5 Things You Can Do Now for Thanksgiving

5 Things You Can Do Now for ThanksgivingI’m a little bit giddy about Thanksgiving this year, but not for reasons you might think. Yes, I’ll get to spend it in the company of friends, of people I love, and yes, there will be delicious things to nibble and drink, games to play, and fun to be had with some of my favorite faces. But this year, Thanksgiving, or Friendsgiving as it really is, is the first time in five years that I’m not responsible for the meal – and I’m pretty thrilled about it!

Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook for my friends, to feed them delicious treats, to decorate my home and make it super inviting, but it’s a lot of work that starts weeks in advance. This year, I only have to bring two vegetable side dishes, my best beau, some board games…and that’s it! That’s all that is required of me! I’m so excited to spend time enjoying my friends and being very present in the moment, as opposed to running back and forth to the kitchen like I normally do when hosting. I’ll be the girl on the couch with her feet up and a glass of rosé in her manicured hand – and I can’t wait!

5 Things You Can Do Now for Thanksgiving
But all of my years of hosting in the past have taught me a lot about how to have a beautiful Thanksgiving and what you can do days, even weeks, ahead in order to make the day itself less busy and more enjoyable. Let’s take a look at the 5 things you can do now for Thanksgiving!

1. Prepare your Lists
I’m no one if not someone who loves a list. And while it can get borderline neurotic any other time, if you’re hosting any big event or holiday gathering, organization is key. So get yourself situated early on by preparing your four main lists: guest list, menu, shopping list, and your day-of agenda.

  • Several weeks in advance, you should have a firm sense of who is attending the fête and what they’re bringing. Lock in folks on one item or another based on their strengths. Once you know that one person is responsible for wine and another for their famous pumpkin cheesecake, you’re well on your way to organizing your menu and filling in the gaps.
  • Having a menu in place early on should give you a sense of calm as the day gets closer because you know what’s ahead of you. Building in old reliables that you’re comfortable with executing and the rare new recipe or technique allows you the ability to foresee how to structure your time before and the day itself. You’ll know where you need to build in extra time for your first-time making a meringue-topped dessert for instance versus the mashed potatoes you whip up once a month, that feel like old hat.
  • Planning your menu in advance also allows you to buy responsibly. Thanksgiving – and all holidays – can be expensive for the person hosting. If you take time ahead of time to plan a potluck or to designate specific items or dishes to others, it can alleviate some of the financial strain. If you’re going it alone and intend on not asking your guests to bring anything, planning your menu in advance also gives you time to take stock of what you have already. You’ll know if you’re down to half a bag of confectioner’s sugar or have four pounds stacked up in the back of the pantry.
  • A little planning prevents overbuying as much as it helps you to not miss any key ingredients as you head to the store. Organize your shopping list based on the layout of the spot where you plan to do your shopping. You’ll move through your list faster this way and will be less likely to forget something integral. I always make sure to mark on my shopping list what I have a coupon for or what the sale/deal is so that I’m also certain I’m buying the specific item (the 10oz box versus the 12oz box) that is actually on sale.
  • A day-of agenda for executing the meal itself is where many folks would draw the line with list-making, but I promise you that it’s worth doing – especially if you’re new to planning or cooking a big meal for a crowd. Doing so will allow you to have a schedule to keep yourself to – one that has already considered that the stuffing can go in the oven at the same temperature as the sweet potatoes, but 20 minutes after. A day-of agenda also comes in handy once you’re ready to put all the food out to confirm you haven’t forgotten to warm something or put out the dinner rolls. Consider it a little blueprint to get you through the day.

5 Things You Can Do Now for Thanksgiving
2. Ready your serveware, your place settings, and your tools
A week or two before the event is the time to make sure you have everything you need in terms of your tools prior to the event. Take down your platters from the tops of your cupboards, pull out your box of extra wine glasses, dig through your utensil drawer and find the baster and meat thermometer, sharpen your knives. The worst thing is a stressful day before the holiday when you’re scrambling around trying to finish cooking and prepping and you still have to gather together all of the serving pieces you’re going to need the next day. Be good to yourself and take the time to plan so that on the night before, you can order a pizza, maybe trim some veggies, and take it easy. I like to gather all of my plates together, wash anything that got a little dusty during the year in the back of the closet, and then wrap everything in a clean, spare table cloth and keep them on an empty closet shelf.

