I don't know if these are technically bitters, but I do know that they're fun to put into drinks!  If you like experimenting with interesting new cocktails or spicing up the old ones- you'll really like these.

For the free printable labels, go here to download and print them.  Read on below for the recipes for each of the bitters.

I love the look of vintage mid century paper houses.  They're so quirky and fragile with their cardboard roofs and chunky glitter snow.  I got overly ambitious and decided to make a miniature of our house, which is a complicated Victorian and I would not recommend it unless you have a lot of time on your hands or are really, very bored. 
Luckily, I had both of those while I was stuck at a dead-end desk job where I had a lovely view of a wall all day and sometimes didn't see another human for a week at a time and had unlimited office supplies on hand.  Anyhow, I've made some simpler patterns for you to download here.  If you're feeling ambitious and want to make your own house I can tell you how below. 


Let me start this post by saying, less is more in the kitchen.  You know how they say that you should take off one accessory before you leave the house?  Well, I need to take that advice when it comes to my recipe inventions.  I just get crazy and start adding all sorts of things and before I know it, I've got some whackadoodle concoction that my poor husband has to bravely eat his way through.  He may actually be pawning it off on the poor dog, but at least I'm oblivious to it.

I had it in my head all day that I wanted to make a pot pie for supper.  It's cold and both the Man and I are in sweaters all the time, so what's a little bit off extra puff around our middles going to hurt?  Bring on the comfort carbs!

I was so proud of myself because I was going to use up a store-bought pie crust that had been lurking in the freezer, just waiting for me to forget about it for a year or three. I tried to thaw the pie crust in the microwave, which resulted in a molten blob of crust wrapped tidily in a plastic tube.  The dog was happy with that at least.  Off to make a real crust.  In retrospect, I should have known it was an "off" cooking day for me and I should have just made spaghetti, but I was determined.

Crust was made successfully at least.  I happily started to throw the sauce together just as the Man came home.

"I feel like Julie in that movie about Julia Child.  You know, working all day and dreaming about making food at home"  I yammered on to the Man about this, blissfully unaware that the sauce was adhering itself to the pan with a nice, black char.

A quick transfer to a bowl and the sauce was saved.  Into the crust it went and everything looked splendid.  It baked to a nice golden brown and filled the house with that Sunday-dinner-at-your-grandma's kind of smell.

I cut into it and it was neon yellow.  Whoah.

Once you've turned a sauce neon yellow, you can't go back.

"It tastes really good, love, but the sauce...why is it yellow?"

"Umm, I think I should not have put Turmeric in it"

"It's good...but I don't know if people in a restaurant would...order it"  That's my man, trying so hard to be nice.  He's the best.  He's also probably remembering the time I overreacted just a bit to his negative comment on my Thanksgiving meal gravy. I responded by throwing the whole meal in the garbage, turkey and all, and crying for about an hour.  Not proud of that one, although I'm sure we'll get some good laughs about it when we're more gray up top.

We both ate it, I ate it for lunch for the whole week.  The Man politely declined my offer to pack him some.  He had two helpings at home, but I'm guessing he didn't want to field questions about what the heck kind of a neon pie he was eating for lunch at work.

After a conversation with my amazing sister who can take a plain potato and make it taste fabulous with a pinch of salt and whatever magic she has that makes everything taste good, I realized I may have over seasoned a bit.

"What spices did you use in the pie?"

"Ohh, some of this, some of that.  Salt, pepper, turmeric-"

"Oh my, why?"

"I also put in sage, rosemary-"

"Amber!  That's too much with ham!  Maybe just a little thyme next time"

"Oh, I put that in, too"

She may have smacked her hand to her head while shaking it in disbelief, but I was laughing so hard I couldn't tell.

I think I need to call her for an intervention before I put any more spices into any recipe.

Well, since I've pre-screwed up this recipe for you, have no fear now, as I'll spend some more time tweaking it and post a really tried and true pot pie recipe soon.  In the meantime, remember, less is more.


It's hard to find good DIY gift ideas for guys that aren't froufy or feminine.  Aside from the occasional manly DIY I find, they are usually something that my man would feel really silly using or wearing. Here, I've rounded up some of my favorite non-froufy DIY projects that I think the manly man in your life will probably appreciate.

