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.