5 Things You Can Do Now for Thanksgiving
3. Wash and press your linens
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I have a thing for cloth napkins. Do Bear and I use them every day? No, of course not. Laundry isn’t free, nor is it in our apartment, and we’re not jerks. That said, though, I love a cloth napkin when I’m entertaining people, so the week before, I figure out what my table is going to look like and what table cloth and napkins I’m going to use. You know what you don’t want to be doing the night before Thanksgiving? Laundry. Two hours of work weeks ahead of time will save you last-minute annoyance and anguish closer to the holiday. Of course, if you’re thinking of using paper napkins for your event, I say there’s no shame in that. Easy clean-up where you can get it is totally respectable in the face of cooking a huge meal. If linens aren’t where you think your precious time needs to be spent, I get it! No shame!

5 Things You Can Do Now for Thanksgiving
4. Plan your table decoration and layout
A beautiful table doesn’t have to be difficult, elaborate, or expensive. A simple bouquet of flowers separated into smaller, shorter bouquets with a few small tea light candles won’t put you back much and will make you and your guests feel truly special. Pinterest, of course, is a great source of inspiration, so I recommend browsing around in your very early planning stages and getting some ideas. Two things I like to keep in mind as I plan what I’ll have on my table: 1) It’s important for your guests to be able to see each other, so I tend to put together items that aren’t very tall. For Thanksgiving, think pumpkins, gourds, candles shaped like maple leaves, pine cones, etc. An arrangement that includes lower-profile items will be beautiful and won’t risk interfering with conversation. 2) Remember that you’re going to have other things on your table aside from your centerpiece. Be sure you allow room for everyone’s place setting, rogue drinks that make it to the table, extra serving dishes of sides if you’re not buffeting your meal, and elbows! Don’t sacrifice you or your guests’ comfort and ability to stretch out a bit for a really elaborate table design. The whole point of getting together is to enjoy your time together and that’s not possible if you’re getting pushed out by too many wicker turkeys.

5 Things You Can Do Now for Thanksgiving
5. Look to make-ahead dishes
After my first two years of cooking Thanksgiving, it took me about two to three days to fully recover from the amount of work and stress it was – and I was still in my 20s then! But all of that changed as I started to plan better and learned from experience that there were several key parts of the meal I could prepare ahead of time to save me such valuable time. The first? The gravy! Every Thanksgiving I’ve ever had includes this incredible gravy from the one and only Ina Garten. For me, there’s no turkey without this gravy. But you know what? Making gravy in the final moments before your meal goes to the table is hella stressful. It is the worst! So what do I do? I make my gravy two weeks ahead of time and keep it in my freezer. On the morning of Thanksgiving, I thaw it and warm it on the stove (or gasp! In the microwave!) right before we dig in. Sometimes it needs a little whisk or a quick buzz with the immersion blender to bring it fully together, but that’s nothing. Making the gravy in advance is such a time-saver and the result is piping hot, which is never the case when you’re whisking gravy together at the last minute. I make the gravy with drippings from a chicken I roast for dinner a few weeks prior and you’d never know that it didn’t start with a turkey. Take this tip and run with it, seriously!
Cranberry & Clementine Conserve
I also make my cranberry and clementine conserve weeks ahead of time and freeze it as well. For Thanksgiving prep, these containers are your best friends, allowing you to make several different pieces of your meal in advance, and strong enough to withstand the chill of your freezer for a few weeks. Last year, I even made my mashed potatoes a day or two prior (don’t freeze these – the texture will never be the same), smoothed them into a 9×13 pan, covered it tightly with foil, and about 40 minutes out from the meal, I put them oven covered and let them get nice and hot. They fluffed up beautifully as I added them to the serving bowl and there was no last minute mashing and whipping of potatoes either. If you plan a menu in advance, with the possibility of doing some of it ahead of time, you can really take a lot off your plate for the day-of, allowing you to do what you’re meant to: enjoy your friends and family and reflect on how to improve, or contribute more to, our various communities.

Whether you’re hosting your first big meal, bringing a pie, or staying home with take-out and Netflix, I wish you a wonderful, stress-free day of entertainment and one hell of a big piece of pumpkin pie. Enjoy, everyone!