1. infused vodkas + free labels
2. the greatest fire starters
3. cork or wood sunglasses
4. ranch dressing seasoning mix
5. manly leather wallet + easy pattern instructions
6. diy whiskey making kit
7. tiny desk desert
8. sweet & spicy pickled onions
9. garlic soy pickled green beans
10.homemade bitters + free printable labels oak cutting board

If you're looking for more ideas, you should check out The Art of Manliness blog.  It's one of my favorites and is always full of manly man ideas for the modern gentleman.


sketch line drawing free printable craft images graphics
click on the image to download
*Update to post:
Well, my garlic grew just fine.  And so did some garlic that I planted in the Spring! Who knew?  Well, I'm sure some experienced gardeners did.  Anyhow, don't feel down if you didn't get your garlic in the ground in the Fall; go ahead and plant some bulbs as soon as you can work the ground in the Spring.  Good luck!

If I could have only one condiment/spice/flavoring for the rest of my life it would be garlic.  I put it in everything and have more than once been told to tone it down a bit (my brother was once eating some shrimp scampi that I'd made and had to put his foot down about my allium love when he brought a scoop of scampi to his mouth that was 90% minced garlic).

The problem is, I just can't seem to get it to grow.  Well, that's not totally true- one year I planted it too early and it sprouted, but then it died after the first frost.  Another year I planted it too late and we also had a harsh winter and none of those sprouted.  This is my last-ditch effort to grow garlic this year and I'm determined to get it right.

No sources that I could find could give me anything more specific for Iowa garlic planting than "___ weeks before first frost".  I don't know if those people have ever been to Iowa, but "first frost" could happen any time from late September to November and even then it could get warm again or freeze earlier than that or later- who knows.  In fact, just last week I was outside working in a t-shirt on Sunday and it was 20'F and snowing on Monday; we haven't even gotten to the craziest weather of the season.


The Windfall is named for the apples gathered from the ground- the best of which are destined for apple cider and apple wine- two of my favorite beverages.

There's a chill in the air here that signals Fall and Winter's encroach, but for now, let's settle into Fall. Cozying up to a smoky wood fire surrounded by the rich jewel tones of the changing scenery, apple orchards, family gatherings, sweater season- could there be a better time of year?  Well, Christmas, but that can wait.  For now, Fall, you've got the stage.

This cocktail is slightly bitter.  So, if you're tired of sicky-sweet cocktails hailing from the heyday of the Appletini, you'll find this drink to be a refreshing change.  Campari lends it's herbaceous red tinge to this Apple Cider and vodka cocktail.  Lemon, spices, and dash of bitters finishes it off.


Thank you to all the veterans out there who have served our country in both peace and war time. 

I've made a simple little Kilroy Veteran's Day Card for you, in case you couldn't find a card at the store or you'd rather just print one yourself.  Click on the photo above to download the PDF file.  You can either print it or send it as an email attachment if you aren't able to mail it.



Vintage books
Cost: $0.75 cents each

Oh, what a glorious find these were.  Usually the old books get pretty picked over at thrift stores, but these were just sitting on a shelf in a happy little gilded group waiting to come home with me.  I couldn't split them up, of course, so I bought them all.  A 1926 copy of Pilgrim's Progress is my favorite, but the others added up to quite a good classic books catch: Othello, War and Peace, Oliver Twist, Robinson Crusoe, and Stevenson's children's poems.  And also a 1910 classroom book on hygeine- I love to learn about how people lived at the turn of the century.  I have a book on health and fitness from the 1890's that says that it's acceptable to call a rotund individual "fat man" instead of their name- oh how far we've come, huh?


With the holidays rolling around the corner and with food being a huge part of those holidays, now is the time to gather good recipes.  This is a cornerstone recipe for me- one that I use often and it always gets compliments.  If you've never made gravy from scratch before, don't be scared.  It's easy, simple and oh-so rewarding.

This is the same way that my mom would make it every time we had a roast or miniature meatloaf.  I have such happy memories of Mom standing in the heady scented kitchen, swirling a pan of juice with a weathered wooden spoon and watching as it slowly transformed into a velvety umami condiment fit for a king.  Take a little extra time to make your own gravy this holiday season and you'll be making more than just food.  You'll be making memories for your kids to cherish for years to come.

If you season the meat well before you cook it, you shouldn't have to doll up the gravy much at all. You can use my Easy Freezer to Crock Pot Roast recipe if you want some ideas.


