Saturday, July 31, 2010

United States Cheese Boards


Look what I found today!  I was browsing around and I came across a blog today called A Cup of Joe.  It is one of my new favorites.  It’s written by Joanna Goddard.  This is one very successful blog and she’s originally from Michigan like me!  On her blog from yesterday, she posted about these  cheese boards.  This is the kind of thing that gets me excited lately.  :)

Look at these cheese boards!!  They are available on ETSY in a shop out of Brooklyn called AHeirloom.

I can’t decide which one is my favorite.  The Michigan Cheese Board might take first place because they actually included the Upper Peninsula.  That doesn’t always happen.  I am sure that makes all the “UPer's” (pronounced “yoopers”) happy. 

It’s a toss up.  I live in North Carolina now and that one is pretty nice too.  It might be nice to have if we do any tailgating this year. 


Although I have to say Texas and California are pretty cute too.

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And if you don’t see a state you want, they do custom orders too!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Making Pasta

Fettucini for everybody!

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I actually tried to make my own pasta the other day. My husband has been traveling and this is only one of the many ways I tired to entertain myself while he was gone!

How hard could it be? I’ve seen Mario Batalli do it many, many, times on his show.

Here is the recipe I followed:

Pasta Dough

3 cups of all purpose flour

3 eggs

1/2 tsp. salt

Make a well out of the flour on your work surface. Using a fork, carefully scramble the eggs and incorporate small amounts of flour as you go. Be careful not to break the “wall” of flour or your egg mixture will run out. Keep mixing the flour into the egg mixture until it is difficult to use the fork. Then start to use your hands to mix together the dough.

My dough was very dry and crumbly so I decided to add another egg. This helped but it was still too dry. So I added a tablespoon of cold water one at a time until the dough came together and I was able to work it with my hand. I ended up adding a total of 3 tablespoons of water.

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I rolled out the dough as thin as I could get it.

But not thin enough though I guess. I think I needed one of those hand crank pasta machines. Then I folded the dough and sliced it into fettucini ribbons and set them aside. I boiled up a big pot of salted water and cooked them. They seemed to thicken up in the water and although they tasted fine, they were too thick. They would have been nice in a Chicken Noodle Soup or I am guessing Chicken and Dumplings although I don’t think I’ve ever had Chicken and Dumplings. What do I know? Don’t listen to me.

The only thing I do know now is nobody (which consisted of just me and my son) wanted to eat a plate of these.

I promise to stick to buying my pasta at the supermarket. Some things just aren’t worth the time!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Beautiful kitchen Re-do


I came across these beautiful photos of a kitchen re-do a couple of days ago. Did you happen to see these? They were first featured on Shelterpop (And you can read all about the transformation at that site.) This is where I found another link to the blog of the Designer who created this beautiful kitchen. Her name is Linda Merrill and she has a wonderful blog called Surroundings.


Two of my favorites are shown in this shot. A beautiful black and white tile floor and a burlap skirted countertop. The Designer explained that she created the counter top out of an old door she had in her garage and then she made the burlap skirting to go around it. I wonder what she’s got stored underneath there? I love how she uses this as a bar for when she entertains.


Here are the BEFORE shots. At least she starts out with the gorgeous floors. But the cabinets look dark and dated.


It’s amazing what a difference new hardware and painting the cabinets made. And look how she used beadboard wall paper on her walls to brighten them up and to add some personality. Did you notice how she used more burlap for her window treatments? I think it’s the French flair she gave the space that makes me like it so much. Just lovely!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Happy Anniversary


Today is our Wedding Anniversary.

We hit a milestone.

25 years!

Way back In 1985 we were married on a sunny and perfect Michigan day.

Many friends and family joined us.

Great food, great music, and great fun.

And dancing. Lots of dancing.

I did the “Gator” in my wedding dress.

An insanely fun day.

And we were the last to leave our Reception.

Didn’t get to our hotel till 4:00 AM

Had to leave for the airport at 6:30 AM

Can you say hangover?

12 hour flight to Hawaii sitting next to another passenger drinking whiskey and smoking cigarettes at 10:30 in the morning. I am gagging.

Aloha! Pick up convertible car rental. Oh my hair!