Chocolate Cake with Burnt Oranges

Chocolate Cake with Burnt OrangesThis recipe is inspired by an old friend of my dad’s, Charlie, who used to visit us regularly for a weekend here and there when I was very small. While I’m not sure I could pick Charlie out of a line-up today if you put 6 elderly, white gentlemen in front of me with strong noses and spotted hands, my memories of time spent together are much clearer: Charlie quizzing me on my first grade vocabulary words and giving me a Tic-Tac for each one I managed to spell correctly. My father teasing him about his love for freshly grond black pepper noting that, “Charlie puts pepper on everything!” and me, my eyes wide, asking Charlie, “Even on apple pie?!” But most clearly, Charlie, coming through the door with an overnight bag in one hand and a paper bag in the other, filled with his wife, Charlene’s, chocolate cake with burnt oranges.

Chocolate Cake with Burnt OrangesCharlene’s cake was the perfect marriage of both their heritages – first generation Irish-Americans whose families lived on the same block in the Bronx growing up, making their courtship one that started in the 8th grade and lasted until they were both well into their 90s. While looking through old photographs on a visit home recently, I came across a photo from the ’70s of my young, stocky, mutton-chopped father sandwiched between Charlie and Charlene, a grocery bag at his feet with what I can only imagine is a chocolate cake with burnt oranges for him to carry home to my mother and me.

Chocolate Cake with Burnt OrangesChocolate cake with burnt oranges isn’t actually a “thing,” such as peanut butter and jelly or bagels and lox. In Ireland, burnt oranges are their own dessert, a sweet and bitter compote, spiked with whiskey, that caramelizes in the oven with butter and sugar and are then eaten, cooled, with cream or custard. Somewhere along the way, though, Charlene rather brilliantly decided to pair this golden-hued sauce with a dark chocolate cake and, well, she should be properly canonized for it. The oranges add the perfect bit of bitterness to offset the richness and sweetness from both the cake itself and the orange-caramel syrup produced by the oranges while roasting. Spooned over an already moist cake, the oranges and their amber juices turn the cake’s texture into one, almost, like a steamed pudding – soft and treacly.

Chocolate Cake with Burnt OrangesSadly, Charlene’s exact recipe is lost to history, as both she and Charlie passed on long ago, well beyond I became consciously interested in cooking and baking. I remember it enough to think, though, that this recipe is fairly close and, if my memory does fail me at all, well, this is awfully good too. What this recipe lacks in visual appeal (in addition to this weird set of half-cropped photos I’ve, somehow, managed here!), it makes up for in flavor – of which it has a lot! Share this with your favorite chocolate-orange lover or after your St. Patrick’s day dinner. With a swirl of whipped cream and a cup of tea or, better yet, an Irish coffee, this cake is sure to leave you returning for seconds.

Chocolate Cake with Burnt Oranges
Cake is Ina Garten’s recipe. Oranges adapted from here & here.

Ingredients
For the cake
Butter, for greasing the pans
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
Powdered sugar for garnish

For the burnt oranges
3 large navel oranges, scrubbed clean
7 tablespoons of butter, softened and separated
3-1/2 cups of granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1-1/2 tablespoons of Irish whiskey (brandy may also be substituted)
1/2 cup of orange juice, fresh-squeezed or bottled
1/8 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Directions
For the cake
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour one 10″ bundt pan and set aside.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl and blend by hand or on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With a hand blender on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. The batter will be very, very loose after the coffee – don’t fret! Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then turn it out onto a cooling rack and cool completely. Once cool, dust with powdered sugar.

For the burnt oranges
Preheat your oven to 450° F. Pour 1/2 cup of sugar onto a large plate. Next, smear the oranges with 6 tablespoons of the softened butter and roll them in the sugar, being sure to cover them as fully as possible. Pour the remaining 3 cups of sugar and whatever sugar remains on the plate into the bottom of an 8″ square cake pan and shake it gently to evenly distribute it over the bottom. Place the butter and sugar coated oranges into the pan and bake for 20 minutes; you may need to give the pan a little swirl halfway through to break up any unmelted sugar. After 20 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and transfer the oranges to a stable work surface where they can cool for 15 minutes. Do not turn your oven off, but do turn it down to 425° F. After the oranges have cooled enough where you can touch them, carefully cut each of them into quarters and place them skin side up back into the pan. Bake for another 15 minutes, or until the skins have browned.

