Bibliophiles, Sewing a Straight Seam

Books, Books, Books Galore

IMG_4931

As far as your friends and family that absolutely can’t put a book down and would much rather be holding a leather bound book than a brand new cell phone or Ipad, here are some great sources for book suggestions as to which book to buy for what person…

Blogs can be excellent sources of information. A few blogs about books are Book RiotBustle BooksOmnivoraciousThe Millions, and The New York Review of Books.

Book clubs can also be useful as you embrace a literary lifestyle. Four of the better known book clubs are DoubleDayOprahGoodreads, and Book of the Month.

Book lists can also be found with reviews on sites like Book List OnlineList ChallengesGoodreadsBook RiotNew York Public Library, and Reading Group Choices.

Book reviews can also be read on pages with Book Challenges. Several challenges that I have been following this year are…

All About Austen…Read or watch anything inspired by Jane Austen.

Back to the Classics…Discover and enjoy classic books you might not have tried, or just never got around to reading.

Christian Reading Challenge.

Foodies Read…”Do you read books about food? There are books about food in so many different genres…

  • Cozy mysteries set in bakeries…
  • Romance books set in tea shops..
  • Nonfiction books about the history of ingredients…
  • Cookbooks
  • Memoirs from chefs or waiters or people who just love to eat…

Full House Reading Challenge ...Complete the Bingo card of challenges with fiction or non-fiction books

Netflix and Books Challenge. This is going to be a yearly challenge focused on watching television shows we’ve been wanting to get to (both new and old), and reading books we’ve been wanting to read that match some fun challenge prompts

Reading Assignment Challenge... Commit to reading 1, 2, 3 or 4 books a month and make a list of the specific books you will read each month.

Share-a-Tea Reading Challenge...This challenge is about QUALITY and not quantity. It’s not about reading fifty books or even twelve books. This is an anti-rush reading challenge. Enjoy where you are in a book, and, engage fully in it. Live in the book.

Victorian Reading Challenge…More than any other time in modern history, the Victorian Age saw the most change to European and American societies. Many agrarian, rural communities transitioned to urban centers of industry. Men and women began to talk about and take steps toward redefining their traditional roles. Theories about God, the origin of man, and the practice of religion began to be publicly put forth, challenged, refuted, or solidified. The Victorian Age saw a great revolution in the western world and it’s a topic that fascinates me endlessly.  

Pinterest Boards may also prove to be a great asset a few worth noting are

  • Book Community Board
  • Goodreads
  • Penguin Random House Boards
  • Random House Official Pinterest Board

Websites can obviously give you reviews, reading guides, interviews with authors, and so forth. A few websites worth investing your time in are…

 

Advertisements
Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Creative Gifts for Creative Minds

We all have creative people in our lives—those “avid do-it-yourselfers who love the challenge of changing “cheap:” dollar store and thrift shop finds into brilliant pieces of art—the wanna be Joanna Gaines…

So what are non-creative people like me supposed to get a creative idea as to what to get these people when we can’t even thread a needle and have no idea what a Cricuit even is.

One idea is help replenish their “stash” by giving them those things that they simply  must ALWAYS have on hand…as if they were milk, butter, and eggs…

Two things that all crafters always need and can use in abundance are…

Fabric,,,need I say more?

Paint...It may seem silly to be giving creative people something as simple as paint for Christmas, but you wouldn’t think twice about giving quality makeup to a true diva, right?

After all, creative people absolutely LOVE paint…Be careful if you go to a true crafter’s house not to be very still for an extended amount of time…If you do, you might find yourself painted too…and definitely don’t go to sleep on their sofas.

  • Acrylic Craft Paint…Acrylic craft paint, especially white, only costs about fifty cents a bottle and comes in handy for lots of small paint projects, such as small little wooden pieces to use as embellishments or canvas art…and true crafters can always use help replenishing or adding to their stock of colors! It
  • Spray Paint…Spray paint can change things dramatically, and add new life to worn-out items with the press of a button.

Scrapbook/Decorative Paper…Most, if not all, crafters absolutely LOVE pretty scrapbook paper…Scrapbook paper can be the one of the cheapest and easiest ways for creative people to add a fresh look to their homes—by doing such things as putting paper in frames and changing out the framed paper for every season and occasion in order to  change the whole look of a room with just a few cents worth of paper.

A second line of thought as far as to gifts for crafters would be gifts that they receive regularly throughout the year—magazine subscriptions and subscription boxes.

Subscription Boxes

Subscription  boxes—such as CrateJoy, DarbySmart, KiwiCrate, and Makers Kit— deliver crafting supplies directly to your favorite crafter’s doorstep every month.

Subscription boxes are a great way to treat the crafters in your life with a tangible monthly reminder of how much you love them all throughout the year.

Subscription boxes are available for all sorts of crafters—including scrapbooking, calligraphy, knitting, drawing, and painting.

Let’s take a look at a few of the most popolar subscription boxes out there…

1.Adults and Crafts Crate

  • What it costs…about $30 per month
  • What it contains……everything you need—including materials, tools, and instructions—to do projects such as making a terrarium,  creating an autumn wreath, and building a wine caddy

2. Boho Berry Box

  • What it costs…$25 per mont
  • What you get…a tracker, planner stickers, and other products—such as stickers, stationery, pens, pencils, markers, and other goodies—from creative journaling brands

3.Chroma Club

  • What it costs…$8 a month
  • What you get…one coloring book each month containing a collection of art from indie artists, as well as biographical information on each one

4. Cloth & Paper

  • What it costs…three options available…$18 per month for pen subscription, 38 per month for stationery, 48 for both
  • What you get…5-8 pieces of stationery and/or 4-6 pens or pencils depending on which box you choose

5. Darn Good Yarn of the Month

  • What it costs…$10
  • What you get…three options available—fabric, beads, and yarn

6. Foodstirs

  • What it costs…about $25 a month
  • What you get…organic cake and cookie mixes, chemical-free decorations, and all the supplies and kid-friendly instructions you need to finish the project

7. .Grow and Make

  • What it costs…$30 per month
  • What you get…materials to finish one project per month in the following categories—Bath and Body, Beverages, Candles, Culinary, and Gardening 

8. Home Made Luxe

  • What is costs…$40 per month
  • What you get…all the essential materials to create a “gorgeous, Pinterest-worthy” home decor project with written and video instructions, so you’ll know exactly how to make them

9. Homegrown Collective

  • What it costs: $25 per month
  • What you get…all the materials and tools you need to make 3 to 4 projects designed to replace your toxic bath, beauty, home, and kitchen items with all-natural and organic alternatives.

10. Knir Crate

  • What it costs…$20 to $35 per month depending on which kit you choose
  • What you get…four different choices available—knit crate, sock crate, artisan crate, sock artisan crate, and a colloboration

 11.Knit Wise

  • What you get…yarn, needles, step-by-step instructions and anything else you might need to complete various projects—such as coasters and wall hangings
  • What it cost…$29

12. New Hobby Box

What it costs…$35 a month

What you get…eleven options available…

  1. Book Binding
  2. Eco Printing
  3. Electronics
  4. Lock Picking
  5. Macrame
  6. Paper Making
  7. Pickling
  8. Pyrograhy
  9. Scrimshaw
  10. Tasseograhy
  11. Weaving

12. Pipsticks

  • What it costs…$14.95 a month
  • What you get…15+ sheets of stickers, a postcard, a Sticker Club Newsletter, and other great stuff

13. Quilter’s Candy Box

  • What it costs…$50 per month
  • What you get…various fabrics and other necessities—along with other surprise goodies like chocolate, candies, mugs, tote bags, and more

14. Quilty Boxts…

  • What it costs…three options available, ranging from $24 to $48
  • What you get…two yards of fabric, a small spool of thread, one or two notions and tools, and Bundles of Inspiration mini-magazine complete with a showcase on the featured artist, articles and tips, and three patterns (full sized pattern from our featured artist, a mini pattern, and an English paper piecing pattern).