Nothing beats coming home to the smell of Sunday dinner filling your house and the comforting happiness of knowing that supper is ready.  Oh, crock pot of mine, I love you.  Especially in the chilly Fall and Winter months when my time is better spent curled up by a fire with the Man than cooking in my cold kitchen (whoever decided to put tile down in there had certainly never had to stand on it for any length of time in the winter).

So, without further ado, I bring you the pinnacle of procrastination, the epoch of easy, the tidal wave of tastiness, the king of all the crockery: the Pot Roast.  I throw mine in frozen with a bit of seasoning and a lot of veggies, so the only prep work and forethought required is peeling some carrots.

You should absolutely use this recipe for gravy if you're feeling up to taking this dish to the next level of greatness.


The best pizza that I've ever had was, sadly, all the way across the pond in Rome.  Near Campo Del Fiore and right across from the cat sanctuary sits a tiny little shop called Pizza Florida.  My mouth still waters thinking about the smell as you walk in; the sound of the shopkeepers busily cutting slices from huge slabs of chewy-crusted pizzas and sliding them into ovens to toast up.  You pay by weight and they use scissors to cut through the chewy ciabatta crust and mouthwatering toppings.  If I haven't sold you on it, check out all of these reviews from other people who have been there and are still touting its greatness.

The Man and I were really craving our favorite Pizza Florida creation: the Crema Di Zucca.  Pumpkin cream spread over the holey crust, then topped with porchetta, mozzarella, and gorgonzola.  This salty sweet combo is perfectly set off by the fruitiness of the gorgonzola- oh my gosh, I'm craving it again already.

As we lack the funds and ridiculousness necessary to fly to Rome just to eat pizza, we improvised.  I have the recipe below, both the "cheater's version" and the full-blown one if you want to go all out.  If you have trouble finding porchetta, you can get a similar taste with either prosciutto, speck, or even bacon; although the texture and depth of flavor that porchetta provides is pretty unmatched.

makes: 3-4 servings
takes: about 30 minutes

1 loaf take n' bake ciabatta
10-12 oz. porchetta
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 T. heavy cream
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup gorgonzola
1-2 cups shredded mozzarella
olive oil
garlic clove

Cut the ciabatta loaf in half lengthwise like a sandwich bun.  Cut garlic clove in half and rub onto the bread halves, then drizzle the halves lightly with olive oil.

In a bowl, stir together the pumpkin, cream, salt, sugar, and nutmeg.  Spread thinly over the bread.

Top the bread with the porchetta, then the cheese.  Bake at 350' until the cheese begins to lightly brown.  Mmm,. mmm!


Men are hard to buy for.  Really hard.  If they want something, they just go out and buy it- none of this womanly hemming and hawing over a $10 purse that's perfect- a guy would just buy it if he needed it.  Although, from personal experience, this may be because I tend to buy lots of things that I don't need (i.e., a rocket ship-shaped popsicle maker that I only used once before realizing that it's a little indecent).

Well, the point of this wandering line of strung-on sentences is that men are hard to buy for.  If they want it, they buy it and if they don't buy it, it's probably because they can't afford it.  And, usually, neither can you.

So, for the man in your life, whether it's a dad, brother, or in-law- this wallet should do just fine.  It's a cinch to make and doesn't require any special leather-working tools.  If they like real leather bi-fold manly man wallets- this is the one. 

Get the pattern here.  The pattern will give you step-by-step instructions, but I'll give them to you here, too.


If you're looking for a way to use up extra onions from the farmer's market or your garden this Fall, this is a really great way to do it.  It's easy, fast, and those jars just look so pretty and cheery sitting on your pantry shelf. 

Come winter, pulling out a jar of these crisp-tender, sweet-sour, super-spiced pickled onions will be one of your favorite things to do. 

These taste amazing topping a piece of crusty french bread with a slice of Irish Cheddar or on top of a burger.  Heck, these can even make hot dogs edible. 

If you don't feel up to canning (which you should give a go if you haven't done it), you can just do all the steps up to putting them in the hot water bath and pop them in the fridge instead.


These charming little retro pumpkin graphics are sure to cheer up your October!  Just click on the pictures above or below to download the files.  The ones below are single, large pumpkins.  They make great wall decor, greeting cards, craft projects, wallpaper, wrapping paper, or banners- the possibilities are endless!  Enjoy!


