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egg-actly that time of year

February 20, 2018

succulent eggs in natural elements

Yes, you guessed it, I have begun dyeing eggs!  With the start of Lent and an early Easter this year, I couldn’t resist starting some egg decorating!  We had a few inches of snow this past weekend, so I prepared by stopping at the grocery store and buying a dozen white eggs.  Then, while it was snowing, I watched the British Baking Show and emptied out the inside of 12 eggs to prepare them for decorating!

egg dyeing collage

How do I empty them?  I use a needle to gently place a hole in both sides of the egg – one hole a little larger than the other.  Then, I blow into the smaller of the holes to empty the contents of the egg.  The most important part of this procedure is to puncture the yolk of the egg!  Otherwise, the inside of the egg just will not come out!  How is this accomplished?  Using a needle or any long, thin object, to push it into the larger hole several times.  Piercing the yolk is what helps the contents to flow out when you start blowing!

cactus easter egg in a basket

I am careful not to get any of the raw egg in my mouth and I wash the outside of the eggs with soapy warm water and rinse thoroughly.  I stand them back into the egg carton overnight to drain any water still left inside.  Once decorated, with no insides to go bad, the eggs will last forever!

For the maiden voyage of egg decorating, I decided to paint a few with succulents.  I know, succulents are so 2001, but I have been working on a terrarium community service project and I have succulents on the brain!  I decided to use 3 eggs.  I dyed them a taupe color using paste food coloring.  For my dye, I use ½ cup boiling water, 1 teaspoon white vinegar, and some food coloring.  This color will serve as the backdrop for my succulents.

stages of painting easter eggs

I added very simplistic painted designs – since I applied the designs with cottons swabs and toothpicks – with acrylic paint.  It is hard to get too detailed without a proper paint brush!   I used the same few colors on all 3 eggs to give them a continuity.  My first decorated eggs of the year are complete – a trio of succulents!

succulent on taupe easter egg

So, the egg games have begun!  I hope I have inspired you to think about your egg designs this year!

Thanks for stopping by!

Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

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have a heart

February 13, 2018

heart cookie cutter salad

It’s easy to get into the Galentine’s or Valentine’s Day spirit simply by using a heart shaped cookie cutter on something edible!  Transform something ordinary into something extraordinary with a simple cut!

watermelon and mozzarella salad valentine

You have seen me use a cookie cutter on Valentine’s Day before…remember the Valentine stuffed French toast The lavender shortbreads?  Or, even the bird seed for the bird feeder?

Well, today I am taking my Fancy Watermelon Salad (click here for original recipe) and transforming it for Valentine’s Day, simply by cutting the watermelon rounds into hearts!  Easy, right?

watermelon salad trio

I hope I have inspired you to use a heart cookie cutter this Valentine’s Day!  What will you use it on?

Enjoy!

tasty watermelon valentine

Thanks for stopping by!

Remember to take pleasure in simple things, xo Jackie

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valentine candy craft diy

January 26, 2018

making candy pops for Valentines Day

In the same way gingerbread houses are decorated for Christmas, or eggs for Easter, why not create candy skewers for Valentine’s Day?  In my last post, I showed you some elegant Valentine’s Day skewers I created as gifts.  Today, for Friday field trip, I am using the same idea as a fun children’s activity!

cookie skewers

candy pinwheel on a stick

Just assemble a table full of Valentine’s themed candy and/or cookies, and add the children!

candy snake sticks

Just be cautious when using skewers with children – safety first!  Consider the age of the children you are with, and be sure to supervise appropriately!  (You can even cut off the sharp ends of the skewers if necessary.)

valentine candy fun

You may just find that the finished skewers never make it to a recipient!  But, the children will have a blast creating (and eating) them!

Thanks for stopping by!  Have a fabulous weekend!

read my lips valentine

Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie 

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valentine, read my lips

January 23, 2018

gummy mouth pops

Doesn’t everything taste better on a stick?  Think about cake pops – a bunch of cake crumbs instantly become chic when placed on a stick!  Why not do the same thing for Valentine’s Day…elevating candy or cookies to a new level by simply adding a stick!

making candy hearts on a stick

Using Reese’s peanut butter hearts to make these pretty skewers.

It is easy to transform treats into chic Valentine’s Day candy skewers to gift to loved ones.

heart on a skewer

One skewer can be a perfectly elegant gift (and very affordable!)