Arrive at The Turtle Bay Resort. Can I go to bed now? Please? Wake up 15 hours later.

Spend the week exploring the entire island of Oahu. Gorgeous! Another Mai Tai? Yes, thank you!

One week was not enough. Vow to return again someday.

Fly home to Detroit and move in with new husband’s former room mate in a 1 bedroom apartment for 3 weeks as we wait for new condo to be finished.

Move to new condo. Pose for photo shown above. This is the beginning of something wonderful!

Happy Anniversary to me and my very handsome husband!

Sunday, July 25, 2010


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As I said yesterday, decorating a teenage boy’s room is not easy!  It is still not done but I have to say steady progress is being made.  Although I have to admit, very slowly

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With the 98 degree temperatures, yesterday and today were spent indoors in the AC.  So while I was feeling a bit trapped in my house, I decided to to spend some of the time painting a canvas for my son’s wall.  Yesterday I posted a photo of the inspiration pillow I was going to use and explained how an empty black canvas was already hanging on his wall just waiting for someone to paint something on it.  The only problem was that he was still sleeping and probably would be for many more hours (you know teenage boys like to sleep) and I wanted to get to work!   I was brave and I quietly crept into his room and picked the empty black canvas off of his wall.  He did wake up for a few seconds…long enough to give me the Evil Eye… but not interested enough to ask me what I was doing and then drifted off again.  :)

This was a very easy project to do.  I used a canvas that was painted with some black craft paint.  I then took a yard stick and a pencil and I marked on the canvas where I wanted the vertical lines and circles to be.  I did one column at a time because I wanted to vary the sizes of my circles and I didn’t want it to look crowded. This way I could visually see where the next column should go after I had the first one drawn.   I also measured from the side edges for each vertical line and made a tic mark at the top and bottom of the canvas and then lined my yard stick up to both tic marks to that I was sure to get a straight line.

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I used drinking glasses to get the assorted circles that I needed and outlined either the top or bottom of the glass for perfect circles.  For the smallest circles, I traced around my craft paint bottles. 

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Then all I had to do was fill in the circles with paint.  I did two coats for all the circles except the green circles which needed an extra 3rd coat of paint.

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For the lines that thread through all of the circles I used a gray colored glaze paint that I had left over from another project.  It has a metallic and almost shimmery look to it. In the first few photos I only had a single gray thread running through the circles but when you look closely at the pillows they had two threads…so I added a 2nd thread.  It made a big difference I think and looks more like the pillows.

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In this shot I am trying to show the “pebble” like texture that his quilt has in it. 

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And here it is finally hanging on the wall. 

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My son says he likes it.  I think that’s code for he’s glad it’s done and I won’t be tip toeing into his room in the early morning to take empty canvas’ to be painted off of his walls. :)

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I still have some more work to do in here but at least the basics are taken care of.  And I am still considering re-painting it a darker color of gray but for right now it’s good. 

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Is decorating a room ever really done?  :)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Big, Black,Blank Canvas

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It’s not easy decorating a teenage boy’s bedroom.  Not easy at all!  A few months ago we painted our son’s room a very pale shade of a Benjamin More Gray.  It is actually lighter than I expected but I am still trying to work with it.  I am used to going with darker shades and wanted to lighten up this time around. But for now, the walls look good and are nice and clean and his room does have a masculine-ness about it.  But it has been a work in progress.  Last week I finally found a quilt and a comforter for his bed that we both liked.  And just yesterday, I just found these pillows at TJ Maxx that will match his room.  I am going to use the design on these pillows as inspiration for some artwork for the walls.  Right now I have a BIG, BLACK, BLANK Canvas hanging on his wall.  It looks kind of silly but I have been waiting for inspiration for what to do with it to hit.  I think it finally did. 

So, by posting this photo, I am committing myself to making something in the world of art happen in my son’s room today.  The only thing is, he’s still sleeping and I need that canvas to get started.  And if I wait for him to wake up…..which could be many hours from now…I am talking enthusiasm for the project might wane.  So I am going to bite the bullet, put my head down, and hope I don’t wake him up as I remove the BIG, BLACK, BLANK Canvas that is hanging so dangerously close to his bed.  I am going in!