Remove the oranges from the oven once more, but leave it on. Put oranges back on your work surface and in the hot pan, immediately add a tiny pinch of salt, the whiskey, and the orange juice. Return to oven for 10 minutes or until the liquid has become a bit thicker and is bubbling. In the meantime, remove the pulp from the oranges carefully avoiding any of the white pith, which will make your mixture very bitter. You only want to remove the flesh. After the liquid has thickened, remove from the oven (you can finally shut your oven off now), and add the vanilla and remaining tablespoon of butter. Stir in the orange pieces. Serve warm over slices of cake and add a dollop of homemade whipped cream.

No-Bake Double Blueberry Pie with Gingersnap Crust

No-Bake Blueberry Pie with Gingersnap CrustForgive my few weeks of absence, dear friends! I was off on a whirlwind of travel that brought me home to New Jersey to see family and then up to the North Shore of Minnesota for a cabin getaway. If you follow me on Instagram, you probably caught some of the photos. I’m back now and ready to take on summer with its bounty and its leisure in order to turn out some exciting content for you. Up first is this fantastic recipe from my grandmother, Hilda.

No-Bake Blueberry Pie with Gingersnap CrustIn the depths of summer, no one wants to turn on their oven, but almost everyone wants to still eat pie, right? The solution? No-bake fruit pies! They’re completely easy, homey, and taste just as delicious as their brethren who spend time baking in the oven. While blueberry is my personal favorite – and the one my grandmother makes for our family the most –  you could substitute peaches, strawberries, and combinations of all kinds of summer fruits in this. You may have to adapt the amount of fruit to switch it up, but play around and see; there’s no such thing as being grumpy over extra pie filling!

No-Bake Blueberry Pie with Gingersnap CrustWhile traditionally, I’ve made her no-bake blueberry pie in a standard, flaky pie crust, I noticed her original recipe called for a gingerbread crust, which somehow got lost over the years. Visiting family in New Jersey a few weeks ago, I came across a box of Anna’s Swedish Ginger Thins and thought, “Hey! Gingersnaps would work and would be even better than gingerbread!” And so it was.

No-Bake Blueberry Pie with Gingersnap CrustFor many of us, Anna’s are synonymous with Ikea because they’re sold there in such abundance. They’re thin and sweet with just the right amount of spicy ginger flavor and, you know what? They pair *so* deliciously with blueberries; cinnamon, ginger, and berries are natural friends. Of course, if you can’t find Anna’s, any gingersnap will do, just make sure you’re getting gingersnaps and not gingerbread, as I’m predicting the latter would be too soft and moist for this application. You want your cookies to be full of crunch and snap so that your crust holds up to the lusciousness of the berries and cream.

No-Bake Blueberry Pie with Gingersnap Crust

No-Bake Blueberry Pie with Gingersnap CrustThe filling comes together nice and quickly in this recipe and because you only cook one half of the berries, and then add in the remaining off the stove, the pie has the fantastic combination of textures from both the disintegrated, now jam-like, berries and the bright burst of ones just warmed through. It is so juicy, sweet and delicious and makes for a gorgeous, seasonal dessert.

No-Bake Blueberry Pie with Gingersnap Crust

No-Bake Blueberry Pie with Gingersnap CrustWhen the pie has cooled, I like to top it with a thick layer of fresh whipped cream, but ice cream, or even vanilla yogurt, will also do just fine. This is a great way to have dessert despite a summer swelter and make something that looks, and tastes, like a true labor of love.
No-Bake Blueberry Pie with Gingersnap Crust
No-Bake Double Blueberry Pie with Gingersnap Crust
Yields one 9″ pie

Ingredients
1-1/2 cups of gingersnap crumbs, about one 5.25oz box of Anna’s (you can also use 2 boxes of Anna’s and omit the graham entirely)
1/2 cup of graham cracker crumbs
1 stick of butter, melted
3 pints of blueberries, divided in half
1/2 cup of sugar
2 Tablespoons of cornstarch
2 Tablespoons of water
Pinch of salt

Directions
In a food processor, pulse gingersnaps until you have 1-1/2 cups of crumbs, set aside. Repeat with graham crackers until you have 1/2 cup. Melt one stick of butter in the microwave. In a bowl, combine both sets of crumbs and melted butter thoroughly. Pour mixture into a 9″ pie plate and, starting at the bottom, in the middle, begin pressing the crumbs into the pan to form the base and sides of the pie. Be sure to press crust into the bend between the base and the sides of the pan and then press the crumb up the sides. Place crust in refrigerator to firm up.

