Falling for Mozart

So, let’s catch up. It’s been uneventful around here lately because I had surgery in January!  (I’ll talk about it more later, but yep, I had my gallbladder removed. I’m feeling great and it’s all good!)

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Valentine’s Day was actually my one month post-surgery date, and I’ve been filling that time with lots of rest and lots of Mozart in the Jungle. I think I watched the second season about three times all the way through…and then started all over again with the first season. Hey, these things happen when you have to stay in bed! I don’t think I’ve fallen for a television show this hard since Gilmore Girls. Oh, I know. It’s that serious. It plays with the blood.

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There’s also been cups and cups and cups of tea. I like a good strong tea, usually English Breakfast these days. SO. MUCH. TEA.

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Doing my nails has also been a simple pleasure, and I’ve been loving Sephora’s Formula X polish in Radical. It’s a really pretty lilac, very cheerful. Tulips also make me happy. Are we seeing a trend here? Cheerful! Happy! Caffeinated!!

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What have you been loving lately? What’s been making you feel good?

-Kate

 

 

Little Women

It was around Christmas a few years ago, when I had a different and short lived blog, that I originally posted about this beautiful 1869 first edition of Little Women. I am still in total shock that it sits on my bookshelf and I get to read it whenever I like.

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The first edition of Little Women was printed in two volumes (this is the second volume) and features illustrations by Louisa May’s sister, May Alcott, the real life inspiration for Amy March.  Maybe at some point I’ll find a match for her, but I think she’s pretty special on her own. (Yes, she.)

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So this is the last day of my mini blogmas! Have a very Merry Christmas and I’ll meet you again in the new year!! Happy Holidays!!!

-Kate

Vegan Orange Cake

I love love love to bake, and my favorite baking cookbook is Alice’s Tea Cup by Haley Fox and Lauren Fox. The recipes have never disappointed, and their Vegan Orange Cake is my current go-to cake. I like go-to’s. Tried and true is my style.

This isn’t really a Christmas cake, per se. I actually think of it as a four season cake, perfect year round. The flavor is bright and the texture is very moist. The orange glaze  poured over top pools in the serving dish, making it somewhat self-saucing dessert.  At least it does when I make it. (I usually make a little extra glaze. SO GOOD.)  I thought it was special enough to make for my grandma’s birthday in August, and it got good reviews from vegans and non-vegans alike.

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To make Alice’s Tea Cup’s Vegan Orange Cake, you’ll need:

For the cake:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups turbinado sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups orange juice

1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated orange zest

1/2 cup vegetable oil (I have substituted for 1/2 cup apple sauce before, slightly changes the texture of the cake, but still very moist!)

1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract (try my homemade stuff!)

For the orange glaze:

1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest

1/2 cup orange juice

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

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  1. To make the cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a deep 8-inch round nonstick cake pan with cooking spray, then line the bottom with parchment paper.  This batter is extremely sticky!
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the orange juice and zest, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Using a mixer or by hand, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until the batter is completely smooth.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean. Transfer the cake, still in the pan, to a wire rack to cool.
  5. When it is cool, carefully remove the cake from the pan and place it on a cake plate or stand.
  6. To make the orange glaze, whisk all the ingredients together in a medium bowl until the consistency is thick and smooth. Cover until ready to use.
  7. Slowly pour the orange glaze onto the center of the cake so that it spreads evenly across the top and down the sides, covering the cake in a yummy, gooey glaze. Let the cake stand for at least 30 minutes to give the glaze a chance to set.

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-Kate

 

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Welcome back! Last night was a bit dramatic…my dog Jethro and I spent a few impromptu hours at the vet for what turned out to be an upset tummy. (He’s totally back to normal now! Whew!)  So because I wasn’t able to post yesterday, there will be two posts tonight, both baking related!

First things first, I only just recently learned how to make vanilla extract from scratch and frankly, I was shocked to find out how easy it was. I also feel like I might be totally out of touch and everyone already knows how to do this haha. Either way, I’d thought I’d share.  It would make a great Christmas present for any foodie or cocktail lover.

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To make Homemade Vanilla Extract, you’ll need:

Alcohol of choice (I chose bourbon, knowing that the folks I’m giving it to are bourbon fans. Vodka, rum, brandy, etc would all work well.)

