwich RH Gallery provides some amazing inspiration and I urge you to visit one of the four gallery locations if you should be provided the opportunity.

lighting at Restoration Hardware pleasure in simple things blog

I hope you enjoyed today’s field trip.

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

Sharing at The Shabby Nest, Kim Klassen’s Friday Finds, French Country Cottage, and House of Hipsters.