Friday, November 30, 2012

Making Chalkboards

Rustic Romance Chalkboards

Here is what I have been working on this week.  Chalkboards!  I have been re-purposing some old pictures with frames and freshening up the frames with some paint and then covering over the artwork with a couple of coats of chalkboard paint.  Let me show you some of the ugliness that lies beneath on the “Baby it’s cold outside” piece. :)

Yellow Chalkboard 003     Yellow Chalkboard 025

Quite the transformation if I do say so myself.  I also scored some amazingly old and in great shape Mason Jars that I am busy with.  I hope to have something to show you in the next few days on that front.  I am so happy the weekend is here!  I haven’t even started decorating the house yet for Christmas.  I am hoping to catch some seriously lacking Christmas spirit soon!  How about you?  Are you all decorated and ready for the holidays this year? 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

French Lavender Winter Comfort Pillows

  French Lavender Winter Warmers 026

It’s cold here!  The sun has been shining and there has been no rain or snow, but it’s COLD!  Especially at night.  So for the last few nights I have been heating up one of these awesome bags in the microwave and taking it to bed with me.  It warms up the sheets, my feet, and me as I drift off to sleep.    I first spotted these wonderful “Warming Bags” over at Spoonful of Sugar and have been plotting out how to make them over the past few weeks.    Here is a photo of her bags that so captured my attention.

I first fell in love with the Eiffel Tower Fabric they used and the tags they added for gift giving are very cute.  They made their bags using wheat.   They put together an excellent tutorial if you want to make some of your own.     Click here on Spoonful of Sugar” to see how they did it. 

For my bags  I decided to use white rice mixed with a little bit of French lavender instead of the wheat simply because I couldn’t find the kind of wheat they used and I already had the white rice and lavender on hand.   I wanted to make some these for gifts this year and of course wanted to try and find the Eiffel Tower fabric or get as close to it as I could so the first task was to locate some fabric.  I like to shop local when I can but Eiffel Tower fabric is in short supple around here so I found some online at and ordered a couple of yards.  It arrived on Wednesday and by Friday night I had five bags made.  

I changed the measurements only slightly for my bags and cut the fabric into 10” X 6” pieces.    With the printed sides facing each other I pinned the pieces together and sewed them together leaved about a 2 inch opening  so that I had a space to fill the bags.   Carefully turn the bags right side out and give them a quick pass with the iron.  I mixed the rice and lavender together in a large bowl careful not to add too much lavender.  You don’t want the scent to be too overpowering.  I used a funnel to fill the bags so that they were full but still loose enough to be able to “mush” it around if you know what I mean.  After filling the bags, I hand stitched them closed with tight little stiches to ensure the bags stayed nice and tightly closed. 

I am still working on making the gift giving tags with the instructions on how to heat them up.

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To enjoy your warming bags I would suggest that you heat it up for about 1 and 1/2 minutes in the microwave along with a small dish of water to ensure that your bag doesn’t dry out.  Also, heat in small intervals of time if you want it warmer after the initial first minute or so.    You do not want to burn or scorch the rice in your bags because if you do it will affect the way that they smell.  

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I gave one to my daughter Kelsey and last night both she and I cuddled up with our Comfort Pillows and watched The Family Stone movie last night before trotting off to bed with our re-heated bags. I love that movie. It’s on my list of favorite movies to watch during the holidays.    We watched Love Actually the night before (another favorite holiday movie that made my list!).

I can’t say enough good things about these delightful little pillows of comfort!  They really are a quick and easy project and I think they just make people happy.  Can’t ask for much more than that!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Apple Crumb Pie

 Apple Crumb Top Pie Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s Thanksgiving and the Detroit Lions are on the TV.  They are winning as of right now.  Come on Lions!  My handsome husband was just dispatched to the local grocery store for more Boursin cheese for the Boursin Stuffed Mushrooms that my daughter is making.  The mushrooms are so big that we have to double the recipe.  So off he goes on what I hope is the final grocery store run.

The house smells great because the Apple Crumb Top Pie just finished baking.  I made a Pumpkin Dessert Roll a couple of days ago and I looked up the recipe on my recipe index on my blog.  Re-reading the blog post  mentioned that I would later be posting the recipe for this Apple Crumb Pie.  Well, for some reason I never got around to it till now.

Here is the recipe.    I have to give credit where credit is due.  This is a Better Homes and Gardens recipe and I have been making it for years.  It’s delicious!

Apple Crumb Top Pie


1/2 15 ounce package rolled refrigerated unbaked piecrust (1 crust)

6 cups thinly sliced, peeled cooking apples (about 2-1/4 pounds)

1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

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Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Let piecrust stand at room temperature according to package directions. Unroll piecrust into a 9-inch pie plate. Ease piecrust into plate without stretching it.