15. Sew Sampler Quilting Subscription Box

  • What it costs…$25 per month
  • What you get… at least five specially chosen items—such as fabric, notions, patterns, thread—always totaling more than your monthly cost

16. SketchBox

  • What it costs…$25-$35 per month
  • What you get…four to six art supplies—such as Copic markers, Krink paint markers, Pan pastels, Caran d’Ache Luminance Colored Pencils, Zig Brush Pens, Van Gogh watercolors, Gum Erasers—as well as an inspirational piece of art made with the materials in the box by our featured artist

17. Smart Art

  • What it costs: $49.95 a month
  • What you get…six full-sized art supplies, a unique project in 6 simple steps, and tutorials created by your favorite YouTube artists

Satisfying the Sweet Tooth

Holiday Baking-Gingerbread

Hard to believe that National Gingerbread Day is celebrated in June instead of December, but since today is National Gingerbread Day, I thought that this would be a great day to re-publish this previous post about Torunskie pierniki.

Torun, Polanda medieval city on the banks of the Vistula River, and one of the few cities in Poland that escaped the devastating bombings of World War II, is known as the birthplace of gingerbread cookies…


Muzeum Piernika, the Museum of Torun Gingerbread, is the former factory of Gustav Weese, a family who has baked pierniki there for generations…and the only museum dedicated to gingerbread in Europe.

Visitors to the museum take part in an interactive show which teaches them how the dough was made in theMiddle Ages…how to make their own gingerbread using traditional baking molds…and how flour is produced using millstones.

Great pierniki are all about the proper blend of spices: Too much ginger or pepper will make the cookies too spicy. Too much cinnamon will make them too sweet.

Training for the job of gingerbread master was once comparable to the training as a sommelier….but here is a gingerbread recipe well worth making in months other than December.

Gingerbread

Cream together…3/4C softened butter…1-1/2C brown sugar.

Add…1C molasses…2 eggs…1Tbsp maple extract.

Sift together…6C flour…1tsp salt…1/2tsp of each of the following—allspice, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon

Add the flour mixture in three batches, beating until just combined after each addition.

  • Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least two hours.
  • Remove the dough from the fridge. Divide the dough in half once dough is soft enough to roll but still firm. Roll out each half between two sheets of plastic wrap.
  • Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a baking mat. Bake 5min, Remove with a spatula. Let cool completely.
  • Cream together 2 pounds powdered sugar, 1/3C milk,, 2 egg whites
  • Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a fine tip or a squirt bottle.
  • Decorate the cookies with miscellaneous candies, sprinkles, and so forth…using icing as an accent and as glue to hold on the candies.
  •  Allow icing to set before transporting or serving.

Gingerbread has a long history and has become part of Christmas traditions throughout the world.

in 992 gingerbread was brought to Europe by the Armenian monk Gregory of Nicopolis who had left Nicopolis Pompeii, to live in France. He taught gingerbread baking to French Christians.

 in the 13th century, gingerbread was brought to Sweden by German immigrants. Early references from the Vadstena Abbey show how Swedish nuns baked gingerbread to ease indigestion.

During the 17th century gingerbread was sold in monasteries, pharmacies, and town square farmers’ markets for medicinal properties.

During the 18th century, the town of Market Drayton in Shropshire, England became known for its gingerbread and started displaying gingerbread on welcome signs to their town.

Although ginger had been stocked in high street businesses there since the 1640, the first record of gingerbread being baked in the town was not until 1793.

Gingerbread and Childhood Memories


Gingerbread men have played an important role in childhood culture and memories for centuries.

Almost everyone remembers the fairy tale about a gingerbread man who comes to life, outruns an elderly couple, and is finally devoured by a fox.

In 1892, Tchaikovsky wrote his famous ballet The Nutcracker, portraying the Nutcracker leading an army of gingerbread men in a battle against the Mouse King and his fellows.
In 1945 the game Candy Land was released…starring “The Gingerbread People” as the main characters.
Shrek movies include a talking gingerbread man named Gingy in the cast.

Gingerbread Around the World


In England, gingerbread is commonly known as Parkin, a soft gingerbread cake made with oatmeal and black treacle. Molasses was first used by apothecaries to make the medicine theriaca, from which name the word “treacle”…so treacle is actually molasses.

Parkin was the food of the poor. Ovens were rare in the houses of the poor, and so they cooked these cakes on griddles or bakestones over an open fire. Oats were also the staple grain for the poor, even though thought of as animal feed for the upper classes.

Parkin is traditionally eaten on Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night, November 5th…a celebration of the great failure of Guy Fawkes to blow up the Houses on Parliament in 1605.

Parkin

Preheat oven to 275.
Stir together…

  • 1-1/4C oatmeal
  • 3/4C flour
  • 1/2C brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Warm the following ingredients in a saucepan just long enough to melt the butter…

  • 1/3C syrup
  • 1/2C butter
  • 3/4C milk
  • 1/3C molasses

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients.
Pour in the milk mixture.
Mix ingredients together with a spoon until fully incorporated.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
Bake for 1 1/2 hours.
Remove from the oven. Let cool fully on a wire rack.
Wrap the parkin in paper and place in a tin with a lid for a couple of days

 

In France…Pain d’épices, a honey spice cake and a speciality of the Alsace region, has been around for hundreds of years.

Traditional recipes for pain d’épices call for mixing honey and rye flour into a pâte-mère (mother dough) and leaving the dough in a wooden trough to rest in a cool place for months.

Traditional pain d’épices is sweetened entirely with honey, and the loaves can often be purchased from French honey merchants.

Julia Child’s Recipe for Pain d’épices

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prep springform or loaf pan. 
Beat together…1¼C honey…1C brown sugar…¾C boiling water.
Add 1Tbsp baking soda…½ tsp fine sea salt.
Gradually add 3½C flour. 
Beat 2min more on medium speed.
Reduce the speed on the mixer to slow.


Add

  • ¾C finely chopped almonds
  • 1tsp almond extract
  • ¼C dark rum
  • ½tsp cinnamon
  • ½tsp cloves
  • ½tsp ginger
  • ½tsp nutmeg
  •  ¼tsp ground white pepper
  • 2tsp grated fresh orange or lemon peel
  • ½C chopped dried apricots
  • ½C golden raisins

 

Mix until everything is well incorporated. Scrape the batter into the pan. Bake one hour. Let cool before wrapping well in plastic.

Note…Julia recommends waiting at least a day or more before serving. For the best flavor and texture, age the cake for two weeks in the refrigerator or one month in the freezer.


