This winter, I'm reading...
Kristin's story is quite a tale of someone that spent their life running from themself only to be confronted with their reality in a brutal way. Interesting book written from the soul but as if you are talking to a good friend and she is telling you this story over coffee. Kristin is a talanted and extremely funny actress and now author and all I can say is its great to have her back.
The Dark Tower series is my all-time favorite storytelling saga about a ka-tet of four gunslingers, one from Midworld, a mirror world to ours, and three pulled into Midworld from New York City. Stephen King has created his own genre in The Dark Tower, his teenage dream of combining The Lord of the Rings with a good western.
I read all seven books as soon as I could get my hands on them, and was delighted that Stephen King's characters from The Dark Tower series had more to say, after all, in this eighth novel.
I absolutely loved Catherynne Valente's first book, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, and I was even more delighted with her second book, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There. If you are a fan of imaginative, intricate tales, you need to be reading this series right now. Every page is a magical treat filled with new and inventive ideas -- teapots living in samovars, shadows in their own little underworld, and goblin markets that produce exactly what the buyer is pining for. The descriptions are beautiful and full of life. I feel like the author pulls me right into her stories and I wish I could stay for weeks at a time.
My love of the color combo turquoise and terra cotta got kick-started after visiting Cenote, a cafe and eatery located in east Austin. The decor is so soothing!
I'm definitely going to incorporate these ideas (below) into the covered porch section of my new deck!
Half the fun of making homemade gifts, for me, is the packaging. I've pinned lots of free and/or inspiring label ideas and templates on my Pinterest board, including some of these lovelies:
Amazing Places I Intend to Explore
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup & leveled
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cooking oats
1/2 cup m&ms (I used the red and green ones I got from www.amazon.com)
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1-quart jar, with lid
Layer the ingredients in the jar in this order:
1. flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt
3. m&ms and chocolate chips
4. brown sugar
5. white sugar
6. chopped pecans
Pack each level down really tightly or else it won’t all fit -- trust me on this one! The ingredients should be flush to the top of the lid when you seal it up.
Include these instructions with your gift: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir dry ingredients in a large bowl and add: 1/2 cup (almost melted) butter, 1 slightly beaten egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract,. Combine thoroughly. Roll into 1 1/2 inch balls & bake for 10 minutes.
You're welcome to use the labels I made for packaging. They are sized to fit Avery® 22807 Easy Peel® Print-to-the-Edge in White Round Labels, Glossy, 2" Diameter.
Wake Up Foot Scrub
1 cup sugar (white, brown, cane)
5 T. coffee grounds
1/4 cup oil (veggie oil, almond oil, extra virgin olive oil, baby oil…)
2 tsp peppermint extract
Mix sugar and coffee. Add oil and extract. Mix well. If you find it a little watery from the oil, just add more sugar and/or coffee.
Vanilla Almond Sugar Scrub
Mix 3 parts white sugar and 1 part honey. Add 2 Tablespoons of safflower oil. Add vanilla and almond extract to suit your intensity preference. The consistency should be somewhere between A) Not oily runny everywhere, like the honey won't mix all the way in, and B) not breaking apart and lumpy like there is too much sugar.
.See more Christmas projects here.
Everyone has nights where they don't know how they are going to get dinner on the table. A lovely gift for busy families is this dinner-in-a-box idea.
Minestrone Soup in a Jar
¼ cup red lentils
¼ cup green split peas
¼ cup barley
1/3 cup vegetable bouillon powder
2 tbsp. parsley flakes
3 tbsp. onion flakes
1/3 tsp. dried thyme
1/3 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. dried basil
¼ cup ditalini pasta
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 can of sliced carrots
8-10 oz jar with lid
In the jar, layer from the bottom in the order given, from lentils to pasta. Seal jar. Attach gift card with instructions. Give with cans of tomatoes and carrots.
Include these instructions with your gift: In a very large saucepan combine 8 cups of water, a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, a can of sliced carrots and soup mix. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for one hour or until peas are tender.
