Sunday, March 29, 2015

Little Free Libraries

I have to say I was charmed the first time I saw one of these Little Free Libraries. 

Charleston, SC Little Library

I didn’t really know what I was seeing but it was pretty easy to figure out and intrigued me enough when I spotted my first one one a recent Girl’s Weekend to Charleston, South Carolina that when I got home from my trip, I dug around online to learn more about them.

Charleston, Jogger

Charleston, SC is a delightful city.  We took the horse drawn carriage tour into some of it’s neighborhood’s and my camera was in overdrive.  So as we were moving our way up this street, I snapped this shot thinking to myself that if I lived here of course I would be jogging too! And then that little box just past that lucky runner who I was imagining to be myself caught my eye. 

There was what at first looked like an elaborate bird feeder to me but to my surprise it was filled with books.  I have a soft spot for libraries.  I loved to visit them when I was growing up and worked in one when I was in college.  Still love to visit and browse in a library.

The box I spotted had a little sign on it and I snapped the photo so I could investigate when I got home.  The boxes are called Little Free Libraries and they are springing up all over the country and all around the world.  The premise is a simple one.  “Take A Book, Return A Book”.  Making books available right there in one’s own neighborhood.

Check out this cute video that explains how it works.

Little Free Library 2     Little Free Library

  And the creativity!!  Just look at how adorable some of these Little Libraries are.   And what a great way to recycle an old newspaper box.

Little Free Library Book Roof      Little FreeLibrary 3     Little Library

Love the book roof on this first one.

Little Free Libray Mushrom

And oh my, I love little red mushrooms.  What a cute idea for a book box. 

Have you spotted one in your neighborhood?


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Life From Scratch by Sasha Martin

    Life from Scratch

This was a gem of a book.  And it’s getting lot’s of attention.  I don’t get asked to write book reviews very often but when this one was offered to me I jumped at the chance mostly because it is the kind of book that I would have picked up on my own.  I read cookbooks for fun.  I love to sit on my front porch in the summertime and pour through old favorites.  In the wintertime  I sit on my couch with a lot of those same cookbooks.   Sometimes I’ll pick up a fresh stack of cookbooks from the library,  and armed with a quilt,  I’ll  look for new recipes among them to try for the next night’s dinner. 

I also like to read memoirs.   And this one is special.  Life from Scratch is a memoir  about food, family, and forgiveness.   Sasha Martin tells the story of her childhood with memories of a larger than life mother and her mother’s ability to make her earlier childhood an educational adventure.   Another reviewer compared it to The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and I have to say it reminded me a bit of that book too.   It’s extremely well written, poignant, and hopeful.

Here is the summary of the book I was given when I was first asked if I would like to read and review it.  

Over the course of 195 weeks, food writer and blogger Sasha Martin set out to cook—and eat—a meal from every country in the world. As cooking unlocked the memories of her rough-and-tumble childhood and the loss and heartbreak that came with it, Martin became more determined than ever to find peace and elevate her life through the prism of food and world cultures. From the tiny, makeshift kitchen of her eccentric, creative mother to a string of foster homes to the house from which she launches her own cooking adventure, Martin’s heartfelt, brutally honest memoir reveals the power of cooking to bond, to empower, and to heal—and celebrates the simple truth that happiness is created from within.

I love this kind of format for a book.    It’s a memoir that tells the story of Sasha’s life and includes the food that was part of those events that shaped her and then wraps up each chapter with a recipe from those events.  It reminded me of another favorite food memoir I read a few years ago called  A Homemade Life  by Molly Wisenberg.  Although the stories were very different, they were the written in the same format of telling the story of a family and wrapping each chapter up with a recipe.  I’ve tried several of the recipes from Molly’s book and can’t wait to get started trying some of the recipes in Sasha’s Life from Scratch

Reading this memoir also introduced me to Sasha’s blog called Global Table Adventure where she shows her readers how to bring the world to your kitchen.  The idea behind her blog was to take 195 recipes from 195 countries and prepare and enjoy them with her family.  It was a way to see the world without leaving home.  Not all of us can travel the world…trips like that are usually once in a lifetime but this is an amazing way to experience foreign lands and the people that live there. It’s brilliant!  And it makes for wonderful reading. 

