Friday, May 31, 2013

Chalkboard Flowerpot Markers

"Mary, Mary, quite contrary
how does your garden grow?
With Silver bells and Cockleshells
and pretty maids all in a row."

I have another idea for a very quick garden project to share. 
Chalkboard Flowerpot Markers. 
I made these as a small tuck-in gift for a gardening friend, but I was thinking that they also would be a fast and fun teacher gift for children to make for their teachers at the end of the school year.

They are super simple to make and whether you wrap them up in a little paper sleeve or tie them up with ribbon and perhaps a packet of seeds, it will make a thoughtful gift.

Step one:  Scrounge around in your junk drawer or craft supplies box and pull out some popsicle sticks.  It doesn't matter what size you use or if they are mismatched.  We're going to paint them anyway.

Step two:  Using chalkboard paint (you can find a little can at your local hardware store) paint both sides of the popsicle/craft sticks.  You might want to give them a 2nd coat of paint after the first coat dries.

Step three:  This is optional but I sanded one end into a point.  I just thought it would make inserting the sticks into the flowerpots easier if they had a pointed end.

Step four:  Tie up your sticks with a chalk pencil and give as a tuck-in gift, teacher's present or along with a package of seeds or plant.  You can find chalk pencils in fabric stores, staples and sometimes Walmart or discount stores will have them.  You could also use a white wax pencil.

I didn't write on mine before I gave them to my friend.  My handwriting is awful.  But this gives you an idea what they'll look like.
Play around with them.  Perhaps you'd like to add a flourish or stamp a small picture of an herb or plant on them.

Until next time,



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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Cake Dome Sunday #22: Mint Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

Today's What's under the Cake Dome Sunday #22 dessert treat for The Mister is Mint Chocolate Chip Cheesecake. I made this decadent, rich, creamy, minty, chocolately dessert for the Mister as a celebration and congratulatory dessert to express how proud I am of the huge accomplishment he's achieved. More chat about that at the end of this post because I just know you are going to want this recipe and surprise your family and friends with it too.

Mint Chocolate Chip Cheesecake
  • 1 cup finely crushed Chocolate Wafers
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 3 packages (8 oz. each) Cream Cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup of Mint Chocolate Chips
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F if using a silver 9-inch springform pan (or to 300 degrees F if using a dark nonstick 9-inch springform pan). 
  2. Mix wafer crumbs, butter and 3 tablespoons sugar and press firmly onto bottom of springform pan.  Bake for 10 minutes.
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar and flour until well blended.  Add sour cream and vanilla and mix well again.  Add the eggs 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each addition just until blended.  Stir in the mint chocolate chips and pour batter over the crust.
  4. Bake for 55 minutes or until center is almost set.  Run a knife or metal spatual around the rim of the pan to loosen the cake and cool before removing the  rim of the pan.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight (prefered).  Store any leftover cheesecake in the refrigerator.

The cheesecake is all ready and I can barely wait to have a slice.  (Confession:  ok...I did have a small taste while I was taking the pictures, but that doesn't count as a slice, right?)
You might be wondering what the big achievement that I'm bustin' my buttons over my hubby is all about.   Well, for the past two years The Mister has been building a 1965 AC Cobra Roadster replica.  Isn't it gorgeous?  Two years ago the Mister arrived home from the Factory Five headquarters in a huge box truck filled to the rafters with boxes and boxes of screws, nuts, rivets, wiring, panels and parts.  In two years The Mister has created this gorgeous automobile.  It runs like a charm and is simply beautiful.  Everywhere he goes in it he draws a crowd.

Today The Mister is at a car show with it his Cobra and I know he's drawing huge crowds around it.  He really is in his element at the shows answering questions, letting people take photos of it and generally just enjoying his roadster.

I'm headed off to join him at the show in a few minutes.  He'll have a special celebratory dinner and dessert (the Mint Chocolate Chip Cheesecake) waiting for him when he comes home later this afternoon.

Until next time,
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Friday, May 24, 2013

Impossibly delicious Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

What would you say if I told you that NO FLOUR, NO SUGAR, NO EGGS and NO OIL Chocolate Chip Cookies are delicious?  Are you skeptical?  Don't be.  These cookies will fool even the diehard cookie lover.  And this recipe will definitely be a more healthy choice, especially for those who cannot tolerate flour, processed sugar, eggs and want to cut down on oils or if you follow a vegan diet.

A couple of my friends posted this recipe on facebook this morning and I just had to give it a try.  They are quick to whip up and are, as I said, very, very tasty!

Would you like the recipe?  You know you do!  Here it is and I hope you'll give it a try.