In Germany gingerbread is often called Lebkuchen and sold at carnivals and street markets, especially Christkindlmarkts.
As early as 1296 Lebkuchen had been invented by monks in Franconia, Germany…and Lebkuchen bakeries were started in towns like Ulm and Nürnberg.

Today Nürnberg is especially famous for the export of Nürnberger Lebkuchen. Lebkuchen is sometimes packaged in richly decorated tins, chests, and boxes, which have become nostalgic collector items.

In addition to “ordinary” Lebkuchen, three more types of Lebkuchen are…

  • Hexenhäuschen (“witch houses”)…made popular because of the fairy tales about Hansel and Gretel.
  • Honigkuchenpferd (“honey cake horse”)….the closest German equivalent of the gingerbread man.
  • Lebkuchenherzen (“Lebkuchen hearts”), cut-out hearts usually inscribed with icing and sold at German regional fairs and Christmas markets, and Oktoberfest.

German Lebkuchen

  1. Whisk together 3/4C flour…1/2tsp baking powder…1/4tsp salt…1/2tsp cinnamon…1/2tsp ginger…1/2tsp ground cloves.
  2. Add…3 ounces crumbled almond paste…1/3 cup apricot jam…3 large eggs…3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar.
  3. Blanche, toast, and then finely chop 3/4C blanched whole almonds…1/3C blanched hazelnuts. 
  4. Finely chop 1/3C candied orange peel, 1/3C candied lemon peel, 4 pitted Medjool dates.
  5. Add these to the batter.
  6. Transfer dough to an airtight container. Refrigerate overnight.
  7. To bake…Drop dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets, using a 1/4-cup scoop and spacing cookies 3″ apart. Place 3 almonds close together on top of each cookie. Bake at 325 until golden brown, about 14 minutes. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks.
  8. To ice…Whisk together powdered sugar and milk. Brush over cooled cookies. Let stand until set.

Satisfying the Sweet Tooth

Holiday Baking—Candy

Before the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s making candy was only done at home during the holidays or by professional candy makers in small specialized shops. Candy was very expensive and considered quite a luxury.

During and after the Industrial Revolution, candy became affordable and more readily available.

Competition became fierce, and large advertising campaigns were started. candy was often named after people such as…

  • Baby Ruth—Supposedly this candy bar was not named after the legendary baseball player after all….but for Ruth Cleveland, President Cleveland’s daughter.
  • Oh Henry!—The “Oh Henry! Bar” was originally named for Tom Henry, the owner of a candy factory in Kansas. He created this candy bar in 1919 and named it after himself…obviously…In 1920 the rights to the Tom Henry bar were bought, and the bar was renamed it the “Oh Henry!” for publicity purposes….O. Henry…
  • Tootsie Roll and Tootsie Pop—Leo Hirshfield named the product after his daughter, Clara, whom he called Tootsie.

Making candy involves boiling sugar with water or milk until the sugar dissolves and the sugar concentration of the mixture reaches the temperature needed for the type of candy that you are making.

The texture and type of candy depends on the ingredients and sugar concentration..lin other words, how long the mixture is boiled.

There are several stages or temperature ranges that determine the type of candy made, including…

  •  1. Thread or syrup stage
  • 2. Soft ball or fudge stage
  • 3. Firm ball or soft caramel candy stage
  • 4. Hard ball or nougat stage
  • 5. Soft crack or salt water taffy stage
  • 6. Hard crack or toffee stage
  • 7. Clear liquid stage
  • 8. Brown liquid or liquid caramel stage
  • 9. Burnt sugar stage

 

 

1. Thread Stage—The thread or syrup stage is met when the candy thermometer reads 230°F.

Chocolate Caramels

Line 8″ square pan with foil. Grease the foil with butter.  In a large saucepan, bring the following ingredients to a boil…

  • 1C sugar
  • 3/4C light corn syrup
  • 2oz unsweetened chocolate chips

Stir until smooth. Add 1/2C heavy cream. Stir constantly until candy thermometer reads 234 degrees. Add another 1/2C cream. Return mixture to 234 degrees, stirring constantly. Add the remaining 1/2c cream. Cook until temperature reaches 248 degrees. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Let sit overnight. Lift candy out of the pan, using foil to lift. Remove foil. Cut into 1″ squares. Wrap individual pieces in waxed paper, twisting the ends.

 

 

2. Soft Ball—The soft ball or fudge stage is reached when the candy thermometer reads 235°F.

Pumpkin Seed Brittle

Bring the following to a boil…

  • 1C sugar
  • 1/2C water
  • Pinch fine sea salt

Cook until thermometer reads 238ºF.Remove from heat. Stir in 3/4C green pumpkin seeds with a wooden spoon. Stir 5min. Return pan to medium heat. Cook stirring constantly, 5 minutes. Pour hot mixture onto parchment paper covered surface. Cover with a second sheet of parchment paper. Roll mixture between two sheets as thinly as possible with rolling pin.  Let cool until firm. Break into pieces. Cool brittle completely Melt 3/4C bittersweet chocolate chips in microwave. Dip cooled brittle in chocolate. Sprinkle with 1/4C chopped pumpkin seeds and large-flake sea salt. Let cool until chocolate is firm.

 

 

3. Firm Ball—The firm ball or soft caramel candy stage is met when the candy thermometer reads 245 °F.

Caramels

Prepare 9×13. In a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, combine…

  • 1C butter
  • 1# light brown sugar
  • 114oz sweetened condensed milk
  • 1C light corn syrup
  • 1 pinch salt

Cook until thermometer reads 245 degrees. Remove from heat. Add 1 1/2tsp vanilla. Pour mixture into the buttered pan. Let cool overnight. Remove from pan. Cut into squares. Wrap pieces in waxed paper.

 

 

4. Hard Ball-–The hard ball or nougat stage is reached when the candy thermometer reads 250 °F.

Coffee Caramels

Lightly grease and line bottom and sides of 9 x 13. In a large heavy saucepan, combine…

  •   2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely ground espresso powder
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups light corn syrup

Cook until mixture has reached a temperature of 250. Remove from heat. Stir in 1tsp vanilla and 1/2tsp sea salt. Pour mixture into prepared tray. Let sit overnight. Slice into 1 1/4″ squares. Wrap each piece in waxed paper.

Satisfying the Sweet Tooth

Holiday Desserts—Cakes

When I was growing up, my Mom made wedding cakes for almost every wedding in Notth Mississippi…our house constantly smelled like powdered sugar…the whirr of a KitchenAid mixer could be heard constantly…and there were always cake….My Dad and I used to race for the layer of cake that she levelled off the top of the cake before she began decorating her latest masterpiece…

CAKE POPS

Wish that I had known back then that mixing leftover crumbs with icing or chocolate and forming them into small spheres and sticking the balls onto lollipop sticks and coating them with icing or chocolate would become a multi-million dollar business and a true art form…Cake pops have become so popular because they are portable, easy to eat, and can be made in in all sorts of flavors and shapes…even Starbucks sells them…(for how much per cake pop(?!))…The cake pop craze began in 2008 when Angie Dudley posted a photo of  cupcake pops on her blog, Bakerella.Since that infamous blog post, she has written ten books—including Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats and Cake Pops Kit: New Projects and Old Favorites.You may also see video tutorials with Angie Dudley on her sister website, cake pop.com.Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats has become a New York Times best-selling book and has been printed in four languages. She has also worked with international corporations, including Target and Disney, and appeared on the Martha Stewart television show.