Valentine Cookie pop

Or, create a whole bouquet of skewers!

lip pops for Valentines

I hope you are inspired to create your own Valentine’s Day skewers!  If you want, package your creation in cellophane and add a Valentine’s Day note with a witty pun.  For my lip bouquet, I added a note that said “Valentine, read my lips.”  Leftover pieces of ribbons from holiday packages are perfect to tie to your finished skewers.

Reeses candy heart on a stick

Thanks for stopping by!

heart shaped cookies

Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

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homemade chai spice

January 9, 2018

scooping homemade chai spice

I really enjoy the flavor of chai.  At least, what we here in the U.S. call chai.

In India, chai is tea.  Although there are some variations, the basic components are the same – usually a black tea base, whole milk, spices, and a sweetener of white sugar.  Cardamom is the most common ingredient used as a spice, but every family has a blend to suit its tastes.  In the same way, here in the U.S., spices can be adjusted in a homemade chai spice to suit individual tastes.

Home Made Chai Spice Recipe

That is what I decided to do.  It took me quick a bit of experimentation on a recent snow day to come up with my own favorite combination of spices.  I used Penzeys brand spices to make my mix because they are so very flavorful, but you can use whatever you have in your cabinet.

Since I try my best not to eat processed foods (especially with the beginning of a new year), my motivation was to come up with a chai spice to use as a change up for my almond milk.  I will use this in warm almond milk, adding a small amount of honey as a sweetener –  if I am in a really decadent mood!  For a mug of heated milk, I use ½ teaspoon of my homemade spice.

spices for chai spice

This spice can be used to flavor tea, quick breads, smoothies, etc.

I hope I have inspired you to come up with your own chai spice mix.  You can try my combination and adjust the ingredients to your own taste!

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

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ice, ice baby

December 22, 2017

homemade Irish Cream with home made coffee ice

Making homemade Irish Cream for the holidays is a tradition in my family.  My mom and sister always put it in their Christmas morning coffee.  I prefer to drink it cold.  A great addition to the cold version is coffee ice!  Making ice cubes in advance from leftover coffee makes this special holiday beverage perfect!  But then, a hint of coffee flavor makes many things perfect…think chocolate!

Making special ice cubes is a festive way to enjoy your favorite beverage on Christmas.  Depending on your drink of choice, you can choose to add fruit or herbs to your ice as an alternative to making coffee ice.  For the children’s beverages, try adding mini gummy bears or crushed candy canes to the ice!  What child wouldn’t like to see some gummy bears…or worms!…floating in their juice!

making coffee ice cubes for Irish Cream

Adding extra fun little details at the holidays is a great way to make the day special!

Using decorative ice cube trays is another festive idea.  Ikea usually has some cute ones!  Make little ice cube trees, angels, or other unusual shapes.  There are also trays available that make ice shot glasses if shots are more your thing!

frozen coffee shot glass

If you want our family recipe for homemade Irish Cream, click here.

I hope I have inspired you to make some special ice cubes for the holiday…a cute and easy detail to add to your holiday!

Thanks for stopping by and remember to take pleasure in simple things!

Wishing you and your family much joy this holiday season, Jackie xo

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wrapping it up!

December 19, 2017

black and white xmas wrap

I am always excited to find a great recipe using saffron.  I have a nice big container of it that was a gift from a friend.  I treat it like gold – quite literally – since it is almost as expensive!  (Saffron is the world’s most costly spice by weight.)

pistachio saffron biscotti

Don’t saffron pistachio biscotti sound perfect to enjoy with a hot beverage by a fire?  I thought so!  I made up a batch from a recipe I found in my favorite holiday cookbook (currently)  – Holiday Cookies by Elisabeth de Nederlandens.

black white and trees wrapping

Now that holiday preparations are getting down to the wire, I am ‘wrapping up’ on all counts!  The biscotti is getting packaged on platters or in individual servings as gifts.  Other presents are also getting wrapped and placed under the tree!

biscotti on a plate

It is so hard for me to ‘wrap’ my head (pun intended) around the fact that we are in the last week before Christmas!  This week there will be a major focus on baking, wrapping, and holiday card mailing!  Stop back on Friday to share one last time before Christmas!

Thanks for stopping by!  I hope your holiday planning is going well and I hope you are inspired to get your baking and wrapping in check!

wrapping in black and white

Remember to take pleasure in simple things – especially during the holiday season, Jackie xo

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bottle brush tree salt shakers

December 12, 2017

pink bottle brush tree in salt shaker

Everyone loves a salt shaker with a bottle brush tree for the holidays!  How do I know?  One of the most pinned holiday item of mine is of the salt shaker snow globes I made some years back.

holiday salt shaker diy

Because of its popularity, I am sharing a few new ones I made this year. The last ones you saw were all done in neutrals. (Click here to see.)  Today, the shakers were created to complement a pink and gold theme.

