Monday, November 25, 2013

Festive Pine Cones

Have you ever wondered what you could do with all the leftover wax after you've burned votive candles and melted tarts.  For some reason I have always saved those little pieces.  It's not like they could be used again or even had any scent left, but I always felt like I was wasting the wax by throwing it away. One day I happened to mention this to my mother who then miraculously proceeded to pull out a zip lock bag full of candle pieces that she had been saving as well!  Crazy!
So what should we do with all this candle wax? How about melting it all down in one big pot and dipping pine cones!  A friend of mine was telling me that she and her girlfriend were going to be dipping pine cones to use as fire starters.  I loved this idea but since I don't have a fireplace or wood stove they could not be of any use to me.  But then I thought - why not just make them into pretty ornaments for Christmas.  So that's what I did. 

Start by separating your colors.  I did two batches - one red and one white. 

Put the wax pieces in a large coffee (or tomato) can. 

Use a double boiler to melt the wax. I used boiling water in my electric frying pan, but I saw online people put the cans right into boiling water on the stove.  *BE VERY CAREFUL* THE CAN WILL GET HOT!*

♥ To make your ornaments smell pretty you can add a few drops essential oil or cinnamon to the melted wax ♥

For pine cones I used this bag of craft pine cones that came from Michael's. 

Using tongs, dip each pine cone in the wax.  Put on a cookie sheet lined with foil to harden.  Once the wax has hardened, dip again.  Repeat the process a few times until you are happy with how they look.

*tip - dry them standing upright so all the wax doesn't run out *

After the last "dipping" sprinkle with glitter while the wax is still wet.  I dipped mine three times and could have probably done more but I was running out of wax.  I went heavy on the glitter though, so they look extra sparkly : )


The wax looks like snow on each layer of the pine cone.  I think they are so festive for the holiday season!
After they harden completely there are a number of things you can do with them.  I kept some as is and put them around my house.  This grouping is on a shelf in my entry way.  Hello...
With a hot glue gun and some ribbon you can make cute ornaments.  I took three little ones and made a cluster to hang. 
For the bigger ones I added a gift tag.  This would be darling to use on a package or just to hang on the tree.  They could even be used as a table place setting.  How cute would that be?

You can make a garland by hot gluing a line of them on a ribbon.
Or my favorite idea, just put them in a simple basket.  If you want to be extra fancy add a string of white lights and a big bow!
So that's how I decorate with pine cones.  The best part is that these guys can stay around all winter, not just for Christmas : )

The season has begun!  This Thursday is our American Thanksgiving.  I'm very excited because it's my favorite holiday. I'm making pies (apple & pumpkin) for desert.  I can hardly wait for turkey and stuffing! This day is all about Family, Friends, and Food! My three favorite things in the world! It also marks the kick-off of the Christmas season. This weekend we'll put up our tree and decorate the house.  My son is over the moon because he's getting his own little tree for his room this year ♥

Things are about to get busy and hectic, but I look forward to it every year! xo

PS This week I'm linking up with My Romantic Home for Show & Tell Friday....come and join us!


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Lemon Butter Cookies

Hello Friends! I'm currently in my favorite PJ's and eating a frozen Snickers bar (stolen from my son's Halloween stash and hidden in the back of the freezer : )  I went in the kitchen to make a cup of tea, and then I remembered what I had done....oh yes, the freezer! Seriously, I can't wait for this candy to be gone!  My lack of self control is so bad. ♥
Anyway, I am just back from my shopping weekend with my Mom.  We had so much fun together! I didn't get as many good "buys" and Christmas presents as I would have liked - but on the bright side I did get some cute goodies for ME and the house for the holiday season that I can't wait to show you.  I promised myself that I would wait for the day after Thanksgiving to start Christmas decorating, so it will have to wait until then. I'm in spirit though.  We listened to Christmas music the whole 3 hour drive it took to get there. 
I will share with you more details from our shopping trip soon, but now I would like to tell you about a delicious cookie that I made last week.  Lemon Butter Cookies.  I got the recipe from Susan Branch's new book A Fine Romance.
Have you read this book yet?  If you are a Susan Branch fan I'm sure you definitely have.  If you haven't please run to the book store right now and get a copy of this book.  It is truly charming, enchanting, and amazing! Yes, I am a fan ♥
A Fine Romance is Susan's diary as she and her honey Joe, traveled (via The Queen Mary 2) to England last May.  They spent weeks traveling the English country side, visiting places like the home of Jane Austin, Sissinghurst, the Emma Bridgewater Factory, and Beatrix Potter's home, which was a life long dream of hers.  She visited gardens, antique shops, pubs, cottages, castles, and country sides.  The book is hand written as all her books are and in between the stories she tucks in little tid-bits for us like what music to listen to while driving though the county (Frank Sinatra of course!) and how to have the perfect cup of English tea. She gives us recipes, travel tips, and the every day-to-day musings of renting a flat in England for two months.  She painted, wrote in this diary, baked, and took long walks in the morning while the birds were singing.  I loved this book so much that I read it as slowly as possible because I didn't want it to end.  
Here is a picture of the inside of the front cover.  Right away I knew this was my kind of book.  Susan is a romantic and begins the book with the story of how she and Joe met many years ago.  On their first date they talked about sailing to England one day, the old fashioned (and I think the most romantic) way - by boat.  And what a boat!  For their 25th anniversary they set sail aboard the Queen Mary 2 and crossed the Atlantic for a 2 month adventure. Just like Cary Grant and Debra Carr in An Affair to Remember, Susan and Joe stood on the deck overlooking the ocean, arm & arm, under the moonlight.  My heart is melting...
Once they arrived we were off! I say "we" because Susan takes us along every step of the way.  Through the beautiful walks along the green hedges of the country side, to the rainy, damp, days by a fire in a local pub, to visits to the most magnificent castles in the world.  Susan even went to Hever Castle, which is the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. It looks like a fairytale castle, and is steeped in history.  A place I would love to visit someday.