In a mixing bowl, add 1-1/2 pints of blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, water, and salt, and combine. Add fruit mixture to a 3-quart pot and heat mixture, stirring occasionally, until boiling. Once boiling, allow to do so for 2 minutes, stirring constantly now until it thickens some and many of the berries pop and split open. Remove from heat and immediately add in the remaining 1-1/2 pints of blueberries and stir together gently.

Remove pie crust from fridge and gently spoon in fruit mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator until completely cold and firm. Top with fresh whipped cream if desired.

DIY Vanity Trays

DIY Vanity TraysI track my femme roots these days back to my mother and grandmother who always worked within the confines of what they had – whatever shape and size of body, whatever financial means – to project confident, unwavering femininity. While make-up, jewelry, and perfumes do not, of course, make the femme, what I locate in them as femme-inine is the process and the pleasure, for my mother especially, that comes in adorning herself in heavy scents and lipsticks.

DIY Vanity TraysFor my grandmother, it’s the fun in assuming and identifying glamour in loud, fake jewelry (when she was younger) and the ability to stretch a dime without sacrificing her desired image. One of my favorite memories is of her showing me how to layer perfume on top of unscented lotion; the oils in the lotion hold on to fragrance longer, requiring one to use less, stretching the bottle further. We both still use that trick today.

DIY Vanity TraysIt’s no surprise then that as a little kid, the definition of fun was sitting at my mother’s vanity, or in front of my grandmother’s dresser, and admiring their things. Both kept neat, organized trays on top of their furniture where they lined up their favorite perfumes, lipsticks, and various pieces of jewelry. When I thought they weren’t looking, I would slide rings on to every finger, dig through earrings to find the shiniest clip-ons and spray myself up and down with various scents. You could smell me coming a mile away, but even if that hadn’t been the case, the jig was up when I broke out in a case of hives from too much Chanel no. 5.

DIY Vanity TraysMore or less a grown-up now myself, I also love a vanity tray and after changing some colors and patterns in my bedroom recently, wanted something bold, but pretty to keep my own everyday baubles arranged and accessible. When I saw these pastel hexagonal trays at Target in the dollar section, I knew I could use them in a variety of ways, but the vanity trays were first on my list.

With a little paint, scrapbook paper (which was also in the Target $1 bin!), and sealant, these trays are instantly upgraded to elegant, modern places to keep trinkets, keys, or even to hang on a wall as art. For me, they’re just the spot to keep my favorite perfumes, my current nail color, and my jewelry of the moment. Having a landing spot for these things helps keep mess contained and also from having tiny earrings roll away never to be seen again (…she says, having just lost a new earring last month in this exact fashion).

DIY Vanity TraysThese are a cute and creative DIY Mother’s Day gift, but also serve well as a small treat for just about anyone – who doesn’t need a spot to drop keys or spare change? For those of you heading into wedding season, what a cute little gift for a bestie or friend who is recently engaged or married as a new place to put their rings, as well. The ways to gift these are about as limitless in number as the ways to decorate them.

DIY Vanity Trays

Supplies:
Plastic hexagonal tray from Target’s Dollar Spot (or any other plastic tray or shallow vessel will do)
Scrapbook paper
Scissors
Pencil
Metallic gold acrylic paint
Mod Podge Gloss
2 Foam paint brushes

Directions:
Place the hexagonal tray on top of a piece of scrapbook paper and trace the outline of its base onto the backside of the paper. Carefully cut out the outline with scissors and set aside.

On a work surface, paint the tray with the metallic gold paint using one of the foam brushes. Apply one coat to all sides of the tray, as well as the interior. I did not paint the bottoms, but you certainly can if you’d like. Allow this first coat to dry and then assess if you will need a second and even, possibly, a third. After each coat, allow the paint to dry completely before applying another.