Fluffy Cornbread Muffin Mix
The trick to making cornbread that is fluffier, less grainy, and doesn’t have the bitter aftertaste is to add yellow cake mix to your cornbread mix.
1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
1 box Jiffy yellow cake mix
8 x 8 disposable baking pan
Combine cornbread mix and cake mix. Seal container. Combine with soup mix, baking pan, carrots, tomatoes, and dish towel for a lovely gift.
Include these instructions with your gift: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 x 8 pan. Combine cornbread mix with 1/2 c. water, 1/2 cup milk, 2 eggs, and 1/4 c. oil. Bake 30 minutes. The cornbread is ready when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
This is ridulously easy to make, and once you make your own, you'll never turn back. Rosemary olive oil is great for sautéing, dressings, and marinades. It also makes an inspiring base for white bean dip.
2 cups olive oil
2-3 sprigs rosemary
Instructions: Wash the rosemary with a slightly damp washcloth and set them aside to dry. Make sure the sprigs are completely dry before combining them with the oil. Heat olive oil in a sauce pan; heat on low until warm—not hot, as you want to retain the olive oil’s healthful properties. Place rosemary sprigs into the bottle and carefully pour the warm olive oil inside. Seal the bottle with a lid or cork, and place on a window sill that receives indirect sunlight. Let the rosemary infuse into the oil for about a week.
We have so much lavender and rosemary growing in our front yard, and I've been hatching a plan all fall to use these plants for Christmas gifts. Making homemade bath salt is easy, and once you make it, you'll never buy store bought bath salts again.
If you decide to use fresh herbs as I did, you will want to first dry the herbs for this recipe. To dry rosemary and lavender, first strip the needles from the rosemary stems. Place the rosemary needles and lavendar blooms on a sheet pan in an oven set to 225 degrees F. and heat for approximately 2 hours, or until the herbs are completely dried.
3/4 cup Epsom salt
1/2 cup Dead Sea salt
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon dried lavender buds
1 tablespoons safflower oil
1/8 teaspoon Vitamin E oil
8 to 10 drops of lavender essential oil
Yield: 12 oz.
Instructions: Combine ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Transfer to an airtight container, and allow it to rest for a couple of days. This will give the herbs time to infuse the salts with their aroma. Add a handful of bath salts to warm bath water. Relax and enjoy!
These are great, easy Christmas presents! I had 4 x 4 tiles left over from my shower installation, so hooray for repurposing. The process is almost idential to the Alphabet Blocks, with an added step of finishing the project with a spray polyurethane varnish that makes the coasters waterproof.
Photos cut 1/4 less wide and tall than your tiles
Scissors or cutting board
Small foam brush
Mod Podge glue -- matte or glossy
Mod Podge sealent -- matte or glossy
Cut photos to fit tiles, leaving an 1/8 inch border on each side. Use a foam brush to apply a thin layer of Modge Podge glue to the tile and adhere the photo. Let dry. Sand the edges of the tiles if they are rough. Lightly spray each block with Mod Podge sealent. Apply 4 thin coats of sealent, allowing to dry between coats. Apply 2 thin coats to the top and sides of the coaster, allowing to dry between coats. Add felt pads on each corner to protect surfaces.
See more Christmas projects
12 chocolate cupcakes (I depend on Martha Stewart’s recipe)
1 batch white icing (also Martha’s recipe), dyed with green food coloring
Green sprinkles (optional)
Chocolate cookies, processed in a blender/chopper/food processor to yield 3/4 cup
1-2 pieces white cardstock
6-inch lollipop sticks, cut in half
Miniature candy corn pumpkins
Frost the cupcakes, and let them set in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. If you'd like a more grassy texture, sprinkle with green sprinkles. Next, arrange processed cookie crumbs to make a recently-buried plot, then insert a tombstone in the cupcake at the head of the “dirt.”
Using the links below, download and print the tombstones on the white cardstock -- there are PDFs for two sides. Cut out the tombstones and tape a lollipop stick or toothpick to the back, ensuring when inserted into the cupcake the paper tombstone sits flush with the top of the cupcake. Place candy corn pumpkins next to graves.
See other Halloween projects here.