This is such an easy DIY.  For my pink and gold theme, I started by first spraying the tops of all the shakers with a matte gold metallic spray paint.

pink and gold xmas

To create a shaker, put the bottle brush tree you have chosen into the shaker.  I use a glue gun to put a bead of glue on the base to hold the tree securely in place.  (Sometimes I find it easier to use tweezers to put the tree in place.)  Then added some sparkly ‘snow’ – some pretty glitter – inside the shaker.

pink bottle brush in a salt shaker

Decorating with ribbon, beads, jingle bells, etc. personalizes the shakers.  This is a great way to use those little scraps of ribbon you haven’t been able to throw out!

An easy and fun DIY!  You may want to add names to each and use as place cards for a holiday meal.

white bottle brush in salt shakers

Look at this little one I made with a vintage snow baby in place of the tree!  I used some sea glass spray paint to frost the glass of the shaker.

salt shaker snow baby

I hope I have inspired you to make some bottle brush tree salt shakers!

Thanks for stopping by!

Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

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advent calendar diy 2017

December 5, 2017

tablescape calendar diy for advent

For those of you that follow this blog regularly, you know I don’t create hanging Advent calendars.  I prefer a tablescape or mantlescape when coming up with my annual creation!

Advent Calendar diy tablescape

This year, I am using small pillow boxes to put together a very simple calendar.  If you want to make one, this is what you will need:

24, 3 1/2” brown paper pillow boxes; 26 feet of 3/4” ribbon of your choice, cut into 13” pieces; 1” adhesive numbers (be sure to have enough numbers for 1 through 24); small candies of your choice.

candies for Advent calendar

I often use champagne bubble candies when styling since I not only love the color white, but I love the way the candies look.  Champagne flavored candies also seem right for a special occasion like Christmas.  You may choose to substitute one of your favorite candies, something homemade, or a candy in a color that coordinates with your own holiday colors.

diy advent calendar supplies

The calendar is easy to assemble.  Fill each box with some of the candy you chose and close.  Tie a piece of ribbon, lengthwise, onto each box.  Use the adhesive letters to add the numbers 1 through 24 to the front of the boxes.

I found my adhesive numbers at a craft store– I thought the dot pattern played well with the candies I chose to use in the boxes.

Lastly, arrange the boxes in a grouping.

creating a diy Advent Calendar

For a mantel, an arrangement using some loose white birch logs would work nice.  For a tablescape, any favorite tray or bowl would work well.  For my Advent calendar tablescape, I am using plants, moss, and tiny lights in a long tray down the middle of my wooden dining room table.

Easy and fun!  I hope I have inspired you to create an Advent calendar for your home!

Advent calendar diy with lights

Thanks for stopping by!

Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

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diy basil infused salt gift

November 14, 2017

packaging diy basil infused salt gift

Before the first frost, what do you do with the last of the basil from your garden?  Do you make batches of pesto to freeze?  Have you ever thought about making some basil infused salt?

I recently had the good fortune to stay at the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island, Florida.  The Ritz on Amelia Island has a fabulous selection of infused salts for sale.  Trying some of the salts from their collection, and watching the kitchen staff demonstrate how it is made, inspired me to use my ‘last of the season’ basil to make some of my own infused salt!

basil infused salt holiday gift diy

Basil salt makes the perfect seasoning for a tomato and fresh mozzarella salad when the basil from the garden has long gone…and, when packaged, it makes a great holiday gift as well!

It is super simple to create a basil infused salt!

making infused herbal salt

First, I pulsed ½ cup kosher salt and ½ cup packed basil leaves together in the food processor.  I dried this mixture by spreading it on a baking sheet in a 225-degree oven (tossing it every 15 minutes) for about 40 minutes – until dry.

After letting it cool, I pulsed the mixture one last time to make the salt extra fine.  Of course, you can control the coarseness by the number of pulses used.

salt tube trio diy

For packaging, I used some glass tubes I had purchased for another DIY.  I think three tubes tied together are a great way to package the salt as a gift.  If you try making some other herbed salt flavors, you can even package three different flavors of salt to gift as a trio!  If you would rather use a more conventional container, small Weck jars or glass spice jars would also look super cute!

I hope I have inspired you to use some herbs from your garden to create some infused salt!

homemade gift salt

Thanks for stopping by!

Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

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