  1.  Another chef who has written a book about cake pops is Kris Galicia Brown…and Goods by K Creative website…
  2. Kris Galicia Brown is featured on this Crafty “Party Perfect Cake Pops” class…
  3. This Craftsy class is also featured on the Wilton website as part of an “educational” program that will teach you how to…
  4. Lesson 1: Learn how to access your FREE Craftsy mini-class.
  5. Lesson 2: Learn how to make, form and chill your cake pop base to create perfect spheres, and get inside tips.
  6. Lesson 3: Learn the trick to getting a smooth, even coating and the proper technique for dipping and decorating with sprinkles or sparkling sugar. Plus, learn to make multi-color pops with marbled, with a drizzled finish.
  7. Lesson 4: Learn to embellish cake pops with brush embroidery, hand painting, piping, and metallics. Create piped grass, leaves and stems, topped with premade 3-D flowers. Pipe scrolls and textured animal prints.
  8. Lesson 5: Learn to how to thin, shape and apply candy clay, aka modeling chocolate, petals around a pop to create beautiful, show-stopping blooms, flowers and ombré ruffles.

A third source is Crazy for Cake Pops: 50 All-New Delicious and Adorable Creations by Molly Bakes…(see her website here…Molly Bakes)…

How to Make Cake Cups—Any Flavor…Prepare and bake one package cake mix according to package directions, using greased 9×13. Cool completely on a wire rack.Remove the crusts of the cake with a sharp kitchen knife. Crumble the cake with your hands, as finely as possible, into a large mixing bowlMix 3/4C frosting into cake crumbs, one tablespoon at a time until you have a fudge-like texture.The mixture is ready whenever you squeeze a little of the mixture in your palm and it doesn’t crumble when squeezed in the palm of your hand.Adding too much frosting will make the cake balls simply fall off the stick when you dip them.

Place the mixture in a huge ziploc bag.Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Break off a ping pong ball-sized piece of the mixture.Roll into a ball with your palms. Place each ball on a tray lined with waxed paper. Refrigerate twenty minutes.

Insert a lollipop stick in each cake ball.Melt candy melts in microwaveDip each cake ball fully into the melted candy, allowing excess to drip off. Gently tap the cake pop over the bowl to remove any excess candy. Insert cake pops into a styrofoam block to stand until set.

Caramel Cake

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Prepare three 8″ round cake pans.

Cream together…

  • 1C butter
  • 2½C sugar
  • Add…
  • 2tsp vanilla
  • 4 eggs

Sift together…

  • 3¼C flour
  • 1Tbsp baking powder
  • ½tsp salt

Alternate between adding the flour mixture and 1¼C milk to batter.Divide batter between prepared pans.Bake 30 minutes.Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes.Invert cakes onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely while preparing frosting…

To make the frosting……Caramel Frosting—Microwave the following ingredients in microwave-safe bowl four minutes, stopping to stir at one-minute intervals….

  •  ½C butter
  • 2C dark brown sugar
  • 1/2C evaporated milk

Let mixture cool 15 minutes. Place in mixer. Add…

  • 6C powdered sugar
  • ½C softened butter

Mix until light and fluffy.

To frost the cake…Brush off crumb layer from sides and top of cake. Place one cake layer on a plate or cake stand. Spread 1 1/2 cups frosting over. Top with second layer. Spread frosting over top and sides. Chill at least 1 hour.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Buttercream Frosting

Prep…Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 muffin tins with cupcake liners.

Make the cupcakes…2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, 3/4 cup cocoa powder, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 3/4 cup buttermilk, 3/4 cup vegetable oil, 2 egg, 1 tsp vanilla, 3/4 cup hot coffee…Combine dry ingredients…flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Combine “wet” ingredients… buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Slowly pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Pour the hot coffee into the batter. Mix until just combined. Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 of the way full. Bake for about 18 minutes. Remove cupcakes from oven. Let cool completely before frosting.

Make the Peppermint Buttercream frosting… 1C butter, 4C powdered sugar, 1 tsp vanilla , 3/4tsp peppermint extract, 10 peppermint candies, crushed, pinch salt…Cream butter. Add powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until thoroughly combined. Add vanilla, peppermint extract, and a pinch of salt. Sprinkle cupcakes with crushed peppermint candies just before serving.

 

COCONUT CAKE

Coconut is one of those foods that people either love or hate…yet most Southern chefs consider coconut cake as a necessity at every single holiday…especially the two holidays when people are most likely to attend church—Easter and Christmas.

The word “coconut” means “head” or “skull” in the 16th-century Portuguese and Spanish. The coconut fruit is named this because of the three indentations on the coconut shell that resemble facial features.Coconuts are kind of like shrimp….there can be a thousand and one ways to use them…making a list of different ways coconut can be used would be like the uses for shrimp named in the movie Forest Gump.

  •  Coconut butter refers to solidified coconut or certain specialty products, such as lotions and creams, made of coconut milk solids or puréed coconut meat and oil.
  •  Coconut chips are often sold in the tourist regions of Hawaii and the Caribbean.
  • Coconut flour has been developed for use in baking.
  • Coconut meat, the white, fleshy part of the seed is often used fresh or dried in cooking, especially in confections and desserts such as macaroons. Dried coconut is often used as the filling for chocolate bars such as Mounds and Almond Joy.
  • Coconut milk is made by by pressing grated coconut or passing hot water or milk through grated coconut in order to extract the juice. Coconut milk is frequently added to curries and other savory dishes.
  • Coconut oil is commonly used in cooking.can be found in liquid form and used like you would use any other type of vegetable oil… or in solid form and used like you would use butter or lard.
  • Coconut seed provide oil for frying, cooking, and making margarine.
  • Coconut vinegar can be made by allowing coconut water to ferment.
  • Coconut water is a common beverage in the tropics that consists of water and developing coconut meat. Coconut water contains 19 calories per 100-gram serving and contains no significant amounts of essentials nutrients…even though marketed as a sports drink.

Coconuts can be found growing in the states of Hawaii and Florida…as well as Texas and California even though trees often are killed or fail to produce edible fruit because of extended periods of time in the winter when temperatures stay below 50 °F.

  1. Coconut Cake

Preheat oven to 350. Pull out a 10″ tube pan with removable bottom. Original recipe said not to grease your pan, but I am in the habit of always greasing the pan whenever I am baking.

In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed, beat together…

  • 14 large eggs
  • 1/2C warm water

Beat until foamy. Then add…

  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1 1/2tsp cream of tartar
  • 2tsp vanilla

Beat until soft peaks form. Increase speed to medium-high. Slowly add 1 1/2C superfine sugar. Beat until stiff but not dry.

Sift together…

  • 1C flour
  • 3/4C sugar

Gradually add dry ingredients to mixing bowl. Pour batter into pan. Smooth top with an offset spatula. Run a knife through batter to release air bubbles. Bake for 40min. Let cake cool for about an hour before frosting. Frost cake with Seven-Minute Frosting. (Recipe below).  Top with 4C shredded coconut.