Crimp edge as desired. Sprinkle apples with lemon juice.

In a large bowl, stir together sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add apple slices; gently toss until coated.

Transfer apple mixture to the piecrust-lined pie plate. 

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Crumb Topping


1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

3 tablespoons butter


1. In a medium bowl, stir together all-purpose flour and brown sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Sprinkle with Crumb Topping.

To prevent overbrowning, cover edge of pie with foil. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil. Bake for 20 minutes more or until apples are tender and filling is bubbly.

Cool on a wire rack. To serve warm, let pie cool at least 2 hours. Makes 8 servings.

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Can you smell that cinnamon apple pie aroma??

I am so grateful to all you who read my blog and take the time to leave comments.  I have met so many kind and wonderful people in this blogging world.   Thanks to you all for stopping by and I wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

French Dip Sandwiches

French Dip Sandwiches 003

Things are really busy in the cheese world right now so I have been working a lot.  Yesterday when I was working at one of my stores, a neighbor that I haven’t seen in a while stopped by the cheese case.   She picked up a piece of aged Provolone and naturally I just had to ask her what she was going to make with it.  She told me French Dip Sandwiches.  She told me that she just started making them and her whole family loves them.  Quick and easy and I am all over that!  She told me how she makes them and I made them for our dinner tonight to rave reviews.

Here’s how to make them.  This recipe made 3 very big sandwiches.  If you have more people to feed, increase the amount of roast beef that you buy and make sure you have extra cheese on hand.

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I picked up a jar of Superior Touch Better Than Bouillon Beef Base today at The Fresh Market and I have to say it made the most delicious au jus!  I would consider this a secret weapon ingredient, so if you can find it, buy it!

French Dip Sandwiches with Au Jus

1 lb.  roast beef from the deli, sliced thin

3 Sub sandwich rolls

6 pieces of Provolone cheese

Beef base or Lipton Beefy Onion Soup mix

I chopped up all of the meat and gently pulled the chopped pieces apart so that I had a loose pile of meat when I was done.   I then set it aside while I prepared the au jus according to the directions on the jar of the beef base.  I made two cups of au jus by mixing together 2 cups of water with 2 teaspoons of the beef base.  My friend who gave me the recipe said that she just makes the Lipton Beefy Onion Soup mix on her stove top and places all the chopped meat into the soup.  I added my soup base mixture to my crock pot and set it to low and added the meat to slow cook for a couple of hours because I had lots of time.  If you are pressed for time, by all means, just put the meat into the hot soup on your stove top.  (Also, my family does not like their meat rare and the deli meat I purchased was very pink.  That was taken care of by cooking in the hot au jus mixture.)

When it comes time to assemble the sandwiches, use tongs to get the meat out of the soup and place it on the sandwich rolls.  Top all the sandwiches with Provolone cheese.  I used two pieces off Provolone per sandwich.  I lined a baking sheet with foil and I toasted the sandwiches under the broiler for not quite 2 minutes until lightly toasted brown and the cheese was melted and bubbly.

Be careful not to burn them! Not quite 2 minutes and when I opened the oven the edges of my sandwiches were just starting to burn and the smoke detector went off!!

Pour the remaining au jus into small dipping bowls and serve alongside the sandwiches. 

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I am not kidding when I say these are delicious.  There are some things you can order in a restaurant that are very hard to make taste as good in your home kitchen and I used to consider a French Dip sandwich something that was better eaten out in a restaurant.  Boy was I wrong on this one!  These are as good if not better and I will be making these again very soon.  Too good not to share!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Chocolate Chunk Pretzel Cookies

Chocolate Chunk Pretzel Cookies 013

Mixing chocolate with something salty is a tasty combo!  I made a batch of these Chocolate Chunk with Pretzel cookies and they are GOOD!

Chocolate Chunk Pretzel Cookies

1 cup butter (2 sticks)

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

3 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 package of Nestle Chocolate Chunks ( chocolate chips are fine too.)

2 cups of pretzels, broken into small pieces

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Pre heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Beat the butter and sugars until creamy.  Add the eggs and vanilla extract.  Mix well.

Add the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Mix till incorporated with the butter mixture.   Stir in the chocolate chunks and the pretzel till well mixed. 

Drop the cookie dough onto a baking sheet and bake small cookies for 8 – 10 minutes.  Bake larger “jumbo” sized cookies for 15 minutes until just brown around the edges. 

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The cookie dough alone is enough reason to make a batch of these.  It’s almost, if not better than the finished product.  :)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Christmas Signs on Etsy

Candy Cane Company hand rolled by Santa's elves Christmas sign

I am starting to get into the holiday spirit and starting to look around for some new things to add to the decorations this year around our house.  I found a few Christmas signs on Etsy that I thought would help put you in the Christmas spirit!  You can click on any of the photos for a link to their Etsy site.    This first sign is From Patti’s Primitives.