And look at this amazing cake that she is featuring on her blog.  Dark Chocolate Guinness Cake with Bailey’s Buttercream!!  That looks so delicious and if you like the idea of the Bailey’s Buttercream but maybe not the Guinness Stout, she also has a recipe for O’Hara’s Irish Red Velvet Cake with Bailey’s Buttercream.  Click on either link and you’ll be taken to her blog with the amazing recipes.     Perfect for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration.    I’ll be making this for St. Pat’s day myself.  A bottle of Guinness is on my shopping list…I’ve got all the other ingredients. 

     Irish Red Velvet Cake Recipe

Take a trip around the world or make something special based on where your ancestors are from.  I plan to dig in to some Czech Republic recipes right after I explore the Irish recipes for St. Pat’s Day.  How about you?  Where are your people from?  And wouldn’t it be fun to make and eat something that you great great Grandmother used to make? 


Sasha Martin  Sasha Martin

Life From Scratch by Sasha Martin is published by National Geographic Press and is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and IndieBound.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Green Beans with Prosciutto

Green Beans on Platter


These green beans rock!!  I could eat them alone as an entire meal and be completely satisfied.  They are that good.  I mean it.  Really.

They are adapted from a Pioneer Woman recipe.   My version has a few secret weapon ingredients and I have tweaked this recipe enough to finally declare that the version I have here is the preferred recipe of choice.  Pretty bold statements I know.  But really, these are tasty!!

Green Beans with Citterio Prosciutto

My secret weapon ingredient is diced prosciutto.  My favorite brand is Citterio which is one of the brands my company merchandises for the supermarket chain we service.   The cheese company I work for has branched out a bit and we now merchandise some meats and sausages and so that is how this fun and magic making product showed up on my radar.  Now of course you could use diced ham which would be very nice in this recipe or even some bacon.  I think The Pioneer Woman gets a lot of the flavor for her recipe by using bacon grease…. but if you can find the prosciutto it really makes a difference.  And you will only need to use half of the 4oz. package of prosciutto. 

Green Beans with Prosciutto

There are a few other things that I tweaked from her original recipe.  I leave out the chopped red pepper and I also leave out the salt.  I find that the chicken stock really has enough salt and whenever I added the salt she called for in her recipe it was too much.  And if it was too much for me, and I LOVE my salt, even though I am not supposed to, then please take my advice and leave it out until after you cook these delicious babies up.  You can always add it later if you need to. 

Green Beans  Garlic and Black Pepper

My second secret weapon ingredient are the Pictsweet  Frozen Whole Green Beans.  Of course fresh is always best and I would absolutely use fresh in the summertime if I grew my own or found some at the Farmer’s Market, but this is my favorite brand of frozen vegetables.  They cost a little bit more but they really are worth it and I usually stock up on them when Harris Teeter has a buy one get one free deal  which they do quite frequently. 

     Green Beans Almost Done!          Green Beans on Platter

Here’s the recipe:

Green Beans with Prosciutto

1 24oz. package of Pictsweet Whole Green Beans (Family Size)

1 cup chicken stock.  (I like Kitchen Basics)

1 medium onion, diced small

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

2 Tbsp. butter

Half a package of Citterio Cubetti Prosciutto.  2 oz.

2 cloves of garlic, pressed

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter with the olive oil and sauté the diced onion till soft and they start to caramelize.

Add the prosciutto and sauté with the onion just enough for the prosciutto to start to brown careful not to burn the prosciutto and onions.

Add the entire package of frozen green beans. Mix well with the meat and the onions. 

Add the cup of chicken broth and deglaze the pan by scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. 