Seven-Minute Frosting

In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine…

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 1/4C sugar
  • 5Tbsp cold water
  • 1/4tsp cream of tartar

Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, for 5 minutes. Attach the bowl to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the mixture on high speed for 7 minutes. Add 1tsp vanilla

Devil’s Food Cake

Devil’s Food Cake…a symbol of the decadence of sin in which evil, fallen angels may tempt people to indulge…or simply eat five pieces of cake at one sitting.

One famous Devil’s Food Cake recipe is the Wellesley Fudge Cake, named after Wellesley College, the very prim-and-proper college featured in the movie Mona Lisa Smile.

In 1876, Wellesley College sent out a circular telling parents that a proper diet was crucial for proper learning…and Wellesley College would no longer accept students who “are broken down in health”… and did not pledge to neither buy or receive “any confectionery or eatables of any kind not provided for them by the College.”

The pamphlet clearly stated that…“Pies, Lies, and Doughnuts should never have a place in Wellesley College”.Yet candy-making was an acceptable activity at the college, and the girls often stayed up late making candy—such as Wellesley Fudge—and talking about boys and other tabboo subjects.

In 1909, Baker’s Chocolates published a cookbook containing three different fudge recipes— named after Vassar, Smith, and Wellesley colleges…this publication eventually led to the creation of the Wellesley Fudge Cake—a deeply decadent chocolate cake topped with a slab of fudge frosting that was commonly served in tearooms surrounding the college.

What a temptating and delightfully sinful, delicious, moist, airy, rich chocolate layer cake… different from ordinary chocolate cakes because the cake traditionally uses…

  • –baking soda…to make the cake a deeper, darker mahogany color
  • –coffee…to enhance the chocolate flavor
  • –less egg than other chocolate cakes
  • –more chocolate than a regular chocolate cake
  • –unsweetened chocolate baking squares instead of cocoa powder

Wellesley Fudge Cake

Cake Ingredients…

    • 2 sticks butter
    • 2C sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 1/2C flour
    • 2tsp baking soda
    • 1tsp baking powder
    • 1/2tsp salt
    • 1C room-temp buttermilk
    •  1/2C cocoa powder
    • 3/4C hot water
    • 2tsp vanilla

Frosting Ingredients…

    • 1-1/2C brown sugar
    • 1/2C evaporated milk
    • 4Tbsp butter
    • 1/2tsp salt
    • 1/2C evaporated milk
    • 4Tbsp butter
    • 8oz. bittersweet chocolate chips
    • 1tsp vanilla
    • 3C powdered sugar

1. Prep…Preheat oven to 350. Prep two 8″ square baking pans. Line with parchment paper.

2. Make the cake…Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture, alternating with buttermilk. Dissolve cocoa powder in hot water. Add cocoa mixture and 2tsp vanilla to batter.

3. Bake the cake…Pour batter into the prepared pans. Bake 30 minutes. Let cool completely.

4. Make the frosting…Stir together brown sugar, evaporated milk, butter, and salt. Cook in saucepan over medium heat for 5min. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in evaporated milk and butter. Let mixture cool slightly. Stir in chocolate chips and vanilla. Whisk in powdered sugar.

5. Assemble and serve…Let both the cake and the frosting cool to room temperature. Stack cake layers with frosting between the layers. Spread remaining frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Lemon Cake

Preparing to Bake…Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 2 9″ round cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment paper. Butter the paper.

Making the Batter…Cream together…4 eggs…1tsp vanilla… 2tsp lemon zest…1Tbsp lemon juice…1 1/2C sugar. Sift together 2 1/4C flour…1Tbsp baking powder…1tsp salt. Add to batter.

Baking the Cake…Divide batter evenly between prepared pans. Bake 30min. Cool cakes in the pans for 10 minutes. Then invert the cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely. Place one cooled cake layer on a cake plate. Generously spread 1/3C lemon curd over the top. Add next layer of cake.

Make the Frosting: Whip 1 1/2C heavy whipping cream…3Tbsp sugar. Gently fold in 3Tbsp lemon curd. Frost the top and sides with the whipped lemon cream frosting. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Thanksgiving Day means so much more than watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and football games and eating like the true Southerners many of us are.But so often we as parents and grandparents fail to teach our kids the true importance and symbolism of the Thanksgiving holiday.Perhaps the best way to remind our kids, as well as ourselves, of what Thanksgiving is really about this year would be to start new traditions that place the emphasis back on what Thanksgiving really means—things such as faith, family, and community—in fun, creative ways.One tradition that our family is going to start this year is our own “Sacher Tablecloth”

 The Sacher Tablecloth is a part of the legacy of the Sacher hotel in Vienna, birth place of “The Original Sacher-Torte.”

The story behind the Sachertorte…In 1832, Franz Sacher, had been working as the sixteen-year-old apprentice of the personal chef of Prince Wenzel von Metternich.

 A recipe for Sachertorte and more information about the cake can be found here on the website of the King Arthur Flour Company.

Prince Wenzel von Metternich requested that his chef create a special dessert for several important guests, but the head chef got sick and turned the task over to Franz Sacher instead.

The Sachertorte supposedly delighted Prince Metternich’s guests, but the dessert received no immediate further attention.

Eduard Sacher, the son of Franz Sacher, carried on his father’s culinary legacy and completed his own apprenticeship in Vienna with the Royal and Imperial Pastry Chef at the Demel bakery and chocolatier. During this time he perfected his father’s recipe and developed the torte into its current form.   In 1873 Eduard Sacher opened his first restaurant on Kärntner Straße. In 1876 Eduard Sacher established the Hotel Sacher.  In 1880 Eduard Sacher married Anna Fuchs, the daughter of a butcher.

Anna Sacher became known as the “grande dame” of the Vienna hospitality industry. She was well known for her constantly smoking cigars, her hobby of breeding French bulldogs, her commercial skills, and her eccentricity.    Anna Sacher established the Sacher into one of the finest hotels in the world and a favourite meeting place of celebrities, aristocracy, and diplomats. She reigned the roost for nearly forty years…from the year 1880 when she married into the Sacher family…until the year 1930 when she passed away while in her suite at the Sacher Hotel. Anna Sacher knew that the prominent guests that ate and visited the hotel were her best means of advertising for the Sacher Hotel and her own calling card to fame.

Famous guests that have dined or visited the hotel over the decades include Emperor Franz Joseph…King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson…Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip…Prince Rainier III of Monaco and Grace Kelly…President John F. Kennedy…Leonard Bernstein…Plácido Domingo, and John Lennon.

One evening after an evening meal held for a departing archduke, Anna Sacher sent her head waiter to get a fresh tablecloth. Anna Sacher invited her one hundred guests—including Archduke Franz Ferdinand…Crown Prince Rudolf…Archdukes Ferdinand, Karl Wilhelm, Ludwig Viktor, Karl Stephan, Leopold and Franz Salvator…King Milan and his son Alexander of Serbia…and Grand Duke Nikolajewitsch of Russia—to sign their names on the tablecloth. Soon she embroidered the names, washed out the ink, and hung the cloth on the wall of the restaurant for all to admire.

 Your own family also needs at least one such legendary Sacher tablecloth of its own…with the signatures of all the rulers(?!), queens, princes, and princesses in your own royal blood line to enjoy not only this Thanksgiving, but for who-knows-how-many-more Thanksgivings to come…and perhaps even hang on the wall of the dining room for all to admire.