Sometimes you've just got to have a bit of a fattycakes fry fest feast.  In case you're unaware of just what that entails, it involves lots of fried foods, ranch dressing, and a host of other deliciously sinful foods.  They're best eaten after a long weekend or a stressful workweek (preferably in the comfort of your sweatpants with the blinds drawn).  They're not that healthy for you but, dadgummit, do they ever taste like a little slice of heaven.
Well, this is a little less of a guilty pleasure than your run-of-the-mill Outback Steakhouse Bloomin' Onion- it's baked, not fried.  You still get all that delicious crunch and tendercrisp bites of savory onion, but it's not soaked in oil and leaves you feeling happy instead of like someone strapped a bowling ball to your belly. 
Read on to get the how-to for these simply delicious appetizers!


Brass Deer Family
Big Buck $2.50, Mama Doe & Baby $2.00

Sure, they don't really match, but what family does?  Mama deer, Papa deer, and Bambi in tow makes for an adorable table vignette at Christmas.  Or all the time. 


Hollywood Regency Round Mirror

This is one of my favorite finds.  Not just because its beautiful plaster on wood design is simple enough to please my architect husband but pretty enough that it belongs in our 100 year old house, but because it was one of the things that we found while we were honeymooning.  Yes, we're old people and love to "just drive around" and go antiqueing instead of to the Bahamas or wherever people our age go on vacations.  So, every time that I look at this beauty, I think of our little road trip to the beautiful hills of Wisconsin and I'm still cruising around with the windows down; our hair blowing in the autumn wind; our junker SUV filled to capacity with treasures.  And that's the beauty of buying things from a thrift store, garage sale, or goodwill- it's got a life of it's own and the ability to take you to a happy place just by being around it.


Antique Print Floral Wallpaper
scored it for: $2.00
Hello, gorgeous!  These pictures don't quite do the richness of this wallpaper justice. It's actually a really rich, deep, rust red background.  I found this at the local re-store, along with some other wallpaper rolls.  The other two I found (a Christmas-y plaid and a modern red on white pattern) are destined to become wrapping paper.  Thrift store wallpaper that's too ugly or too small of a quantity for decor can have a second life as wrapping paper.  Plus, at $2.00 or so for a huge roll, you're saving an arm and a leg on wrapping paper!


Runzas: you'll only know of them if you grew up around Nebraska or- sorry Nebraska- had the misfortune to have to drive through it the long way on the way to Colorado.  They're bread wrapped around meat and cheese and baked until the bread is crusty and the cheese is melty.  Ahh, sometimes it's the simple things in life.

I must warn you ahead of time, I didn't make the bread dough for these.  Cookies, bring 'em on; homemade tortillas, lemme at 'em; but baking bread I just can't get myself to do.  They're actually super inexpensive frozen dinner rolls.  But, if you're like my amazingly talented photographer/mother-of-three-amazing-kids/excellent baker sister, feel free to tackle the homemade bread section with gusto and sticky dough fingers!

Another disclosure: these aren't meant to be just like Runzas, which I think can be a little too salty and soggy sometimes.  These are my own version that are a little lighter on their feet, which just so happen to be deliciously crusty and buttery buns.  Oh, and feel free to add vegetables to these, but, let's be honest, when you're stuffing meat and cheese in to buns and then likely dipping those in ketchup or ranch dressing later, the vegetables aren't really necessary.


Antique Gilded Chromolithograph "God Bless Our Home"
scored it for: $2.50
This is another one of the treasures from that Wisonsin honeymoon The Man and I took.  I have to say, although I hate to share too much, Wisconsin is a gold mine of thrift store finds.  Would you believe that we found this in a rack of picture frames at a Goodwill?  Well, you'd better believe it- and it was only $2.50- how's that for a steal!  The gilding on this shines beautifully and I think that is likely the original frame. 


Two Glass & Brass Obelisk Boxes
scored it for: $1.00 each
These are some of my favorite thrift store scores.  They remind me of Victorian Curiosity Cabinets and I do have quite the love affair with all things from that era (i.e., my wedding bouquet preserved under glass).  I've seen these at fancy shops and places like Restoration Hardware, but at less than $2, they were quite a steal!


I've read of many ways to save seeds, but the method on gardenweb seems to work best, although I've tweaked their method a bit.  I bought heirloom tomato seeds this Spring so that I could save seeds for next year: a cute little Yellow Pear, a Beefsteak, and some Martino's Roma Tomato (very similar to San Marzano).  I was just making Freezer Tomato Sauce and knew it was the perfect time to save seeds. 


