Easy Holiday Craft with the Kiddos

Homemade Cinnamon Ornaments

Those of you who know me know I am not crafty, but I wanted to do a few homemade things with the boys for the holiday’s and I found this EXTREMELY easy and safe craft that they loved making – cinnamon Christmas ornaments.

What do you need you ask?  Simple – two big jars of inexpensive cinnamon (I used 2.37 oz. bottles) and applesauce.  That’s it.  Pour the cinnamon into a mixing bowl (I used a stand mixer) and spoon in a bit of the applesauce.  Turn the mixer on to the lowest setting (trust me on that one) and mix slowly.  Add a bit more applesauce until you achieve a doughy consistency.  Shape into a ball and roll out on a lightly floured surface.  Break out the cookie cutters and go to town.  Use a straw to add the hole for the ribbon.  Transfer to a cookie sheet and bake at 200 for a couple hours – oh, and added bonus, the house smells amazing while you’re doing this.

Christmas Cookie CuttersWe have a couple on the tree and we’ve given a few away as well.  They’re a great gift and conveniently sit very nicely on the neck of a bottle of wine :)

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

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The Annual Gift List… a.k.a. What I want…

This is my third annual gift list, or as I like to call it, ‘what I want’… I know, horrible title with consumerism and all, but you have to admit there’s nothing better than something special under the tree that is exactly what you wanted…  Santa can be a miracle worker when you give him a nudge!

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Loved this cute little napkin box from Mariposa with the rooster/chicken theme.  Perfect celebration of the new flock…

Daisies

NYBG.org Membership - I’ve made a vow to start visiting more gardens this year.  It was hard to find the time while my children we’re so young, and in regard to gift giving, I’m starting to believe in giving ‘experiences’.  It can be a lot more fun and then you don’t have to find someplace to store yet another object!

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Diptyque candles… I love these and add them to my list every year.  They have the greatest oils and my favorite is the Rose Geranium.

 

Placemat or tablecoth via NYBG and Oscar

Placemat or tablecloth via NYBG and Oscar

Something from the Oscar De La Renta collection at the NYBG.  Sad to have lost such an amazing gardener this year.

Last years Logee's order - peer closely to see the now defunct persimmon.

Last years Logee’s order – peer closely to see the now defunct persimmon.

A gift certificate to Logees so I can replace my persimmon that died in a late spring frost…

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This is a little cheesy and I can probably buy a bag of cement and do it myself but… a stepping stone kit that I can have my children decorate for me…

 

Regardless of what’s under the tree, I hope you have an amazing time with who’s around it!

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Lavender, honey, thyme sauce…

 

Cheers!

Cheers and Happy Cooking!


I would have sworn that I had posted this recipe before, but clearly I have not…  So here it is, Lavender, Honey, Thyme Sauce… I’m documenting it for my awesome Sister-in-Law who requested a copy (Hi Beth!)…

Lavender, honey, thyme sauce…

Ingredients

  • 1 Small Mild Onion (or a couple large shallots, chopped fine)
  • 1/3 cup Sherry Vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Honey (dissolved in warm water)
  • Handful Lavender Blossoms
  • 6 Sprigs Thyme
  • Butter
  • S & P

Directions

Saute the onion in a bit of butter.
Deglaze the pan with the sherry vinegar and allow it to bubble down a bit.
Pour in the honey/water mixture and add the lavender and thyme. Allow to simmer and steep.
Remove the stems.
Taste and correct the flavor for the acid and the sweet. Add the S & P to taste.

I generally serve this with duck breast because the acid cuts the fat beautifully.  It’s also great with chicken and game birds.  You can find lots of versions of this around the net too if you want to play with various flavors.  And if you decide to try it with the duck breast and haven’t cooked it before, here’s my advice…  Score the fatty side of the breast without cutting the meat, grill the breast outside on a wood fire, fat side down, and be certain to move the breast away from any live flame or coal.  It will probably catch on fire anyway since the fat pours out, but it’s worth a try! (honestly you’ll be fine as long as you watch it, the goal is to remove the most fat and get that smoke flavor in there)  Put the lid on your grill as well to ‘bake’ more fat out.