We are truly melting down here in sunny NC.  It’s been in the high 90’s all week.  Yesterday it was 98 degrees.  Today and tomorrow more of the same.  The heat index was 109 degrees yesterday!  It’s brutal!  So, I’ll be indoors most of the day…AGAIN…so why not make some art?  I hope it’s post worthy when I finish!  I’ll get a batch of pickles done too while I am at it. :)  Stay cool wherever you are!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Caprese Salad for One

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My husband is in either Germany or Belgium tonight and I have nobody else to concern myself with for dinner this evening.  My son is off to another fast food establishment with his friends and his sister is still away at school.  So it’s just me.  And so  for dinner tonight I am having a Caprese Salad for One.  I picked up some gorgeous tomatoes at the Farmer’s Market yesterday (along with some more cucumbers to make another batch of pickles).  And I bought a ball of fresh mozzarella cheese.  I picked a few leaves off the basil plant off of my deck and sliced me up a salad. Some salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and another drizzle of the Black Cherry Balsamic Vinegar I picked up in Pinehurst as few weeks ago and I have myself one lovely dinner.  Add a glass of Trader Joe’s Petite Sirah and I am a happy girl! 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What Really Makes You Happy?


I started reading a delightful book today called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It chronicles the year in which the author documents her efforts to discover what really makes her happy. She thoroughly researched the topic of happiness and set happiness goals for her self that she deliberately put into action and then documented her resulting happiness levels. She also includes all the little bits of wisdom she learned along the way and I have to say that I found lots of wisdom here. The book breaks down her happiness quest month by month and encourages the reader to set about creating their own “Happiness Project” by encouraging each person to think about what uniquely makes them happy. I am so enjoying reading this and it has me thinking…

I feel as though I have been in the middle of my own happiness project without really knowing it. Last year I started this blog. It really does bring me much happiness! It lets me create and document things I am interested in and gives me a place to talk about them. And the best part I’ve learned is that there are a lot of other people out there that are interested in some of the same things I am.

I am trying to be more thoughtful about how I spend my time and trying to make sure that I am spending it in ways that truly make me happy. I’ve made a lot of changes. Some might be quick to say that I am having a midlife crisis. I don’t think so. It’s true that my kids are older and don’t need me as much but you know what…My kids are older and don’t need me as much!! I feel like so many doors are starting to open up because the things that use to occupy all my time and energy are no longer consuming me! This is a great time!

I am about half way through the book and my book reading has been diverted temporarily because I discovered that Gretchen Rubin also has a blog which is also called The Happiness Project. Yes! Another blog to add to my long list of favorites. :) So I am jumping back and forth between the two.

So how about you? Have you made any changes lately that have brought more happiness into your life? I’d love to hear about them. :)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

This Week’s Questions

1. If you had to choose a country to live in besides USA (or the country you live in), which would it be?

I would choose France.  I love all things French and took years of French in school.  Although, I can’t speak very well, I know enough to get by and I think I would actually become more fluent if I lived there and was forced to speak it all the time.  And the food there!  Wine and cheese.  Fresh bread, croissants, and pastries.  I think I could be very happy there.

2. Which would be worse, wearing flip flops in the snow or wearing gloves in the summer?

Flip flops in the snow would be worse.  I hate having cold feet!

3. Fried or Baked and why?

Baked.  And believe me, I have my choice of fried foods living here in the South.  But I actually do preferred baked things.  And I never fry food at home.

4. If you were an entertainment reporter, which celeb would you love to interview and why?

Sandra Bullock.  She’s had a crazy ride lately and I think she would be fun to talk to.  There would be lots of laughing I am sure.

5. What was your favorite book as a preteen/teenager?

I remember reading “The Thorn Birds” when I was in High School and loved it.  I thought it was epic!  I don’t remember what I liked reading in Jr. High although I loved going  to the Library. 

6. List your top 3 guilty pleasure television shows.

Real Housewives of New York City, The Soup, and Bethenny Getting Married.


7. What bumper sticker slogan best describes you/your attitude/your life?

I have it printed on the sidebar of my blog:  “Never do anything you wouldn’t want to explain to the paramedics.”