If you have a bounty of tomatoes this year, or are lucky enough to have access to a big bunch of garden fresh tomatoes, I recommend making this sauce.  It's as easy as throwing some tomatoes in a food processor, then boiling them for a bit.  Your future self will thank you when you're pulling cheery bags of homemade tomato sauce from the freezer in the middle of the winter. 

This sauce is very versatile- I've used it for pasta, over summer squash noodles, and for making tomato-based soups.  It's fresh and light and nothing like it's supermarket counterpart.


I've always wanted to try Spaghetti Squash, but The Man is so grossed out by it's stringy interior that I haven't even been able to bring one in the house without hefty doses of dramaticized gagging noises, let alone get one on the supper table.  But this, oh, this.  Summer Squash comes in an unassuming little yellow package, free from the stringy interior of spaghetti squash.  Plus, you get to use a nifty tool to cut it.  I can't take any blame for you wanting to julienne everything in your diet after using one of these glorified disposable razor tools, just know you're not alone if you do.

In summary, this dish is awesome.  No, the squash doesn't taste exactly like spaghetti noodles.  It does taste pretty darn close, though, and the buttery golden color is undeniably appetizing.  Oh, and the creamy and spicy tomato basil sauce doesn't hurt it's cause.


This is a texture-lover's dream dessert, with it's buttery, flaking layers of phyllo sandwiched around smoky, salty bacon and toasted pecans.  Once you add the gooey maple syrup to the mix, it's just something that you'll likely be craving for years to come.  My advice: make alot of it.

I made these little beauties for the Iowa State Fair and entered them in the category sponsored by the local gourmet spice store, Allspice, so I knew they have to have some spunk.  Based loosely off of the delicious cocktail Hot Night In Mumbai, these are sure to surprise your tastebuds.  A buttery sugar cookie base envelopes a heady mixture of tellicherry peppercorns, orange zest, and rich saffron.  This is not a cookie for the timid, but it's sure to get some rave reviews!


Alice in Wonderland audiobook record with a suprise inside
scored it for: $1.00

This was a really fun one.  You don't see many books on record, especially classics, like Alice in Wonderland, so I knew it was coming home with me.  But it was more exciting than just teh prospect on listening to the Mad Hatter ramble on vinyl- it had a treasure inside!


When the nights start to chill and the leaves are turning, I've got pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin on the brain.  I can't get enough spiced and pumpkinned foods at that time of year and I'm always looking for new recipes with pumpkin.  I made this one up as a Fall hybrid of my Christmastime favorite: Orange Cinnamon Pinwheels.  I know it's a little early for Fall, but I wanted to get a few recipes ready to go for when those leaves start to fall.

Make up a batch of these and keep the dough in the freezer.  Then, whenever you get a hankering for something buttery and flaky and spiced, slice a few off and bake them up to golden perfection.  Enjoy!


If you're ever in the mood for a light, easy summer side dish, this one is a great go-to.  It's simple and refreshing with it's sweet and tangy vinaigrette and cool cucumbers.  This recipe is easy as pie, but a whole lot more healthy.  This is also really delicious on tacos!

I don't know about you, but summer always has me dreaming of delicious, smoky, spicy, sticky barbeque.  Back in my college days, I had the happy fortune to eat at Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City (which coincided with an MGMT concert- oh, happy times).  I've often thought back to the mountain of smoky burnt ends that I ate there and sighed happily.  Eventually my heart will win out and I'll make it back there, but until then, I'll have to settle for homemade barbeque.

I sort of invented this recipe this weekend, but it was a huge hit.  Unless, of course, all of my friends are awful liars and secretly fed ten pounds of pork roast to the dog, but I really don't think that's the case.

If this is your first rodeo, erm, barbeque, don't be scared!  It's really not all that complicated to smoke things.  You just need three things: a thermometer, a grill, and a bit of patience.  Oh, and meat.


The sticky toffee exterior of this easy dessert hides a moist and bitterwseet Guinness quickbread interior.  It's so perfectly gooey and sweet, balanced by the creamy Guinness flavor- good luck eating just one piece.  I think it's best fresh out of the oven, steaming hot with the toffee still melting down the sides, but you can have it chilled as well.  Imagine a thick slice of this with a dollop of fresh whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream in the center!  Oh, heavens.