While in England Susan visited her good friend Rachel (visit her lovely blog here) and her husband Paul.  Susan and Rachel were once pen pals and over the years became the best of friends.  I love reading Susan's blog post when Rachel and Paul come to visit and vice-versa.  Their friendship is proof that kindred spirits will always find each other, no matter what distance lies between them ♥
Rachel is a baker and before Susan left, gave her some of these butter cookies to take with her.   You can find Rachel's recipe on page 139 of Susan's book. 


It's an easy batter to make.  I had all the ingredients on hand! Yay! ♥

You form the dough into two logs, refrigerate for an hour, then slice.

Sprinkle with sugar and bake.

They come out so yummy and tasty.  Lemon and buttery, with crispy edges and sugar on top!  : )

Here is the complete recipe as it reads on page 139:
Lemon Butter Cookies:
1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of one lemon
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup cornstarch
sugar crystals (for extra crunch, but optional)
Cream butter, sugar, vanilla, & zest until smooth.  Add dry ingredients until just incorporated.  Use wax paper to shape and roll dough into two 8 inch logs - about the width of a cookie. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or so.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Slice cookies about 1/4 inch thick. Put on ungreased cookie sheets.  Sprinkle them with sugar crystals (or roll the logs in sugar before cutting).  Bake 15 min until slightly golden.  Cool on waxed paper.  Makes about 40 cookies.  Can be rolled out and cut with cutters into teapot or heart shapes.  Just YUMMY with a special cornmeal crunch!  


Perfect with a cup of tea and a goooood book!  
This is my dream trip that I'm wishing will one day happen.  Susan gives me hope that if I keep dreaming it will come true ♥ I'll get there one day when the time is right.  (fingers crossed!)
Maybe on our 25th anniversary, just like S&J!

For now I will have to travel through her eyes.  I'll stay here, eating cookies, and enjoying the last days of Fall.  I can already feel the air changing a bit.  The colors are just about gone and soon it will be Winter.  The holiday rush is about upon us, but you would never know it by looking at this sunset.  Just beautiful.

Nothing seems to last too long around here, so we best enjoy it while we can! I know someone who is, that's for sure! xx


Have a wonderful day! And if you are looking for a good read, check out A Fine Romance
It is indeed! ♥♥♥

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Hot Apple Cider for One ♥

I'll never forget the first time I made my husband this hot apple cider.  It was a few years ago and I had just discovered how easy it was to prepare at home.  Literally just heat up cider, add a few spices, a splash of OJ, and a cinnamon stick. That's it. Up until then I had only gotten hot cider when we went apple picking or occasionally at a restaurant as treat.  It had never occurred to me that I could make it at home. It's so delicious on a cold, damp, Fall day. ♥
One Sunday Rob was watching a football game and I offered him some cider.  To my delight he said yes.  I prepared it for him and put it an a fancy mug with a cinnamon stick.  "Enjoy!" I said as I left the room.  A little while later when I came back to collect the cup I noticed the cinnamon stick was gone.... I asked how he liked the cider and he said it was really good, but he didn't care for the cookie! OMG - he ate the cinnamon stick!!! Has anyone ever eaten a cinnamon stick??? I didn't think it was possible???  When I told him that he wasn't supposed to actually EAT the cinnamon stick he said "good, because it tasted terrible".  True story ♥
Every Fall, as soon as the cider hits the market I buy it.  I love heating it at night, curling up on the couch with a cozy blanket, and sipping a big mug of it.  Last week I put some in a thermos and brought it to work. It was raining that day and the cider (and cinnamon) made my day so much better.  For me this is a Fall staple.  For some reason it only appeals to me in October & November. 
All I do is take a cup of cider (I measure it in the mug I'm going to drink it in first, then dump it into a little sauce pan) and heat it with a splash of OJ, a few dashes of cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg, and (of course) a cinnamon stick.  Let it come to a boil then shut off the heat.  Stir it up until all the spices absorb and carefully pour it back into the mug.  If you desire you could also add a little something "extra" like brandy or bourbon and turn it into a hot toddy.  This is really nice on coooold nights.  You will sleep like a baby ♥
I've been nursing a cold all week and this cider, along with my mom's chicken soup are the only things that are making me feel better.  Leftover Halloween candy is helping too : )
Earlier this week I was feeling crafty and started dipping pinecones in melted candle wax to make ornaments.  I'm all done except for hot gluing bows on top.  I had to stop because I got sick, but hopefully I'll finish them up this week and I'll post a DIY.  They came out really cute and are getting me into a holiday mood!
I can't believe it's already November.  Thanksgiving is three weeks away!  I just booked tickets for a Polar Express train ride in December and next weekend I'm going away overnight with my Mom on our annual "girls only/Christmas shopping/craft fair/Yankee Candle extravaganza".  Every November we go up to the Yankee Candle Village in Deerfield, MA.  It's about 3 hours from here.  We shop like crazy and then the next morning we go to a huge Christmas Craft Fair in Springfield, MA.  By the time we are through the car is jammed with presents and smells like a giant Christmas tree!  We drink tea, eat chocolate covered apples in the car, and tell funny stories.  We've been doing this for over 10 years and it's one of my favorite weekends of the year! (read about last year's trip here).  Have you started thinking about the holidays yet? It's not too soon, right?  
Hope you all are having a wonderful week.  Autumn is going by so fast....xo