When the tray has received it’s last coat of paint and is completely dry, apply a thin coat of Mod Podge to the interior base of the tray and place your cut piece of scrapbook paper on top of it. Press down from the center and smooth out the paper working outwards. If bubbles develop under the paper, simply press them out to the edges and release them. Once the paper is in place and no bubbles remain, apply a thin coat of Mod Podge to the top surface of the paper, as well as to the sides you’ve painted. When it has dried, consider applying one final thin coat of Mod Podge to the paper if needed and allow to dry completely. When the Mod Podge has hardened to a glossy shine and is no longer tacky or wet to the touch, your trays are ready to use.

Two notes: Applying too thick of a layer of Mod Podge at any point will result in a tacky feel to the tray, so keep your layers thin to avoid this. If while pushing out air bubbles you accidentally cause a small tear in the paper, don’t despair! Cut a small piece of scrapbook paper to fit over the hole (just cut to the size of the tear, nothing much bigger), lightly brush the back with Mod Podge and adhere it to the spot. Once it has some time to dry, go over the patch with another thin coat of Mod Podge and it should blend in perfectly.

Upcycled Bathroom Jars

Upcycled Bathroom JarsI don’t know how other bloggers do it where they push out exciting, creative content several days a week, sometimes, more than once a day. Even with some patched together work schedule that doesn’t fully resemble “full-time” yet, I still require a few days to get one project and post together. Part of the reason belongs to the great Minnesota winter that provides only a small amount of daylight, and even less time shining through my kitchen and living room windows. Which means that if there are beautiful pictures to take, it has to happen between 11am and 2pm or it’s a total disservice to the efforts of the recipe or the project. Indoor light is not a photograph’s friend.

Needless to say, this is a tight window to work within and a really strict schedule to try and keep. I’m saving up for a digital fluorescent lamp that will allow me to shoot photos even as the outside light grows dim, but until then, I’m working with what I’ve got: big clean windows, shade from an overgrown oak tree in my neighbor’s yard, sunshine peeking through from the Northwest, and foot-upon-foot of bright white snow that acts as a natural reflector of what sunlight there is. I’ll get by.

Upcycled Bathroom JarsSometimes, I’ll start a project, like these simple, upcycled jars for my bathroom, and before I know it, dinner is being prepped, or planning for tomorrow’s lecture gets underway, and before I can snap a photo and fill you all in on what I’ve made, they get put into use – worked into the day-to-day life that’s happening here. I put these jars together in October or so, fresh off the renovation madness, to fill the new shelving in my bathroom and find a home for small items like cotton swabs, bobby pins, and hair elastics.

Upcycled Bathroom JarsI tend to hoard uniquely shaped glass jars for when I make a vinaigrette or want to send a visitor home with a special treat, so these cute ones were already tucked into my cupboard awaiting a facelift and, in no time, flat they were oh-so-simply transformed into colorful, functional bathroom storage! In some ways, it feels like putting a tutorial together for these is insulting, as all they required was a little paint and a little glue, but for the easily daunted among us, I’ll post one below. I think of these jars as less a formal craft and more of a quick attempt of making something beautiful, functional, and inexpensive out of nothing. Even something as ordinary and uninspired as a pickle jar! More things in life should be this satisfying and quaint.

Upcycled Bathroom Jars
Upcycled Bathroom
Jars
Note: While these jars have knobs on them, their purpose is more decorative than functional, i.e. I glued mine on. I open the jars with a regular twist on the rim of the lid. If you want to use the knobs as intended, a drill & a screwdriver will get you there nearly as quickly.

Supplies:
Various glass jars with the matching lids
Small drawer knobs (I used these cheapies from Ikea)
Acrylic paint of your choice
Paint brush
Hot glue or another strong, bonding glue
Dish soap
Water
Fork, as needed
Sponge with a rough, scrubby side

Directions:
Fill your sink with hot soapy water and submerge jars and lids. If jars have a label, use a fork to carefully pierce the label in several spots before adding the jar to the water. Jars that have held strong-smelling foods, such as pickles, roasted red peppers, etc., may need an extra bit of soap swished around inside them, as well as rubbed into the inside of the lids, or just a second soak altogether. Allow the jars to soak for about an hour, peeling off any labels that will budge after a half hour, and using a sponge to remove all glue residue after the 60 minutes has passed. If the glue is giving you a hard time, you can soak the jar problem-side down in a few inches of hot water, dish soap, and a few tablespoons of white vinegar. Another option is to try rubbing any kind of regular kitchen oil onto the glue and then buffing it off with a rag. If you use the latter technique, be certain you re-wash your jars and allow them to dry again before proceeding.