So this year, encourage each of the kids, and the adult kids, at your Thanksgiving dinner to sign and date the tablecloth, using fabric markers…(explaining that this does not mean signing every real tablecloth that they see from that day forward)…

Honestly wish that I had started this thirty years when Kurt and I first got married so that our grandparents’ names and my Dad’s name were embroidered on the tablecloth also…

Sacher Torte

Prep: Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 9″ round cake pan with cooking spray and line with parchment. Spritz the parchment lightly as well.

Make the cake batter…Melt 1C bittersweet chocolate in microwave.Beat 8 eggs yolks.Add melted chocolate, 1/2C melted butter, 1tsp vanilla.Beat 8 egg whites, 1/8tsp salt until they begin to foam.Slowly add 3/4C sugar.Beat on high speed until whites hold a stiff peak but are still glossy.Add 1C King Arthur Unbleached Cake Flour Blend

Bake the cake…Pour the batter into the pan(s). Bake 45 minutes. Remove from oven. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Turn onto wire rack to cool completely. Be sure to peel off the parchment circle while the cake is still warm.

Fill the cake: Split the cake layer horizontally, using a long, sharp serrated knife. Strain 1/2C apricot jam through a fine sieve to remove any bits of fruit and make a smooth filling. Spread onto cake.

Make the glaze..Place the filled cake on a wire rack over a parchment lined baking sheet. Melt 1C bittersweet chocolate in the microwave. Add 1C boiling water. Pour glaze over the cake.

Torta Caprese

Torta caprese is a traditional flourless chocolate and almond or walnut cake that originated and is popular on the Italian island of Capri.

Torta caprese was first created by the hospitality industry of the island of Capri and is commonly served in tea rooms to tourists.Italian desserts are often known for being simple, yet elegant.

The only ingredients in Torta caprese are eggs, butter, chocolate, and almonds caprese actually replaces the ordinary and expected flour with ground almonds…giving the cake a unique taste and making it a great dessert for those who cannot eat gluten.

Torta caprese would make a sweet ending to any otherwise elaborate menu…especially served with a dusting of powdered sugar, whipped cream, and fresh raspberries.

Torta Caprese

1. Prep. Preheat oven to 325ºF. Butter 9″ springform pan. Line bottom of pan with a circle of parchment paper.

2. Make the batter.

—Grind 2c almonds… 6Tbsp sugar in food processor.
—Melt 8oz coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate…2 sticks butter in microwave.
—Beat 6 egg yolks with electric mixer for 5 minutes.
—Add…10Tbsp sugar…chocolate mixture…ground almonds.
—Beat 6 egg whites…1/4C sugar.until they form firm peaks.
—Fold egg whites into the chocolate mixture.

3. Bake the cake.—Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove sides of the springform pan. Let cool completely before serving.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

16 Cooking Tips Just in Time for the Ucoming Holiday Baking Season

This time of year brings out the baker in me. The illsbury doughboy and I have an annual affair that ends at the same time that the Christmas tree is taken down.

Over our rhitty year relatinoshi, here are a few things that he has taught about baking a cake.

  1. Get an oven thermometer...It is important to always make sure your oven is heating at the correct temperature.  Even though your oven might say itself that it is at the right temperature, don’t trust it. If your oven isn’t at the right temperature, you might end up having a sunken, dry, or collapsed cake. Your best bet is to invest in an oven thermometer  and make sure that your oven isn’t telling you a lie.
  2. Consider whether you are using a glass or metal pan…Cakes baked in glass pans cook differently than cakes baked in versus metal bake differently. If using glass, lower your oven temperature by 25 degrees.
  3. Preheat your oven before you start mixing and prepping...It’s best if the oven is preheated for twenty to thirty minutes.
  4. Allow your ingredients to reach room temperature…Eggs, butter, milk, and any refrigerated ingredients should generally be used at room temperature. Cold ingredients could cause the batter to curdle.
  5. Prepare the pan…Make sure to properly grease and flour the pan before you add the batter. You may also want to try lining the bottom of your pan with parchment paper, especially when baking layer cakes.
  6. Take your time...When combining butter and sugar, take your time and cream them together for at least five minutes. This adds tiny air pockets to the batter and helps to ensure a lighter cake.
  7. Measure your dry ingredients exactly…Use a knife or other flat surface to level off dry ingredients in a measuring cup or spoon.
  8. Don’t skip the sifting...Sifting actually is important because doing this helps to add air and ensures that all dry ingredients are properly combined. If you don’t have a sifter, you can use a wire mesh strainer.
  9. Filling the pan…Generally, the cake batter should fill the pan by at least 1/2 and not more than 2/3, unless otherwise instructed.
  10. Bake the cake...Bake the cake in the middle of the oven.
  11. Do not open the oven door…Opening the oven door too many times while your cake is baking could lower the oven temperature. Wait until the cake is nearly finished baking before you open the door.
  12. See if the cake is done...Insert a dinner knife into the center of the cake. If the knife comes out clean, the cake is done…(we ALL knew that, right?)
  13. Let the cake cool properly…Remove the cake from the pan after allowing the cake to cool in the pan on a wire rack for five to ten minutes. Then invert it onto a plate or rack to remove it from the pan and allow it to cool completely.
  14. Wait to frost the cake…Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting. Even the slightest warmth from a cake can quickly turn your frosting or icing into a mess.
  15. Apply a crumb coat…First brush your completely cooled cake with a pastry brush (or your fingers if you don’t have one) to remove excess crumbs. Next apply a “crumb coat”—a very thin layer of frosting—to the cake. This helps seal in the crumbs. You also could make frosting the cake easier by refrigerating the cake for an hour after applying the crumb coat so that the crumb coat will harden slightly and really hold in the crumbs.
  16. Frost the cake neatly as possible…Start frosting at the top before finishing with the sides. Wipe the spatula clean each time you swipe frosting onto the cake. You may want to spread it on smoothly for a clean finish, or you may opt to swirl it decoratively around the cake.
Sweet, Sweet Sunday

“Me Time”—The How

If you’re lucky, your weekends are designated “me time.” Those are the days you get to unwind from work and delve into hobbies, passions, or side projects that take us out of the daily grind and let us flex our interests and creativity.

But, you know, sometimes life gets in the way. You were supposed to practice with that fancy new camera lens you bought, but then a mountain of laundry beckoned. Or maybe you were going to finally start those Italian lessons, but then a friend asked if you could help them move.

There’s always going to be something that pops up during the weekends, but the trick is to make your side project time non-negotiable. Rather than giving away your hours because of guilt or necessity and then feeling bummed you had no “me time,” here are a few sure-fire ways that will make room for your hobbies on the weekends.

 

Announce It To Your Friends…If your friends (or partner) have a habit of springing plans up on you during the weekend, make a habit out of announcing that you need time for your hobby. So if they want to go to the beach or a flea market or get lunch, always respond with, “Well, I have my guitar lessons at two every Saturday,” or “maybe after my photo editing session at one.” By reinforcing that you have this weekly task that you make time for, they’ll begin to respect that time slot and not try to take it over. And even better—you’ll respect it more, too. By announcing it to others you’re making it a permanent part of your weekend, which will only make you take it more seriously.Sometimes responsibilities get in the way, and making room for personal hobbies or side-projects can get tricky. But follow some of these tips and your passions will have at least a fighting chance!