8. If you were to join a circus - what performer would you be?

I have never been to the Circus nor do I think I’ll ever go to the Circus.  And, I don’t feel like I am missing anything.  I’d probably be the cotton candy vendor. :)

These questions are part of Getting to Know You” over at MannLand 5.  Stop by to read more !

Friday, July 16, 2010

Mexican Pinwheels

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Our Bunco party last night was a success! The Cherry Firecrackers were also a big hit. We served Taco Salads and we purchased the large tortilla bowls that the restaurants serves the salads in from our local Mexican restaurant and while we were at it we purchase some of their salsa, guacamole, and chips. With a big platter of lettuce, grilled chicken that I marinated and grilled earlier in the day, and every possible Mexican salad topping, everyone was able to build their own amazing Taco Salad.

I also made a platter of the Mexican Pinwheels. These are not new but I haven’t had them or seen them at a party in years so I thought I would give them another go for our Bunco party. We did a Mexican theme and these fit right in. This time I thought I would try out some new tortilla flavors that Mission Tortilla Wraps has come out with. In the past I have always made these with plain white tortillas so this time I thought I would get more colorful and I used the Mission Tortillas in Spinach and their new flavor called Jalapeno Cheddar. Both are wonderful. Serve these with Salsa and guacamole if you have it. These were a big hit!

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Mexican Pinwheels

2 (8 oz.) packages of cream cheese (I use Neufchatel)

1 (1oz.) package Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix

Freshly cut chives ( I snipped mine very finely with kitchen scissors)

1 package flour tortillas (Mission Tortillas makes several colors and flavors)

1 4 oz. jar diced pimentos, drained and blotted dry with paper towels

1 4 oz. can diced green chilies, drained and blotted dry with paper towels

1 (2 1/4 oz. ) can sliced black olives, drained and blotted dry with paper towels.

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese


Mix cream cheese, ranch dressing mix and chives well. (I used my mixer.)

Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over the tortillas.

Sprinkle equal amount of remaining ingredients on top of the the tortillas and cream cheese mixture.

Roll up tortillas tightly.

Wrap with plastic wrap and chill a minimum of 2 hours before serving. Overnight is fine. They taste better!

Remove plastic wrap and cut rolls into equal pieces – discarding the ends.

Serve with salsa and enjoy!

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I am linking up to Foodie Friday over at Designs by Gollum. Great list recipes there today!

And be sure to stop by Whistlestop Cafe Cooking for their Friday Favorites feature today!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cherry Firecrackers

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I am co-hosting our Bunco group tomorrow night and we have decide to serve Cherry Firecrackers! I have “all of the fixin’s” as they like to say down here and I even made a demo drink this past weekend…you know to try them, road test them, and to make sure they were worthy of the Bunco Girls. And they are. They taste great, they are NOT too strong, they are pretty to look at, and have a high fun factor. The rims of the glasses are dipped in Cherry Pop Rocks candy. And they crackle and sizzle with every sip! I love this idea!

I got the idea a couple of weeks ago when I was reading Pink Martinis and Pearls and she had a recipe for a Boston Pops Cocktail just in time for the Fourth of July. The drink she posted had the glass rim frosted with the Pop Rocks Candy. Her drink is blue and calls for Blue Curacao. Click HERE to check our her recipe.

We decided we weren’t sure we wanted to drink “blue” drinks and because the only flavor Pop Rocks I could find was Cherry…we decided to go with this recipe instead.

Cherry Firecrackers

2 parts Cherry Vodka

1 part Amaretto

2 parts Cranberry Juice Cocktail

Cherry 7-Up or Sparkling Water (Pellegrino) or Club Soda

Pop Rocks Candy Crystals

You can make this drink by the pitcher which is what we are going to do.

For the pitcher size: the “parts” = cups.

For individual drinks: the “parts” = shots.

For an individual drink, fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the Cherry Vodka, the Amaretto, and the Cranberry juice and shake. Frost the rim of a martini glass by rubbing the edge with a wedge of lime, and then carefully dip into a plate of Pop Rocks candy. It will start to crackle and pop right away. Pour into a martini glass. Top it off with some Cherry 7-UP if you like your drinks sweet and if you don’t top it off with sparkling water or Club Soda. Garnish with a lime wheel.