The great part is that this also makes really great gifts as a dry mix.  It's spicy scent and rich caramel goodness also makes it a great dessert for Fall and Winter holidays.

*Note: you probably want to make two. Or three.


I was skeptical at first, but I've been completely convinced to give up my myriad of nasty chemical cleaners in place of one cheap and natural one: vinegar.  I used to buy the all-purpose bleach cleaner, windex, tile cleaner, floor cleaner, etc. Now, I just buy a large jug of white vinegar for around $2.00 and keep some essential oils on hand to make this all-in-one cleaner that's easy and works just as well as all of those nasty chemical ones did.  You can use it on glass, mirrors, sinks, toilets, showers- you name it!  Instead of lugging around a bunch of cleaners, you just have to grab one bottle (and it takes about half the time).

It's even anti-bacterial.  Although it's not as effective at killing germs as bleach is, I figure that unless you live with someone who has a compromised immune system or you smear raw meat over every surface in your house, vinegar is effective enough in killing everyday bacteria.  I've found that it's very effective in getting rid of odor-causing bacteria in everything from bathrooms to piles of althetic gear, which is usually my main concern anyhow.


I used to buy Comet and Bon Ami for scrubbing sinks, toilets, and showers, but now I just make my own with some really cheap, really natural ingredients.  Sure, you can't eat this stuff, but at least it isn't chock full of wierd dyes and chemicals that I can't pronounce.

It's extra-easy and pretty, too when you put it into an inexpensive sugar dispenser for easy sprinkling.  You could also just poke some holes in a mason jar lid and keep it in there.

Here is the link to the blog post with the labels for the no-scratch scrub and also the all-purpose cleaner.


This may sound like a strange flavor combination, but rest assured, it's a keeper.  The zuchinni is slightly earthy and the pep and spice of the Jalapenos combines perfectly with the sweetness and tang that the brine give to it all.  You'll find yourself slathering this stuff on everything you possibly can (it's just as addicting as Spicy Sweet Chili sauce, but more versatile).

You can also skip the canning process and just keep the fresh relish in the fridge.  It should keep for about two weeks.


Big Brass Bear

I use this not-so-fuzzy brass bear as a handy doorstop.  Who said things can't be functional and entertaining?  To make his shiny awesomeness even better, he was a steal at only five dollars.  Take that, Anthropologie!


These beautiful little flowers have been popping up all over our front yard and I could hardly wait for them!  Their spiky little heads bob in the warm wind while honeybees and butterflies flock to their sweet, spicy scent.  I had no idea until about a week ago, though, that these were wild Bergamot!  I'd been hunting for Bergamot plants for months.  I'd given up, thinking that they must not be available around here when, lo and behold, they're in my front yard!

These aren't true Bergamot, mind you, but they sure taste and smell just like the real deal.  There are many interesting websites such as the USDA that can give you a more thorough history of the uses of this unique native herb, if you're interested.


If you're ever in the market for a gift for a foodie, this is a sure hit.  For just about $4 and some patience, you can make homemade real vanilla extract. 


 I've got to be honest with you. These aren't technically muffins. But I don't feel guilty calling them that, since so many breakfast foods are prancing around pretending to be something they're not. Muffins, I'm looking at you. We all know you're just cupcakes sans frosting. And pancakes, come on, you're barely trying; you're just deflated cake hiding under sugar syrup. 
With so many variations of  breakfast cake, you're liable to barely finish eating before your blood sugar is climbing to a dangrously high peak that it will geefully throw itself off of later in the day.  This usually happens about the time your two year old has, once again, watercolored your couch or your boss is on the rampage and it's a bad time to be "hangry".  Protein, I choose you instead of sugar.  You help me to keep my job and to love my family, even when I'm hungry.


Christmas is coming! Well, sure, it's a few months away, but I like to get an early start on
things. I'm a little crazy about Christmas. Okay, a lot crazy about it. It's one of my favorite times of the year and it's filled with such memories and sentimental feelings. Memories of the smell of the warm plastic of the color wheel light shining on our aluminum tree, making christmas cookies while our faces are smeared in flour and we're calling ourselves "The Great White Hunter" tribe, and the year my brother read a Hardy Boys book that told him how to cut out a square of wrapping paper to see the contents of your present and then carefully tape it back up so no one knew. That last little shennanigan inspired our poor Mom to start using a carefully guarded code on all the presents instead of names. It's a wonder she didn't stop at just one kid. Then again, by the time she found out how crazy we were it was too late.