Vanilla bean pods (about 1 pod per jar)

Glass jar or bottle

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Start by splitting the vanilla bean pod lengthwise with a sharp knife, and then if necessary, cut horizontally to fit in jar or bottle. Add vanilla to container and pour over with alcohol.  Done and done! The pods should sit in the alcohol for at least two weeks before using. The flavor will mature over time, and most recipes I’ve read say that 6-8 weeks is ideal. Some may prefer to leave the pods in indefinitely. I think it’s just a matter of personal taste.

If you’re planning on gifting this vanilla extract, remember to put the bottling date on the label, so the recipient knows how long the pods have been soaking!

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Later tonight I’ll be sharing a holiday cake recipe! Vegan friendly! See you then!

-Kate

 

 

 

Edwardian Christmas Cards

Last night I had dinner with my sister, watched The Great Holiday Baking Show and promptly fell asleep. So, no Blogmas yesterday.  But that just means that you get two posts tomorrow! Madness!! Now then…

So, I love to go antiquing. My mom and I used to visit antique malls when I was little and I loved when something would stand out to her. Maybe her grandmother had the same dishes or she’d recognize a doll that her cousin used to play with. Stories would flow out of her and I made the connection very early on that this odd collection of stuff is a link to my own family history. It’s memory. It’s personal.  It’s for this reason I collect little things that feel special to me, like antique fashion prints, handmade lace and crocheted pieces, crazy quilt samples, old photographs and books, I could go on and on… It’s also probably why I’m now so enamored with history and material culture.

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There’s a great little antique mall a few minutes away from my house, called The Tomato Factory. (I wonder if it actually was a tomato factory at some point. There’s a building that’s been converted into condos across the street from it, called The Chocolate Factory. What’s up, Hopewell? Why all the factories? And can we please have that chocolate factory reopened?! I would be so on board to work there. That just has classic Lucy and Ethel shenanigans written all over it. “Speeeed it up a little!” WHAT ON EARTH WAS I TALKING ABOUT?!)

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Right, so I went to The Tomato Factory, which I was happy to see dotted with beautiful tinsel trees covered in vintage glass ornaments and Christmas cutouts and Edwardian post cards. These three had to come home with me. I think my favorite is the little lady peeking through the holly. She’s got an Evelyn Nesbit vibe. I’m into it.

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And it case you’re wondering, it was sent to Miss Helen Seasholtz of Danville, PA from her friend Minnie, wishing her a “Merry Xmas.” Postmarked 1906. (Sorry I read your mail, Helen.)

-Kate

 

 

 

 

 

My Go-To Hot Chocolate

Hello, hello! I was so pleased and totally surprised to see that so many people liked my Peppermint Sugar Body Scrub post yesterday! How fun! Thanks everyone! That made my day!

Now, a confession:  I am not the best holiday shopper. I try to finish finding gifts early in December and spend the month slowly wrapping boxes and watching Christmas movies at home…where it’s decidedly quiet. You know, where all is calm, all is bright? Well, I decided that I just HAD to buy a new pair of comfortable pants for my flight to England on Sunday and I just HAD to do it TONIGHT. In the middle of rush hour. *cringe*

I have to say, the shopping itself was enjoyable. I found the all important travel pants (*sisterhood not included), sampled perfumes at Sephora and spotted the mall Santa, so all in all, not bad! And then, I got back in the car… INSANITY!!! People were literally hanging out of their windows screaming at each other. Happy Holidays. The only thing to do was crank up my Spilled Milk podcast (the topic was pizza toppings), sniff my perfume sample (Nirvana White by Elizabeth and James) and repeat my mantra of the evening : WHEN I GET HOME, I’M MAKING HOT CHOCOLATE.

Because hot chocolate makes everything better.

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Hot chocolate is always fun to experiment with, isn’t it? There are so many different options! Peppermint, salted caramel, marshmallows, whipped cream, white hot chocolate, dark hot chocolate, mixes, syrups, powders, etc etc etc! My current go-to method of making hot chocolate is very simple but consistently satisfying.

To make my Go-To Hot Chocolate, you’ll need:

Almond milk or milk of your choice

Trader Joe’s Sipping Chocolate or dutch cocoa powder

Spiced Vanilla Bean Sugar (you can find it here).  This particular sugar blends vanilla, cinnamon, allspice, mace and cardamom. My guess is that you probably have most of these at home, so if you don’t want to buy the blend, just use what you’ve got and customize!