It is not a good idea to frost the martini glasses with Pop Rocks in advance. As soon as the candy touches anything moist it start to activate. It is best to frost your glasses as you serve the drinks.

Tomorrow is the party. I can’t wait! I will let you know if these are a success or not. How could they not be???

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mini Red Peppers

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We stopped by the Farmers’ Market again today to get some fresh corn for dinner tonight.  We bought some from a Farmer who had backed his pick up truck into his space and was selling it right from the bed of his truck.  He said all of his corn was still growing in his field less than an hour ago.  And I believe him.  Can’t wait to taste it tonight.  I also found these mini peppers at another booth today.  I told the Farmer of these little gems that they were the cutest thing I’d seen all day.  He got a big grin on his face and told me this is the first year he’s grown them.  He said he saw the seeds in a catalog and thought he’d give them a try.  He told me they are really sweet tasting.  Each pepper is perfect.  They are firm, blemish free, and the color is just beautiful.  And they photograph well which I think is very important!

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Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

George V


In my mind I am going to Paris for the weekend.

I hope to dine in a wonderful Parisian restaurant with a view of the Eiffel Tower as gorgeous as this one.


I’ll be checking into the Four Seasons George V Hotel. Of course, money is no object.


This is the room I will be staying in.


I will take a nice hot bath to help me relax for a good nights sleep.


And I hope to have my breakfast in the courtyard in the morning.


I plan to have my lunch in a Paris street cafe.


And after spending the afternoon shopping on the Champs Elysees, I’ll be back in time for afternoon tea.


I will pick out the finest wine from the wine cellar to enjoy with my dinner.


I expect to dine in one of the hotel’s fine dining rooms.


And before I retire for the day, I will finish the evening off with a night cap. I have to get up early the next morning to catch my flight back to reality. :)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

How to Make Pickles

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It’s time to make the pickles. Every summer for the past few years I have been making pickles. These are fresh pickles that you keep in the refrigerator.

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I have tried several times to make canned pickles but we just never liked the soft and sometimes mushy texture you get from canning and although the idea of eating home made pickles in the middle of winter is very appealing, I never had any luck with them. Then I happened along a recipe that I tweaked a bit and created these “perfect for the summertime” Dill Pickle Chips.

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Making these pickles is very easy but it is a two day process. This is the recipe and method I have used and it works for me!

(Let me include this disclaimer: I am not an authority on the process of canning. Please consult the canning section of any good cook book or research the topic online. I am simply explaining how I make my pickles.)

On Day One I slice the cumbers and prepare them with salt to sit overnight in the refrigerator so that on Day Two I can prepare the brine and put them in the jars.

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I suggest making a small batch to start to see if you like them. But, I would be shocked if you didn’t! To begin, I start with between 17 and 20 small pickling size cucumbers. Some years I have great success growing my own but most of the time I pick them up at the Farmer’s Market. Fresh and firm cumbers work best and keep them refrigerated until you are ready to make them.

The Recipe:

Dill Pickle Chips

3 to 4 pounds of pickling cucumbers, 3 to 5 inches long (17 to 20)

1/2 cup Pickling or Kosher Salt

Ice Cubes

2 cups white vinegar

2 cups water

3 tablespoons sugar

dill weed, dill seed, black peppercorns, garlic cloves

Wash cucumbers well scrubbing gently to remove any spines. Remove both ends of cucumber and slice as thin as possible. Layer slice in a crock or a non-metal bowl, sprinkling the salt over each layer. Cover the cucumber slices with ice cubes. Cover and refrigerate overnight or 10 to 12 hours. Wash 4 pint size jars in hoot soapy water, rinse. Keep hot till needed and wash lids and bands.

In a large sauce pan or pot, combine vinegar, water, and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Drain cucumber slices and discard the brine. Place 1 peeled garlic clove in each jar. Pack the drained slices into 1 jar at a time. Add about 1/8 teaspoon of dill seed, dill weed, and black peppercorns to each jar. Add the boiling vinegar mixture to each jar to cover leaving approximately 1/4 inch head space in the jar. Release the trapped air. Wipe rim of the jar with a clean damp cloth. Attach lids and bands. Date the top of the jars with a permanent marker and store in the refrigerator for 6 to 8 weeks. Makes approximately 4 pints.