Block Out Recurring “Me Time” for the Future...Open up your planner right now, and every 1 PM on every Saturday for the next year, block off an hour with the words “me time.” That way, no matter who asks you to lunch, to volunteer, or to help you with moving, you’ll know that you’re already booked. It’ll help you manage your time, but it also establishes a routine for you and your hobby that will help you accept it as a permanent part of your life: Every Saturday at one o’clock, you do it. After a month or two, it’ll feel like a natural part of the weekend.

Do It In The Morning…If you find yourself easily bogged down by commitments or out-of-the-blue emergencies, try tackling your hobby during the mornings. While everyone is still waking up and moving slowly, you can get a jump start and sit down with your blog, your camera, or your book club selection, and tackle your me-time before noon hits. If you get it out of the way first thing in the morning, you won’t have any excuses for not doing it.

Have A “Short Version” Ready For Busy Weekends...Rather than just hitting pause on your interests when the weekend gets busy, have a “short version” ready of your hobby for when schedules get hectic. For example, if you enjoy doing yoga, swap your usual 45 minute session for a quick 15 minute one on YouTube. Or if you love to bake on the weekends, try a recipe that uses five ingredients and takes 30 minutes to bang out, rather than picking one out of the fancy French cookbook that’s meant to take half the afternoon. That way you can still enjoy your interests and tackle everything on your hectic to-do list.

Schedule It...It might sound rigid, but if you use a daily planner regularly or an app on your phone, then you probably know that if an appointment is made it’s basically set in stone. If the time is marked, you’ll show up to it. Following that logic then, if you see “yoga” or “beer brewing” on your Saturday afternoon schedule, you’ll be more likely to actually do it. Since it’s already blocked off in your calendar, you’ll have a smaller chance of giving that spot away to a brunch with friends or a quick nip to the laundromat.

Set Yourself Weekly Goals…It can be super easy to be diligent with your hobby one week, and then put it off for two more because things came up. What you need to do is find a way to make your me-time a priority. A great way to do that is to set yourself weekly goals so you have something to strive forFor example, say your hobby is writing. If you have a goal of writing one chapter per weekend (or one poem, or one pitch,) then you’ll be more likely to sit down at the computer and do it. You can make it more specific – maybe the first Sunday of the week you’ll write a chapter, and then the next weekend you’ll look up editors you want to pitch to, and the weekend after that you’ll read articles on how to properly write out a pitch. Having action steps mapped out for the month will help you motivated to continue on with your goals.

Think Of It As Play Time…Rather than making it another thing to check off your list, reframe your hobby as “play time.” See it as a break from the usual rotation of chores, errands, and obligatory hangouts, and use your hobby time almost like recess: This is the part of the weekend you’ve been waiting for. The part that puts your interests front and center, and has no other purpose than to let you enjoy something for an hour or two. If you reframe your hobby that way, then not only will you look forward to it all week, but you won’t feel guilty for indulging. It’s not time away from cleaning your house or hanging out with your partner- it’s self-care.

Sewing a Straight Seam

The Importance of “Me Time”

We have been taught that taking time out for ourselves is selfish. We put pressure on ourselves to be perfect and meet our own extreme expectations.

Most people in our culture feel the need to be going all the time. If we are not working and putting our energy into something, we believe we are wasting time.

Especially during the holiday season…

Yet in order to be able to support and care for others, we must first take good care of ourselves.

If we feel healthy, happy, and energised– instead of exhausted, unwell, and unhappy,- then we are generally in a much better position to love, support and nurture others.

Taking care of ourselves is a crucial part of living a full life that allows us to…

  • Learn to just ‘be’ and to enjoy our own company
  • Get to know ourselves better
  • Be more open to self-growth
  • Encourage us to stop and take time out from the chaos
  • Take time to process or digest what has been happening and how you have been feeling, which will allow you to go to sleep more easily
  • Avoid feeling exhausted, rushed, and run down
  • Start feeling more energized, healthy, patient, creative, inspired, clear-headed and productive
  • Relieve stress
  • Recharge our batteries

Although feeling stressed out and burned out are pretty much “normal” in today’s society, extreme stress can lead to emotional problems—such as poor judgment, problems focusing, having a short temper, feeling overwhelmed, and being generally moody.

Extreme stress can also lead to physical health problems—such as rapid heartbeats, chest pains, gastrointestinal problems, high blood pressure, increased risk of heart attack, and other aches and pains.

Stress can cause you to sleep too little, eat too much, or even turn to drugs and alcohol.

In order to avoid stress overload and burnout, you need to provide yourself some me time on a regular basis, even if only fifteen to thirty minutes each day.

This could mean getting a massage and a pedicure, doing thirty minutes of meditation, vegging out on the couch watching movies, going to the gym, going for a night out with friends.

Even this little amount of time will help improve your concentration, inspire your creativity and increase your happiness.

Having a career and hobbies and developing your talents will actually allow you to be more involved with the people around you.

“Me” time can help you avoid irritability, enable you to control your emotions, and improve your mood in general. This time will also help you have greater stamina and a better ability to concentrate.

So give yourself permission to take at least a half hour per day, just for yourself, every day…even if this simply means reading a book or watching the sun come up while enjoying a hot cup of coffee.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

It’s Beginning to Look A lot Like Christmas

Hard to believe that Christmas is already here…again…

Seems like just yesterday that  we were putting the tree up and taking it down…

 

Also hard to believe that I’m turning fifty next week also…but more on that later…

 

Anyway, I recently sat down to start thinking about what to get my three daughters this year and remembered the list of  subscription boxes that I had compiled quite a while back…

So I thought that it might be a great time to look back at this list and see if things have changed since I first posted this…

 

Subscription boxes give you a chance to explore new beauty and makeup products from a number of popular and up and coming beauty and cosmetic brands without cramming your drawers and cabinets full of products that you buy at full price only to find that their claims to fame just weren’t true.

 

Non-Vegan Options

Ten possible options are listed here…I’m still trying to decide which is the best option…so if you have any advice, let me know…


1.  Allure Beauty Box

  • What it will cost you…$15 a month
  • What you will get…five or six deluxe-sized samples from major high-end brands like Benefit and Alterna and innovative newcomers all chosen by an Allure magazine editor…plus a special Allure mini-magazine
  • What others like you are saying…Review


2.  Beauty Army

  • What it will cost you…$12 per month
  • What you will get…your choice of options targeted to your own goals, such as creating a natural look or all-out glam, based on your stated profile
  • What others like you are saying…Review
  • What else you should know…if nothing strikes your fancy one month, you can go ahead and skip it, at no charge


3.  Beauty Box 5

  • What it will cost you…$12 per month or $30 per quarter or $99 per year
  • What you will get…four or five deluxe or full-size samples from a blend of under-the-radar brands such as Becca, Skyn Iceland, Supergoop…and green lines like Blum Naturals and Weleda
  • What other like you are saying…Review
  • What else you should know…samples tend to be more useful, such as  Smith’s Rosebud Salve and sunscreen wipes, instead of the trendy or ultraluxe?..also oxes are often customized for your stated skin tone, complexion issues, hair color, and beauty “personality”