Flour, Sugar, Egg and Oil Free Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 1 1/4 cups canned chickpeas (rinsed well and patted dry on paper towels)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup (90 grams) chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine all ingredients except for the Chocolate Chips in a food processor and process until very smooth.  Check to be sure there are no lumps of chickpeas.  Process completely
  3. Add chocolate chips and stir in to the processed mixture (or pulse a few times to combine).  The batter will be very thick and sticky
  4. Wet your fingers and form the batter into 1 1/2" balls and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Press very lightly with the back of a spoon if you'd like these to be more cookie shaped.  They don't rise much or spread much.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes.
  6. ENJOY!
 Yield 2 dozen cookies

I hope you'll give these a try and tell me what you think. With this being a holiday weekend in the United States, you might want to take these along to a picnic or family get together. Especially if there will be those who would enjoy a sweet treat but cannot eat foods with flour, eggs, sugar or oil.
Until next time,

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Lilacs in a Mason Jar

I absolutely adore the scent of lilacs and mine are in full bloom.  Lilacs are one of Spring's sweet treats that will only last a very few days.  I want to enjoy mine to the fullest while I can so here is my 60 second flower arrangement to bring this lovely color and scent indoors. 

Pretty self explanatory, eh?  I grabbed a clean mason jar, added some shells in the bottom, split the hard stem of the lilac so it can drink up as much liquid as possible, and put these bloomin' beauties in the jar.  You don't want to have too much liquid that the flowers are submerged in the water.  They'll get mushy and moldy.   You could use some pretty rocks or stones in the bottom of the jar instead of the seashells. 
I tied a little raffia around the top and am putting this little quick arrangement in the bathroom.  Viola!  Instant room freshener too!

I was looking for a solution or some way to help make the flowers last longer and here is a Do It Yourself solution I like to use for fresh cut flowers:

1 Quart warm water
1 Teaspoon white vinegar
1 Teaspoon mouthwash
1 Tablespoon sugar
4 drops dishwashing liquid

Combine in a one quart jar, mix it up and fill the vase 1/3 to 1/2 full with the solution and the rest of the way up with clear water. That's all there is to it. I now keep a jar of it mixed in my pantry (labeled, of course) and have it ready to feed the flowers in their vases.

Until next time,

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

DIY Faux Chalkboard Garden Signs

What a treat to be a guest blogger today at Alderberry Hill

I want to extend a HUGE thank you to Sarah for inviting me to be a guest blogger at Alderberry Hill.  It is truly a sweet honor and I'm thrilled to share with you and your readers.

Spring has finally arrived (did I hear everyone shout FINALLY!!) and here in Southern Ontario I have been busy putting in my vegetable garden. Once all the seeds and seedlings were planted I wanted to be sure to mark the varieties of veggies so there was no mistaking what was to be growing and where. Hence, I needed to whip up some garden marker signs. With chalkboard art being ever so popular I created some markers that have the chalkboard look but the lettering won't wash away in the rain.
These garden signs were such fun to make. Let me show you how I made them.

If you happen to have an old picket fence that would work great for the boards.  Wood pallet boards would work great too.  I dug out from under the deck some very weathered 1" X 4" boards (knot holes and all) and cut them approximate lengths, rounded one end and cut a point in the other to go in the ground easily.

Next, grab a can of chalkboard paint (Black...not green).  A can of matte spray paint will work great too.  Paint the boards and let them dry.

I have horrendous handwriting so I used stencils and a white paint pen to outline the vegetable lettering.  Definitely do it freehand if you are gifted in the art of penmanship. 

I filled in the letters with a fine paintbrush and a little white acrylic paint.  Then I got brave and with the white paint pen I freehanded a scroll flourish and drew an outline around my signs.

Now the last step:  paint a picture of the vegetables.  I freehanded the veggie pictures using the seed packets as picture inspiration.  These were all painted using acrylic craft paint.   This was such fun. 

Time to go "plant" my signs.  The garden looks pretty stark and bare at the moment but slowly I'm seeing the seeds beginning to sprout.  Do you think maybe the garden markers will encourage the veggies to grow?  Ha!

It was only recently I realized how MUCH I love beets.  Seriously!  They are a very neglected vegetable.  I have great plans for my beets so I surely do hope they will grow well.

My cucs haven't sprouted yet but I'm watering and talking to them daily.  Let's hear for cucumbers!  Grow baby grow!

This year I planted green and red bell peppers. 

We had a heavy frost shortly after I planted my beefsteak and Roma tomato plants.  I lost a few plants and have had to replant quite a few tomato plants.