Hope you enjoy this recipe and have a great weekend everyone!

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Classic Christmas Decorations

Classic Christmas Decorations

When it comes to Christmas decorations, I’m a pretty classic girl.  Give me pine roping, homemade wreaths, some greens cut around the yard that you can use for arrangements inside and twinkling white lights.  It’s pretty, smells amazing and to me is what the holiday looks like.

It takes me a couple of days to put everything up, and I love to blast ‘classic’ Christmas carols a la Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Burl Ives and Louis Armstrong (try Christmas with the Rat Pack - it’s fabulous!).  It’s what I remember from childhood and what I hope to pass on to my children.  Scents and sounds seem to resonate longer as I grow older…

Classic Christmas Decorations

Classic Christmas Decorations

Classic Christmas Decorations

Classic Christmas Decorations

Classic Christmas Decorations

Classic Christmas Decorations

Classic Christmas Decorations

Classic Christmas Decorations

Classic Christmas Decorations

Classic Christmas Decorations

Classic Christmas Decorations

Classic Christmas Decorations

Classic Christmas Decorations

Classic Christmas Decorations

Classic Christmas Decorations

Classic Christmas Decorations

How do you decorate around the holidays?  Are you classic, country or glitzy?  Do you like reds and golds, blue and silver, pink and cream?  Or do you like to farm the entire operation out and have someone come in to decorate?  (I have a neighbor who brought someone in to do their lights – it looks like a landing strip)  Regardless of what you do, hope it’s a festive holiday season for you and your family!

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Witch Hazel

witch hazel in bloom

I had to share these photos – this is what witch hazel looks like in winter – and this is wild and blooming it’s head off on the side of the road….

witch hazel in bloom

witch hazel in bloom

I’m in New Jersey zone 6 a/b – isn’t it amazing?  And this is the beginning of December and we’ve had some crazy cold weather already.  Wouldn’t you love to have this or another cultivar doing it’s thing in what is otherwise an empty landscape???  And did I mention it’s also fragrant?  What’s not to love???

There are several nurseries that sell witch hazel.  You can find natives for sale and every variation in between, but I suggest if you want anything funky you order early, the good ones go fast…

And heres a link to a local NJ nursery that has some great cultivars for sale…

I’ve added a couple baby sized witch hazels to my landscape, but this stopped me in my tracks.  Absolutely stunning!  I can’t wait until mine are this size.  I hope you think about adding one to your winter landscape – nothing can equal it at this time of year…  Happy gardening!!!

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The Girls…

Thanksgiving prep is in full swing at the EG household, but I thought I’d post a couple photos of the girls in their run.  They’re adjusting nicely and seem to be quite happy…

The Girls...

The Girls...

The Girls...

The Girls...

Of course I was so worried about the cold, but we had a couple very warm days and I wound up worrying about the heat!  Crazy weather!  And our resident hawks have figured out that the Coop is officially occupied – they had been scouting the area for weeks for signs of life (and it’s amazing to me that they know) – but they don’t seem to be testing the wire and netting thankfully.

And my children are working on names since we’re finally able to tell them apart – so far we have Feathers, Pecker and Roadie (yes, I thought that one was hysterical for various reasons), anyone else have any thoughts???

Happy Gardening (or chicken keeping!) everyone!