 4.  BeautyFix

  • What it will cost you…$24.95 per month
  • What you will get…six or more deluxe travel-size to full-size makeup, skincare and haircare products usually valued around the $100 mark from dermatologist-approved skincare brands such as DDF, Glytone, Vichy…natural and organic choices…high-end makeup and hair care with a problem-solving slant, such as Peter Thomas Roth plumping mascara and Nick Chavez body-building clay for hair
  • What others like you are saying about it…Review
  • What else you should know… spin-off club of online giant Dermstore.com

5. Birchbox

  • What it will cost you…$10 per month
  • What you will get…four or five beauty samples, all picked to match your beauty profile, including one actually chosen by you yourself, from brands such as Dr. Jart+, Kérastase, Kiehl’s and Stila…along with one lifestyle item, such as stationery or tea
  • What others like you are saying about it…Review
  • What else you should know…referring friends and leaving feedback will both earn you purchase points good towards full-size products in the Birchbox shop…also selections are tailored to your responses to questions about hair or skin type and concerns and your stated level of makeup proficiency

6.  Boxycharm

  • What it will cost you…$21 per month
  • What you will get…over $100 worth of full-size beauty and makeup products
  • What others like you are saying about it…Review
  • What else you should know…if you are not sure how to use a product, go to YouTube for tutorials and reviews…also, subscribers get “charms” for reviewing products and referring friends that can be redeemed for more products.

7.   Glossybox

  • What it will cost you…$60 per quarter..$111 semi-annually…$210 per year
  • What you will get…five luxurious beauty products from more than 400 niche, high-end, and emerging brands…such as Oscar de la Renta, Burberry, and Fresh…personalized according to age, skin, hair type, and “overall style
  • What others like you are saying…Review

8.  Ipsy

  • What it will cost you…$10 per month
  • What you will get…”Glam Bags” containing five full-size makeup samples and beauty “tools”…ranging from high-end, mid-range, and drugstore brands, including Benefit, Josie Maran, and Urban Decay…valued at $40 or more…selected at least in part according to your fave brands and the style profile you choose
  • What others like you are saying…Review
  • What else you should know…co-founded by makeup artist and YouTube star Michelle Phan…online video tutorials to help you re-create specific looks using that month’s picks

9.  MUSTHAVE.POPSUGAR.COM

  • What it will cost you…$39.95 per month…$109.85 per quarter… $214.70 per 6 months
  • What you will get…a mix of the best of the best in fashion, beauty, home, fitness and food inspired by that specific time of year…the most recent box contained items like a fashionable scarf, coffee mug, lunch box, lip balm and more
  • What others like you are saying…Review

10.  Play by Sephora

  • What it will cost you…$10 per month
  • What you will get…five good sized skin care, makeup, and hair care samples from high-end brands and some of their own branded products
  • What others like you are saying…Review

 

 

Now for ten organic and cruelty-free subscript[ion boxes…

Organic subscription boxes can introduce women like you and me to those certified-organic skincare products that best cleanse, tone, exfoliate and moisturize our skin without using any of these noxious artificial chemicals or additives.


1.  Bare Bliss Box

  • What it will cost you…$49.99
  • What you will get…four to six samples
  • What others like you are saying…

2.  Glowing Beets

  • What it will cost you… $29.95 per month
  • What you will get…three or four deluxe-sized samples or full-size beauty products
  • What others like you are saying…Review

3.  Good Being Box

  • What it will cost you… $21 per month
  • What you will get…a mix of full and deluxe size samples customized to your profile
  • What others like you are saying…Review

4.  Honest Beauty

  • What it will cost you…$50 per month
  • What you will get…three full-size items
  • What others like you are saying…Review


5.  LaRitzy

  • What it will cost…$24.99 per month
  • What you will get…a mix of full-size and deluxe sized samples
  • What others like you are saying…Review

6.  Love Goodly

  • What it will cost you…$29.99 every other month
  • What you will get…full size “premium” products
  • What others like you are saying…Review

7.  Petit Vour

  • What it will cost you…$15 per month
  • What you will get…four samples, some of which may be full-size
  • What others like you are saying…Review

  

8.  Terra Bella Box

  • What it will cost you…$37.95 per month
  • What you will get…5-6 small-batch natural beauty items
  • What others like you are saying…


9.  Vegan Cuts Beauty Box

  • What it will cost you...$18.50 per month or $39.95 per quarter
  • What you will get…four to seven products including at least one or two full-size products
  • What others like you are saying…Review

10.  Yuzen

  • What it will cost you…$33 a quarter
  • What you will get…full-sized samples along with a non-beauty item like chocolate
  • What others like you are saying…Review

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Pumpkin, Pumpkin…Good for Your Skin

I’m sure that I’m not the only one disappointed that Pumpkin Season has alreadty come and gone…

Soon to be replaced with Turkey Season and Peppermint Season…

Not to mention deer season, right?!…or make that Deer Season Widow season for many of us…

But anyway, what’s a woman to do while her husband is out shooting Bambi…yeah, I know that if I have any vegan or vegetarian readers out there, even the very thought of shooting Bambi has probably made you hurt…but I AM from Mississiippi and am being read.

Anyway, one thing that I do while he is out hunting or fishing or whatever it may be at this time of year is start to think of and make homemade Christmas gifts to give to neighbors, teachers, and whoever gives me an unexpected gift.

This year I have embraced the pumpkin season totally and completely, as you can probably tell by recent posts.

So to kill at least two birds with one stone I have decided to make jars of body scrub to give away as gifts this year.

I wrote a blog a while back about making your own body scrub…called   Rub-a-Dub-Dub…Why Use a Sugar Scrub?! with several different ideas as far as scents to use.

But this time, I wanted to focus only on pumpkins so that those of us who are watching our Most Wonderful Time of the Year—PSL season—walk away  could continue to enjoy the sweet aroma of pumpkin all year long…

And in a much more intimate way…

 

Homemade sugar scrubs are very inexpensive.

And not only that…

Homemade sugar scrubs contain ingredients that you actually know what are…and ingredients that offer benefits for your skin.

 

 

Ingredients such as…

Pumpkin Puree…Pumpkin is packed with vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, vitamin C, E and beta-carotene. When used topically, it promotes healthy skin and hair.

Coconut or Olive Oil…Coconut oil and olive oil moisturize the skin, act as an antioxidant properties, and keep your skin looking younger.

Spices…The aromatherapy of the spices are rejuvenating, awakening, warm, and comforting. Not only that, cinnamon stimulates blood vessels, brings blood to the surface of the skin, results in plumper skin with a healthy glow, and is an excellent natural treatment for eczema, and acne.

Sugar…Sugar helps the skin retain moisture and gently exfoliates dead skin away.

Vitamin E…Vitamin E not only benefits your skin, but also extends the shelf life of your ingredients.

 

Ingredients

  • 1C brown sugar
  • 1/2C coconut oil
    1Tbsp cinnamon
    1 vitamin E capsule
  • ½C pumpkin puree

 

Combine ingredients. Note that the coconut oil will be easier to mix if it is at room temperature. Scoop body scrub into an airtight container with a lid to store.

Storage…This scrub is best when used immediately because the longer it sits, the more the sugar will dissolve and the less exfoliating the body scrub will become.

The scrub will last for about two months as long as the airtight container hasn’t been opened. Store in the fridge and use within four days after opening.,

Before using, let the mixture come back it warm up to room temp and stir if needed.