Green Beans on Platter

Add the garlic and pepper and quickly put a lid on the mixture till it comes to a boil and then reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 30 minutes with the lid on.   Add more chicken stock as needed so watch them close.  When they are done they will have a somewhat thickened sauce on them. 

Green Beans Finished 5


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Snow Day Lunch

Snowday Lunch

Woke up to a blanket of snow and the local weather forecasters are falling all over themselves trying to explain it.

It’s okay by me.  I’m taking a snow day off.  I am also going to:

Drink too much coffee

Cook a real dinner tonight

Play on my blog

Bake something

Dig deeper into some of the new blogs I have recently discovered like Modern Mrs. Darcy and some old favorites like Parisienne Farmgirl and Cup of Jo

Investigate Instagram and see if I like it better than Twitter


eat this

Snowday Lunch 005

Toast an English Muffin.  Add chopped up avocado.  Salt and pepper the avocado.  Top with bacon and sliced tomatoes.  Pepper the tomatoes.  I like pepper.  Lot’s and lot’s of pepper.

Eat Open faced. 


Monday, February 23, 2015

Life From Scratch

I am currently wrapped up in reading a book that I was asked to read and review for TLC Book Tours.  It’s called Life From Scratch and I can only say that it’s really good!   My review of the book is scheduled for March 12, 2015 and I am already thinking about how I am going to put my blog post together for it. It’s a memoir of growing up under difficult circumstances but with an abundance of love and memories with ties to people, places, and food.

Book Life From Scratch 3

The author is Sasha Martin and the book is already drawing lots of attention.  I am her newest follower on Facebook where I saw a post that her book was recognized by Oprah’s Reading Room.    She also writes a blog called Global Table Adventure where she blogs about cooking for 195 weeks the 195 foods from 195 countries around the world.  Amazing, ambitious and inspiring to be sure!   So, in addition to reading her memoir,  I am also busy digging in to all the amazing blog posts of the recipes and foods she’s cooked from every corner of the world.    Go ahead.  Pick a country and see what she came up with.  Who knows…it might just be just what you need for tonight’s menu.  : )

You can find it on Amazon and it’s available for pre-order.   The book will be released on next Tuesday, March 3rd by National Geographic Press.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Watercolor Cowboy Boots

watercolors 015

Yep. That’s what it says.  “Cowboy up or go cry in the truck”  Ha!  I saw a photo of some cowboy boots  in the September issue of Country Living Magazine (I’m a little behind in my reading).  : )  And decided to see if I could sketch them out on some watercolor paper.  Then after I finished painting them, I decide to go in search of a quote to add to the empty space on the side of the painting and found a quote that made me chuckle.  Not sure why I decided to paint them since I don’t even own a pair of cowboy boots.  But they reminded me of the boots I saw in shop after shop when I was in Nashville a couple of years ago for a wedding and looked basic enough to give them a try.  They were a fun mini painting project.  (I found the frame in the photo above at Goodwill.  It doesn’t have any glass or a back for it but it won’t need them for the project I have in mind.  Anyways, Seemed like a good way to display last nights painting projects. )

watercolors 002

And then I found myself binge sketching and painting.  After the cowboy boots I then sketched out the window picture and sketched it from a beautiful photo I have saved on my All Things French board on Pinterest.  Each of the paintings are rather small…just the right size for a beginner like me.  I took a large piece of watercolor paper and folded it in half and then in half again and then gently tore the sheet into 4 smaller sheets and sketched and painted three by the end of the night.

Window     watercolors 011

Of the three I did last night I think the window picture is my favorite. 