Besides the main garden I have several of what I call "tub gardens".  Peas are just starting to sprout in this container.  I'll be putting up the net for them to climb on very soon.

I have two varieties of squash: orange winter squash and Patty Pan summer squash.  Look!  My patty pan squash has begun sprouting!  YAY!
If you are a gardener I'd love to see and read about how you mark your rows.  I had a blast making these garden signs.  In another month or so when the garden is in full swing I'll post photos of the garden with the signs doing their job with their vegetables surrounding them. 
Now that the signs are in their places I had better get outside and do some weeding.
Until next time,


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Monday, May 20, 2013

Victoria Day Treasure hunting and a Birthday

Today, in Canada, we celebrate Victoria Day which is a federal Canadian public holiday celebrated on the last Monday before May 25, in honour of Queen Victoria's birthday.  For most folks, it is considered much like Memorial Day in the United States and a sort-of official start to summer.  For myself, it is the day to attend the the annual hometown Flea Market.  The little village in which I live turned out in huge numbers this year.  The Mister does not care for Flea Marketing so he played a round of golf while I went treasure hunting.

I specifically hoped to find some 1920's or '30's pottery mixing bowls.  I hemmed and hawed over some lovely vintage bowls I saw last year and lost out on them.  You snooze, you lose.  This year, I spied this lovely blue pottery bowl shortly after I began looking for treasures.  I said to the seller that I really liked it but I wanted to look around for a bit...I'd be back.  They said fine, but then I saw other folks looking at "MY" bowl.  I marched up to the seller, handed her my cash and declared, "It's mine!"  She laughed and said she thought I made a good bargain.  I did indeed!

My grandmother used to mix up her delectable goodies in bowls similar to this.  This particular bowl is smaller than hers but will most definitely suit my purposes well. 
This blue pottery bowl has a wonderful seafaring story around the outside of it.  It's almost mystical. I getting a little too imaginative about it's worth/value/story it has to tell?  I don't think so.  I love it and got it for a great bargain too.  I was very happy to leave with it tucked safely in my bag.

There was a lot of "junk" at the flea market, but you know... one man's junk is another's treasure.  I saw these pressed glass parfait glasses and just had to have them.  Last year I bought parfait spoons.  This year I found the glasses to go with them.  The Mister is going to enjoy eating our homemade ice cream out of them.

That was the extent of my good finds this year.  I didn't have very much cash in my pocket but I am quite pleased with what I did find.

Yesterday was Gabriel's birthday and I haven't posted about my pups in a while.  Gabe is now 6 years old.  Interesting...I first began my blog 6 years ago right after we picked up Gabe from our breeder's place.  I have three Newfoundland dogs and Gabe is a Landseer Newfoundland.  Yes, I know...he needs a trim.  But I just love Gabe's floofy fur.  I think (or perhaps HE THINKS) he looks like Fabio with his flowing locks.  Happy Sixth Birthday, Gabe-y Baby!  You da man!
Until next time,

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cake Dome Sunday #21: Lemon Tart with Chantilly Cream

Get ready to grab your sweetheart and pucker up because today's "What's under the Cake Dome Sunday" sweet treat is sure to make you pucker-ready.  Today I made The Mister a Lemon Tart topped with Chantilly Cream.

While grocery shopping this past week I spied a lovely bag full of lemons.  I have a particular fondness for lemon ANYTHING and I grabbed up these lovely yellow orbs and knew I'd use them for dinners as well as desserts.

I chose a Lemon Tart recipe from a French pastry site and this recipe did not disappoint.  The French chefs sure do know how to create delicate pastries using the simplest and freshest ingredients.  And the care taken to each individual ingredient is what make French cooking so wonderful.  I've learned a few tips and suggestions and I'd love to pass them on to you so as to take out some of the mystery out of baking.

First,  here is the recipe:

Lemon Tart with Chantilly Cream

  • Pastry:
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons cold butter
  • 3 tablespoons cold water
  • Lemon Filling:
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons lemon zest

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt.  Using a pastry cutter or a food processor on pulse setting, cut the chilled butter into the flour until it resembles coarse sand with a few pea-sized pieces of butter still visible.  Sprinkle the cold water onto the mixture and toss gently a few times, just until it forms a ball that holds together.

Separate the dough into two balls, flatten slightly into thick disk shapes and warapin plastic wrap and chill for several hours before working with it.

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F.  Roll and trim the dough to make a circle large enough to fit a 10-inch fluted tart pan.  Fit the circle into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Line the dough with pie weights or dried peas or lentils and bake it for 15 minutes.  REmove the pie weights and bake the shell for an additional 5 minutes.  Sew aside the pastry shell, still in the tart pan, to cool.