Day One: When you are ready to make the pickles, scrub them up in warm, soapy water and rinse really well. Set them to dry on a clean dish towel.

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With each cucumber, I make sure to take off both ends and discard. I also use a vegetable peeler to peel away any parts of the skin than have blemishes.

Use a sharp knife that you are comfortable using and slice into very thin “chips”.

Sprinkle the bottom of the bowl with Kosher Salt and then set a layer of cucumber chips on the bottom of the bowl. Then sprinkle the tops of that layer with the Kosher Salt. You will be salting each layer as you go so that the top side and the bottom side of each cucumber chip is “touching” salt as they rest in the bowl. I slice, layer and salt as I go. I prefer to hand slice all of my cucumbers. I used the Food Processor to slice my cucumbers once but I though they were too thick. I actually enjoy hand slicing them (very therapeutic) and I think this makes a “prettier” and more hand made looking pickle. And they honestly taste better!

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Your pickle chips should look like this when you are done.

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They will now need to be covered with ice and then set them in your refrigerator over night.

Day Two: Wash your canning jars in hot soapy water and rinse them well. It is always best to sterilize your jars to be safe. Six jars, rings, and lids should be enough…and most likely you will only end up using 4 for this small sized batch.

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After you clean your jars, take your bowl of cucumber chips out of the refrigerator and remove any ice that has not melted. Stir the chips around in the bowl of salty water. Do not rinse your cucumber chips. I use a canning funnel to place the cucumber chips into the clean jars. Using a slotted spoon or your impeccably clean hands, remove the chips from the brine and fill the jars to the top careful not to “pack” them in too tightly. Pickles 053

In a pot on the stove, mix together the vinegar, water, and sugar. Bring the mixture to a full boil and let boil for about 1 minute. Then turn off the heat.

While you are waiting for the brine to come to a boil, add approximately 1/8 of a teaspoon each of the black peppercorns, dill weed, and dill seed to each jar. Peel and cut about 4 cloves of garlic into 2 or 3 pieces and add two or 3 pieces of the garlic to each jar.

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After the brine has come to a boil, using the canning funnel, ladle the hot brine into each jar. Place a lid on top and securely fasten the rings to the jars. I like turn each jar upside down and gently shake to help distribute the garlic, pepper, and dill in the jars.

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Set on the counter to cool, write the date on the lid with a Sharpie pen and then place in the refrigerator.

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These pickles MUST be kept in the refrigerator. They will keep in the refrigerator for approximately 1 month but they usually do not last that long. :)

Little things I have learned along the way:

1. Canning jars work best. Last year I made them in small plastic containers which worked but they just were not the same.

2. Use Kosher or Pickling Salt. Do not use regular table salt.

3. Use a plastic or glass bowl. (Do not use a metal bowl.)

4. I just hold the box of Kosher Salt in my hand and shake directly from the box. The recipe calls for approximately 1/2 cup of Kosher Salt. You can pre-measure first and then sprinkle from your measuring cup if you like.

5. I have left the sliced cumbers/salt/ice mixture in the refrigerator for longer than overnight because I just couldn’t get to them and the batch turned out fine. The point is to let the cucumbers sit in the salt and cold temperatures long enough to do their magic.

6. Get yourself a canning funnel. It really helps make the job easier and neater. It’s safer too when it’s time to ladle the hot brine into the jars.

7. I have successfully doubled and tripled this recipe when I want to make a bigger batch.

8. People really love these pickles. I make and give them away to friends and neighbors. Kids especially really seem to love them and there are a few that I like to give their own personal jar.

I have somewhat of devoted following of pickle lovers who wait each year for their jar or two of pickles.

It’s kind of nice. I have fans. Pickle fans.

So in addition to responding to “Hey Cheese Lady”,

in the summertime, I also respond to “Hey Pickle Lady.” .

I have been called worse things. :)

I am linking this post up with Foodie Friday over at Designs by Gollum. So many new recipes available there. Stop by!