Silver Blades primitive wood Christmas sign

This one is also from Patti’s Primatives…..

Liberty Sled Company primitive wood Christmas sign

And come to think of it, so is this one!!

Hand Painted Chalkboard Christmas Ornament Sign - 18x24 Unframed Chalkboard Art

What a cute look this one is.  A permanent chalkboard sign from Chalkboard House.

And finally, a very cute banner from Banner Bash. 

The decorating starts the day after Thanksgiving in our house.  How about yours?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Cookbooks, French Bookmarks, and Bee Hives

French Bookmarks 052

I’ve been in “crafting” mode for a short while now and I am going with it.  It strikes every now and then and I submerge myself in it and then it leaves.  I never know how long it will last or when it will return but for now I am riding the crafting wave!  Stamping is new to me.  I can see how people get hooked on it because there are so many cute stamps out there.  My favorites are the clear “Cling” stamps.    And when you are armed with a 40% or if you are lucky a 50% off coupon to any craft store, you can’t help yourself.  I get it!

I am still enamored with the set of French stamps that I used when I made the basket full of French Lavender Sachets.  My latest use for mes timbres fran├žais are these bookmarks.

They are easy to do.  I armed myself with a pack of 50 bookmarks from Hobby Lobby, a handheld hole punch, my set of stamps and a black ink pad, and some assorted ribbon.

French Bookmarks 053

The book marks need a tall stamp and so the Eiffel Tower was perfect.  I added a few more smaller stamps like the “Bonjour” the crown, and a Fleur de Lis  on the back.  I made some with a black ribbon to match the ink and a few were made with some old red and olive green ribbon that I had.

Threading the punch hole with the ribbon is easy.  Cut your ribbon about 4 or 5 inches long.  Fold it in half and push the folded part halfway through the hole.  Open up the fold and thread the ends of your ribbon through that hole and gently pull tight but be careful not to pull too hard so you don’t tear the bookmark.  If you use more than one color of ribbon, stack them on top of each other and thread them at the same time.

I planned on selling them over at Rustic Romance so I needed a way to display them.  A spray painted tin can to the rescue!  Some black spray paint, some burlap and ribbon scraps, a wood circle, a piece of twine, and cute price tag and voila!  A can of signets fran├žais, French bookmarks!

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Now I have to warn you to be careful with the ink.  Some of my bookmarks smeared.  I am definitely a novice stamper.  So on the few that smeared and were not perfect enough to be sold I just kept them for myself and already started to use them to mark up my two new cookbooks!  Ina Garten’s latest Barefoot Contessa  Foolproof does not disappoint and I also picked up The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman.  Love the book and her blog Smitten Kitchen

Cook Books 009

And because I am not one to miss a photo opportunity,  take a look at these salt and pepper shakers that I found recently in a thrift store.

The cutest bee hives ever!

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So on this sunny November Saturday, my plans are to make The Barefoot Contessa’s Winter Minestrone and Garlic Bruschetta on page 53 of her new cookbook and make more bookmarks.  That is, after I go do some reverse shopping.  Just a few things to take back.  Remember the old days when the stores used to fight you when you tried to take anything back?  I hated that!

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Can a Meat Loaf Be Called Gourmet?

Meat Loaf 004

We’re having the Blue Plate Special here at our house tonight.  I found this recipe a very long time ago in Bon Appetite magazine and it is VERY good.  Meat loaf was never on my list of favorite foods as a kid growing up.  I didn’t like the look of it, smell of it, or taste of it.  And then after I got married, my husband used to ask me every now and then to make meat loaf for dinner.  Well, finding a good recipe that didn’t call for ketchup, oatmeal, or crushed up saltine crackers was next to impossible.  And then one day I came across this recipe in Bon Appetite magazine and decided to give it a try.  The recipe was actually sent in by a reader. The magazine used to have a feature where readers could send in their favorite weekday recipes.   It was so delicious that I never had to feel guilty about not making my husband’s mother’s recipe again because he liked this one so much.  And I liked it too and that was saying a lot!

What makes this recipe different is that it calls for  chopped up green olives.  Yes, I said olives.  It also calls for Stove Top Stuffing mix, French Onion Soup mix,  and white wine.  (I have made it with red wine too and it’s just as delicious.)

I used to have to be sneaky when making it around my kids when they were little….if they saw that there were olives in it they would never have gone near it.  I also chopped up those olives so fine that they wouldn’t be able to detect them with their eyes.  Oh the things we have to do to get our kids to eat!    Anyway, this is truly a flavorful and delicious meat loaf.  I really should make it more often.  It’s been more than a year since I last made this.  And tonight, it really hit the spot!