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Chicken Sayings

 

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Having immersed myself of late in all things chickens, I’ve come to realize how many common sayings have become a part of our verbal culture that originally came from the ‘coop’, despite most people being several generations away from the farm.  So enjoy my brief list of all things verbally chicken…

Birds of a Feather Flock Together…

Ain’t nobody here but us chickens…

Hen party…

Hen house…

Mother hen…

Nest egg…

Empty Nester…

Hen pecked…

Flew the coop…

Scratching out a living…

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch…

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket …

Don’t spend the egg money before the hen lays the eggs…

Feather your nest …

Up with the chickens…

You’re chicken…

Chicken out…

Ruffled your feathers…

Something to crow about…

Stick your neck out…

Strutting your stuff…

Cocky…

You might not use all of them consistently, but I bet a few are in your personal phrase books…

And in case any of you are curious how my chicken adventure is progressing, they have just moved out of the house today and will be spending their first night down in the COOP.  I was terrified of the plummeting temps in the Northeast so I’ve kept them in the back bedroom longer than necessary.  Needless to say it’s a disaster and needs to be thoroughly cleaned but I’m fairly certain the Girls will be ok in their new home.  I’m going to use supplemental heating in the form of a ceramic reptile ‘bulb’ (I also purchased the exterior lamp to go with it which is suspended from the top of the coop).  Tested it and it works like a charm with little fire risk and no extra light so they can sleep (and hopefully I will as well).

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

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Drying Herbs

 

Drying Herbs

Do you preserve your herb garden by drying herbs?  I feel like most gardeners and cooks no longer bother.  I grew up with a Mom who always had trays of herbs drying on the dining room table (sometimes the oven too which I confess I set on fire more than one time when I flipped it on, forgetting there was a tray of celery or something in there…).  Even though I’m a huge fan of places like Penzeys, I have inherited her gene and like to dry my own whenever I can.

I try and focus on either what I use the most of throughout the season or if something is impossible to find in the store, like the Citrus Thyme in the photos above.

All you need to do is harvest, wash in lightly salted water (kills the critters), give them a run through the salad spinner to dry, and then spread them out on a cookie sheet that you then cover with a towel to keep the dust off.  It takes a couple of weeks for them to really dry, but it’s worth it for the freshness and the intense flavor.  This year I’ve concentrated on thyme, sage and celery leaf and should have enough to keep cooking through the winter.  I lost one rather large tray of celery when my husband flipped the oven on – I’d been trying to finish some thicker stalks at a very low temp but they sadly went up in smoke… C’est la vie I guess!

Drying Herbs

My second batch of celery…

I know many of you live in climates that are kind enough to plants that you probably have fresh herbs to work with all season, but I’d be curious who out there still preserves their own herbs, or am I the lone dinosaur???

***And we have our winners for the strawberry popcorn giveaway!  Congrats to all of you and I’ll be (or already have) contacting you for mailing addresses.  Hope you have as much success and fun growing these as I did.  Happy Gardening!

 

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Veterans Day 2014

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In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Thankyou to all who have served…

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Garden Benches

Garden BenchesAll gardeners are in love with the concept of a seat in the garden.  A garden bench will be situated in the perfect spot, with the perfect view, someplace to sit and ponder the wonders of your gardening talent and green thumb with a glass of wine or a cup of tea.

The truth is of course, that we might have the perfect seat in our gardens, but we rarely get to use it!  Regardless of that reality, I went shopping (meaning I pulled out my iPad and planted myself on the couch with a glass of wine) and found two perfect and fairly inexpensive benches.  The only drawback to these beauties is/was that they needed to be assembled and that required power tools.  I think any of you that know me realize that I should NOT be allowed to use power tools.  I soldiered on though and borrowed the Hubbies cordless drill.

Garden Benches

Garden Benches

Garden Benches

Garden Benches

I guessed how to assemble the first bench, not realizing that there we’re actually instructions on the back of the illustration.  Oops.  There were only a couple extra screws when I finished…  No big deal, right?…  I confess they we’re actually super easy to assemble.  By the time I realized there were instructions I felt like a pro.

I loved these benches when I saw them on-line.  They’re inexpensive (ish), solid wood and they have some nice details…

Garden Benches

Garden Benches

My supervisor…

Garden Benches

I picked them up at Grandin Road and they’re on sale now too (and no, I don’t receive anything from them for that plug)…  I’ve placed them both down in a spot where I can watch my children play,  though I think one will migrate over to the chicken coop soon so I can watch the action in that part of the garden.  I dare to dream!

Happy gardening everyone!

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