My ratio is usually 8 ounces almond milk to 2 teaspoons sipping chocolate and 1 teaspoon vanilla bean sugar. I like to cook my hot chocolate in a small pot on the stove. I’ve found that whisking the ingredients quickly as it warms up leaves a smoother texture and avoids lumps of cocoa floating to the top of the cup.

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Is that really even a recipe? Ha! I have no idea. But I’d love to hear how you prefer your hot chocolate! Please share in the comments! Give me some good ideas! Oh! Also, do you say hot chocolate or hot cocoa? Or dare I even suggest hocho?! Bleh. HOCHO. Either way, Happy Sipping!!

-Kate

 

 

 

 

 

Peppermint Sugar Body Scrub

What’s that you say? I haven’t posted on the blog since Halloween?! Well, I’m coming back with a BANG!  Starting tonight and wrapping up on Sunday December 20th, I’ll be sharing Christmas themed posts everyday! A mini Blogmas, if you will. Let’s get started!

In case you didn’t know, I’m actually part hobbit. I like to garden. I love snacks. (Elevensies, amiright?) And I hate to wear shoes. I love my big hobbit feet and I prefer to be barefoot more often than not. As my sister would say, “Shoes are tiny prisons.”  So in the winter, when I am forced to wear socks and boots, I like to use products that are refreshing for soles. I started making my own sugar scrubs about a year ago, mainly because I was spending a ton of money on the store bought stuff. (I could have been spending that money on baked goods! #priorities)

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To make my Peppermint Sugar Body Scrub, you’ll need:

2 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup olive oil

5 drops peppermint essential oil (or essential oil of your choosing. Or none at all! If you prefer a milder scent, try substituting a little lemon juice!)

Directions: Mix it up. That’s it. You’re done.

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The consistency should be less oily and more…scrubby. The measurements above yield about three 8-ounce canning jars of scrub. These jars make excellent gifts and stocking stuffers. (Make extra, you’ll want to keep some for yourself.) Considering you can find all the ingredients you need at the grocery store, I think the end product is rather luxurious! Enjoy!

-Kate

 

 

 

 

 

Trick-or-Treats

If Christmas is all about visions of sugar plums, then surely Halloween is all about visions of peanut butter cups. And apple cider donuts. And stroopwafel. Mmmm, stroopwafel.

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Sure, you could eat your candy out of a bowl, but wouldn’t it be more fun to eat off the table?!  (I’m a grown up! I do what I want!)  I think this would be such a fun (and quick!) set up for a post Trick-or-Treat nibble, or even an impromptu coffee-and-pumpkin-carve date with a few friends. Just scatter your treats down the table, and have at ‘em!

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Whatever your plans are for tonight, have a Happy Halloween!! Caw caw!!

-Kate

Wet Hot American Halloween

“Well, we’ve made it to the end of the summer in one piece, except for a few campers who are lepers.”

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Yes indeed! It’s Wet Hot American Summer’s camp director and friend to all…BETH!…complete with her beloved can of mixed vegetables. I’ve chosen to combine both First Day of Camp and original WHAS Beth, including pre and post mousse makeover. Obviously.

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“Mousse? As in… moose?”

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This might have been one of the easiest, yet most satisfying Halloween costumes I’ve ever made. And by made, I mean pulled from my closet, because Beth and I essentially have the same wardrobe. And may this be a reminder that it doesn’t matter if no one else understands your costume! Have fun, like what you like and be a total nerd. (Words to live by. I am very wise.)

Here are some of my favorite Beth moments, for your viewing pleasure:

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Now finish up them taters, I’m gonna go fondle my sweaters.

-Kate

Nevermore

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Spending some time with Edgar on Halloween week is always a good decision, no? This edition of Poe’s complete works was printed in 1902 and I think it’s hauntingly beautiful.

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Here’s some food for thought:  Are you a fan of the TV series Black Mirror? Watch the episode “Be Right Back” (Season 2, Episode 1. You can find it streaming on Netlfix.) and then reread “The Raven”. I wonder if the narrator would have taken the same opportunity with Lenore?! AMIRIGHT?!

-Kate