Bon Appetite “Gourmet” Meat Loaf


1 lb. ground beef  ( I get the leanest I can find but go ahead and use what you like best.)

1 cup Stove Top Stuffing mix (buy the canister where you can make as much or a little as you want rather than the box.)

13 – 15 green olives, chopped fine.  (I buy the cheap ones in a jar that are stuffed with pimentos)

1 envelope Onion Soup mix.  (I like “Lipton” brand.)

1 large glove garlic, pressed

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup white wine  (Red wine is delicious in this too and gives it a heartier rich taste.)

3 Tablespoons dried parsley (optional)

Salt  (I don’t add salt because there is already a lot of salt in the stuffing mix, the olives, and the onion soup mix.  You can always add it later if needed.) 

Pepper (I add about 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. of ground black pepper.)


Place the ground beef in a large bowl and gently break it up with a fork.  Add in the Stove Top Stuffing mix, the Onion Soup mix, garlic, and the chopped olives.  Add the eggs and gently mix together.  Add the wine, parsley, salt and pepper and mix. 

(I once read that you should not “overwork” the ground meat in a meat loaf otherwise you get a dense and tougher meat loaf.  So, be gentle….easy does it!)

Once everything is mixed well, with your CLEAN hands, pat the mixture into a ball and shape it into a loaf and move it into your loaf pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. 

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Go ahead and go for the full “Blue Plate Special” experience and serve your gourmet meat loaf with mashed potatoes and gravy, and of course green peas.

And if you must, serve it with some ketchup, but keep it on the side.  :)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

New Burlap Thanksgiving Coasters

Burlap Coasters for Thanksgiving

Just a quick look at the new burlap coasters I made for Thanksgiving. 

I got the Give Thanks” stencil from Maison de Stencils and the I cut the turkey silhouette out myself with the stencil burning tool I purchased at Hobby Lobby. 

Now, time to start working on something new for Christmas!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sydney Hale Soy Candles

soy candle - GRAPEFRUIT and ORANGE

I just found these natural soy candles made by the Sydney Hale Co. in Virginia today.    You can also order their candles on EtsyThis candle is Grapefruit and Orange and I can’t wait to smell it in person!  They have another one I am thinking about ordering too with a Bergamot and Black Tea scent.  Decisions, decisions…

I love how a soy candle burns and no smoke. And I especially love the look of these candles. They silkscreen their jars to look like an apothecary jar and I for one, love the look!

Also, you can reuse the jars after the candle has finished burning. Oh, and they donate 10% of their profits to a local animal rescue organization. So you can feel good about that too.

Let’ the Christmas shopping begin!

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Jambalaya 019

There is something about being away from home, in our case a whole week, and being forced to eat out all of your meals in a restaurant that makes you appreciate being able to cook for yourself in your own kitchen!  After a week in Tampa and spending a fortune in restaurants, I have been happily cooking dinner (you can throw in some lunches and breakfasts too) every day since we got home.  Tonight I made Jambalaya with the leftover chicken that I roasted the night before.  Not sure how long this home cooking binge is going to last but it’s making my family happy!

This is a great recipe for using up leftovers but I have often picked up a rotisserie chicken for this recipe.  I also like to toss in leftover Ham that I usually keep in my freezer.  Grab a green or red pepper, some celery and onion along with some rice and chicken broth from the pantry and you are in business.    The original recipe calls for smoked sausage, which is delicious, but usually I use left over ham like I did tonight.



16 oz. smoked sausage cut into 1/4 inch slices   (I often use leftover cooked ham.)

2 celery ribs, diced

1 medium onion, diced

1 medium green bell pepper, diced (I have use red pepper before and it’s just as delicious.)

4 cups cooked chicken

1 (32oz) container chicken broth

1 1/4 cups uncooked long-grain rice

1 Tablespoon Cajun/Creole Seasoning (  I like Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning)

Fresh chopped parsley for garnish

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Tony Chachere’s will give you just the right amount of heat and that spicy cajun/creole flavor you are looking for.

Jambalaya 002     Jambalaya 004

I like to dice my onions, green peppers, and celery real fine…so that they cook nicely.

Jambalaya 007     Jambalaya 009

Stir in all the ingredients and then add the chicken broth.  Cover and let it do it’s thing!


Cook the  smoked sausage in  a Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes or until browned. 

Add celery, onion, and bell pepper, and saute 6 to 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender. 

Stir in chicken.  Add the chicken broth, the rice, and the Cajun/Creole Seasoning and stir together to mix it well.  Cover and reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes or until the rice is done and the liquid is absorbed.  Remove rom the heat and let stand 10 to 15 minutes before serving. 

Garnish with fresh chopped parley if desired. 

Makes 6 to 8 servings.