In a double boiler or a medium sized saucepan set a large pan of simmering water, stir together 1/2 cup butter and the creme fraiche (Sour creme).  Once this mixture is thoroughly combined, set it aside.

In a separate pan set over the double boiler whisk together the eggs, egg yolks and sugar.  Stir the lemon juice into the mixture and cook, stirring constantly for 3 minutes.  Add the lemon zest and butter-creme fraiche misture to the eggs and cook stirring constantly for 3 minutes.

Pour the lemon filling into the prepared pastry and bake it for 25 minutes, until it turns golden brown and the filling is set.

Allow the tart to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes.  Serve at room temperature or chill in the refrigerator befor serving.

This lemon tart recipe makes 8 to 10 servings.

Chantilly Cream

A good Chantilly cream recipe is essential to every  French kitchen.  And you know what it is?  Chantilly Cream is just a fancy name for whipping cream infused with vanilla and sugar.  The Chantilly cream is a classic embellishment to French pastry, Genoise cakes and tarts.  So simple to make and you'll want to add it to your repertoire if you haven't already.

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, beat the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla together on high speed until soft peaks form in the mixture.  DO NOT OVERBEAT!  Chill any unused Chantilly cream and use it on your pancakes, shortcake or anything at all that you want to add a little sweet cream to.

  1. When baking pastries set your eggs out to become room temperature at least 1/2 hour before  you begin your baking process.  Eggs generally should be at room temperature.
  2. For pastries, your butter should be cold.  And don't fear seeing clumps of butter in your pastry.  This is a good thing and your pastry will turn out flakey and a croissant.
  3. In this pastry recipe you'll notice that you've created TWO discs of pastry dough.  When you roll the dough out for your pastry crust simply layer one disc on top of the other and roll them together.  There IS a method to this madness.  These layers of pastry will will roll out creating the air pockets ... much like the croissant I mentioned previously or similar to the layers in a phyllo dough.
  4. Pastry weights:  nice if you have them but don't sweat it if you don't own any.  I don't have pastry weights either but dried peas, beans or lentils will work just fine.  Definitely use some thing to keep your pastry from puffing and breaking during the initial baking...just don't worry if you use basic at hand items.  They all work the same.

I had a few lemons left after finishing the Lemon Tart so I also baked the Mister some Lemon Poppy Seed muffins for his lunchbox treats to take to work.  They look yummy.   If you are interested in that recipe too I'll post it later this week.  Let me know.
Until next time,

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Spring Breeze Linen Spray

My ironing basket was filled to the brim with clothes that needed to be ironed.  Ironing is not my favorite task so I made something yesterday that made the job ever so much more pleasant.  I made my own, homemade linen spray.

I have seen jars of linen spray in specialty soap and candle shops.  It was expensive too!  So on my continuous search to save pennies and do it myself, I searched for a recipe to make my own in the fragrance of my choice.  Lavender, Lilac and Lily of the Valley are three of my very favorite floral scents and I happened to have both lavender and lilac essential oils, so I was quickly on my way to creating my own spray.

The ingredients are just three items: Distilled Water, Vodka and essential oils of your choosing.

And this is how you mix it:

In an airtight, 16 ounce (or larger) glass jar pour 2 Tablespoons of Vodka, 1 teaspoon of lavender essential oil and 1/2 teaspoon of lily of the valley essential oil.  Now, fill the jar almost to the top with distilled water.  Shake the jar to incorporate all of the ingredients. 

Voila!  You've made your spray!  Now pour some in a spritz or pump bottle, get the iron and ironing board out and spritz a little on your those linens and cotton shirts that have been waiting to be ironed. 

I thought this might make a fun gift to give and so I made adhesive labels on the computer using Avery round labels, added some ribbon, raffia and dried lavender that I harvested and dried last summer from my garden.  Cute, eh?  Anything to take the drudgery out of ironing, I say!

While I was making labels I decided to put a second label on the back with directions and use suggestions.  This label says, "Spritz onto your bed linens, clothes you are ironing or into the air as a room spray."

If you decide to make some, I encourage you to experiment with different scents.  I love the combination of lavender and lemon (I just didn't have lemon essential oil).   Jasmine oil and bergamot would be nice, or how about vanilla oil and a couple of drops of ginger oil.
Keep a small spritz bottle next to your bed and when you make the bed each day spritz your pillows and/or bed linens.  You'll crawl into a lightly scented dreamworld of spring each night.
Until next time,


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