I need to start on these things early because my family has started to only give homemade or thrifted gifts. We decided to do this after we realized the spending was getting out of control and we were all getting old enough to just buy whatever we needed. Although Mom's annual gift of socks never fails to incite gasps of joy from all four of her grown-up children.

One year I tried to make my poor brother-in-law some slippers. I don't have a picture of them, but I can tell you that he used them to chase their kids around the house because they were terrified of them. Funny presents, yes.


Note: When I say "out of date", I mean, past it's due date, tasted-a-bit-funny-when-you-put-it-on your-cereal-this-morning "out of date", not the kind where its already made the curds for you.  I promise it wasn't doing you a favor.

I hate wasting things, and when I learned that you can used out-of-date milk to make cheese, I had to try it.  I knew I had to move fast, before the hubs did his weekly, tornado-like cleaning out of the fridge, when he finds all of the little nasty things that I've hidden in the back of the fridge and I get pretty embarrassed that he found my stash of moldy bread stubs that I forgot about or the tupperware container that time forgot.

To be honest, I was trying to make mozzarella, but as with many things I make in my kitchen, it morphed itself into something of its own making and I just went with it. 

I was using a vague memory of making cheese with my two sisters when we were young.  I say "vague" because I'm usually the one flitting around the kitchen making things look pretty when we three sisters all cook together, not the one doing the tricky parts.  So, there I was, staring over a pot of boiling milk in my 80+ degree kitchen last night.  The hubs was in the garage, unpacking the last of our things from the move (because he's great like that) and probably trying to avoid the inevitable mess that the crazy lady he lives with was cooking up in the kitchen.


Easy, fast, and crisp, these little beans pack a spicy, salty punch with a mouthwatering umami undertone that lingers in your mouth and causes you to do things you normally wouldn't do.  Like eat a whole jar of pickled green beans in one sitting.

If you've never canned before, I'd recommend you try pickles.  They really are pretty easy and, if you've already made refridgerator pickles before, you might as well take the extra step to can them.  You'll definitely appreciate it when winter comes and you have a cupboard full of beautiful, gleaming jars of pickles!


When we were kids, my mom used to stop at the farmer's market every summer Thurdsay and pick up a fresh peach pie.  It was all I could do to not scoop out some of that gooey spiced filling with my bare hand and willingly reap the consequences of depriving my family of pie.  It was that good. 

Now, don't get me wrong, my mom is the best cook I knowand made almost everything from scratch, but there are two things she never made for us.  One of those things was peach pie, the other was goulash.  The latter we kids knew was due to a tiff she and Dad had when they were newlyweds.  One day, she proudly served him up his favorite dish- goulash- and he promptly told her to ask his mother for the recipe because hers was better.  My mom hasn't made it for him in 30 years.  Yes, to say the women in my family are spunky is probably an understatement.    

So, I understood why we had a goulash-free house, but I'll have to ask mom about the homemade peach pie-free zone we lived in- there's probably a good story in there somewhere.  Anyways, she always bought it, so I had to search high and low for a good recipe.  This one is sort of a Franken-recipe, as I've had to tweak it from about ten others, but I think it turned out just right- not too sweet and just enough spice!


Don't give up on a great vintage find just because it's not in the best of shape- most things can be saved!  I found these perfect Justin leather boots at a thrift store in less-than perfect condition, but after a little TLC, they are almost as good as new. 

FREE DOWNLOAD - life is short

Here's a Freebie Friday download for you. Use it as a phone background, wallpaper, wrapping paper, digital scrapbooking, poster print, thank you card- the possibilities are endless! Just please don't use it for commercial purposes or monetary gain. Thanks and have a great Friday!


Here's a Freebie Friday download for you. Use it as a phone background, wallpaper, wrapping paper, digital scrapbooking, poster print, thank you card- the possibilities are endless! Just please don't use it for commercial purposes or monetary gain. Thanks and have a great Friday!


Here's a Freebie Friday download for you.  Use it as a phone background, wallpaper, wrapping paper, digital scrapbooking, poster print, thank you card- the possibilities are endless!  Just please don't use it for commercial purposes or monetary gain.  Thanks and have a great Friday!