Fence Water Color 2

And then last but not least I made this fence painting.  I found the quote first online and love it and so decided that the simplest way to illustrate it would be to sketch a small fence.  So it seems inspiration can come in any order and from anyplace!  Hope you are having a Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Making An Art Journal

Art Journal experiment

Art journaling.   Where have you been all these years???   Such a simple way to stay creative and I am so excited to start one!  I’ve done some basic research a lot of which has involved Pinterest which in turn has pointed me in the direction of some amazing blogs.  My favorite videos to watch have been by Christy Tomlinson for collaging but I think my favorite art journaling blog right now has to be Junelle Jacobsen’s Blog called  Yes and AmenShe is so generous in what she shares and she also offers workshops and tutorials.  And on top of that her website and blog are absolutely charming with the way she sprinkles in photos of the sheep and baby lambs that I am guessing her family raises.   Adorable!  And her creativity will amaze you…it did me.

Art journaling is a way to create, express, practice, and experiment in one place. Not everything needs to be placed on a canvas!  Sometimes you just want to try out a new idea or play around with a new combination of colors or experiment with some new papers or stamps.   I like the idea of having a book that I can do anything I want in.   In it I can draw, sketch, paint, doodle, decoupage, play with watercolors, papercraft, stamp, add photographs or make smaller versions of my favorite right now….collage.  I’ve even started a Mixed Media Board on Pinterest if you would like to take a peek. 

How to make an art journal     Art Journal Book     Art Journal

So just the other night I found another website called Art Journalist which has all kinds of advice, ideas and how-tos for art journaling.  I followed their advice and found myself in a Goodwill looking for a suitable book that I could convert into and art journal.  And for a $1.25 I found what I think might make the perfect book.   (Click on the photo above “How to Prepare An Old Book to be used for Art Journaling” and be taken directly to that post.)

Art Journal with Gesso

It’s an Office XP Basics Manual that someone donated and the great thing about it is it’s spiral bound, nice and big but not too big and I don’t feel guilty for gluing it’s pages together, gesso-ing the heck out of it and drawing and painting in it among other things.  Here it is with a coat of gesso.  I’ll add more gesso if needed when I use that page for a project.  It just depends on what I am going to do with the page.  I glued three pages together and then added a coat of white gesso.  The nice thing I  have learned is that the gesso is like a primer and makes the paper suitable for even watercolor painting.  It gives it something for your medium to hang on to and absorbs the water from watercolor paints as well.


Art Journal Water color Chart

Here is my first page. I picked up a set of new watercolors the other day and really wanted to see what the colors would look like on paper I made a watercolor chart and turned it into a journal page that I can reference anytime I want to help me select the right colors when I am painting with themNot sure what I am going to do on the opposite side just yet.


Water Colors Chart

Love these colors!!  Something about a fresh new pallet of paints!

Art Journal Girl

And here is my 2nd art journal page.  Ha!  Believe me when I say I am cringing about showing you this page.

Let’s just say I learned a lot from this little piece of what I want to do in the future and what I don’t! 

Here are a few things I learned from this today: 

1.  I like her hair.  It’s a bit spiky and a also a bit more modern.

2. I like her dress.  I cut it out of some scrap paper. 

3.  Hate her arms!  Ha!  And the heart hands were poorly executed!  Ha again!  And don’t outline legs with a hot pink felt marker. 

4.  Not too happy with the use of the color brown for the honeycomb background pattern.   I need to establish a color palette before I begin and stick to it!!

5.  The flowers were paper punched out of some brown and black paper.  Talk about a color clash.   So I then painted them over with the aqua blue and added the white center.         That saved them but I am still not wild about them. 

6.  I tried a new face with a heart mouth.  It’s okay…but not crazy about it either. 

7.  I love the technique of using regular Scotch Tape and lifting text out of magazines and then decoupage-ing the bits of text to the piece.

8.  I used my Gelatos by Faber-Castell  for the first time and did the pink and yellow vertical border with them.  They are fun to use.  Like a soft creamy crayon that I then activated with a paint brush and water.  I can see myself playing around with these a lot more. 

9.  I like the idea of using the pages from my old French dictionary.  I just tore a snippet and glued it on. 

10.  I like my new butterfly stamp.  Not so sure about the hot pink ink though. 

11.  My doodles need help.  Serious help.

12.  Wilma Flintstone wants her necklace back.  : )