After your jars are clean and dry, apply a layer of acrylic paint to your jar lids and allow to dry. Repeat for 3 coats or until desired color is achieved. Allow the lids to dry completely, then apply a small bead of hot glue to the middle of the jar and press and hold your drawer knob on to the lid until it is secured. Allow to dry and cool. Fill jars with your desired contents and affix the associated lids. For added charm, apply a strip of washi tape across the center of the lid, or on the front of the jar, to serve as an easy, breezy label. This works best for jars not intended for the humid environment of the bathroom.

‘Hibernate With Me’ Pillowcases

Hibernate With Me Pillow TutorialValentine’s Day is upon us once again, which means many of us are searching for a creative way to make someone we love feel special on February 14th and, really, all days of the year. While I can’t imagine anyone turning their nose up to any kind of candy or flower, a homemade project is a safe bet in getting your point across that you’ve got ALL.THE.FEELS. for your loved one. More than making something adorable or pretty that I know my sweetheart or dearest friend will appreciate, I’m all about also making sure that item is useful. No one needs an extra something – no matter how whimsical – to sit on a desk collecting dust, am I right?

Last year, I jumped on the ever-popular bandwagon of making long distance love mugs with Sharpies for two of my beloved friends on opposite coasts. They were a huge hit and inspired copious selfies drinking coffee out of our coordinated drinkware sent to each other via text. This year, I wanted to make something that was more romantically inspired; something you could gift to your boo(s), or the sweet thing you’re out to woo. Being that Bear is the apple of my eye, I started brainstorming ideas from there and eventually got to here with these ‘Hibernate With Me!’ pillowcases. These might look tricky to the less tech-savvy among us, but fear not! I’ve taken all of the work out of this for you and hooked you up with each and every one of the images you will need to re-create these beauties. All you need to do is download them, hit “print” on your printer and do some light ironing. Full deets to follow below!

First things first, it’s a miracle I even came up with a concept so adorable – “Hibernate With Me?” Come on! That’s so cute! I am *the worst* at coming up with slogans or catch phrases for things. If you knew how many ideas I went through before I named this blog, you’d pat me on the head a few times in second-hand embarrassment. I must have had the right amount of orange juice the morning I remembered that bears, in fact, hibernate – not to mention that ‘hibernating’ with a sweet someone is something most people want out of their Valentine’s Day! – in order to come to this, but when I did, I knew it had staying power.

Hibernate With Me Pillow Tutorial
I decided to use this idea on pillowcases for a few reasons, but mainly the first two that come to mind: 1) they suggest bedroom time with your sweetheart and 2) they’re an inexpensive option as opposed to creating a set of throw pillows. Maybe that last point is gauche when it comes to creating a gift, but I’m a thrifty girl who likes to keep an eye on her spending and DIY pillowcases make for an adorable, affordable choice. After considering a few options, like painting the lettering or using those fuzzy sew-on letters, I decided to look into the option of iron-on transfers and found that Avery makes some pretty highly regarded transfers that you can run right through your printer.

We live in the future.

Once I knew how I was going to execute this project, I focused on finding an image to accompany it. I wound up free-handing this one based on some examples I saw online and then, wanting to keep with a bright, cheery look, chose a simple red polka dot pattern to fill the bears with. My last decision was selecting a font in a trifecta of valentine-themed colors to really make things pop. After flipping the images horizontally in Photoshop (you have to print their mirror images so that when you iron on the transfer it reads correctly from left to right), it was an easy print on my standard inkjet, and then just a matter of cutting out the pieces and aligning them accordingly onto the pillow cases before hitting them with the iron.

A little bit of patience is needed for these. You’ll want to use a ruler and be deliberate in checking that you have the images centered and equal on each case so that when they’re side-by-side they read as a set. The arrangement and the measuring is, in all honesty, the most time-consuming part of the whole process and that’s pretty much 10 minutes if you’re being extra careful. Follow the instructions that come along with the transfers for the best results; I had only one spot where one of my letters didn’t fully adhere and I just gave it some more heat and pressure before it set perfectly.

Hibernate With Me Pillow TutorialCan’t you just imagine throwing open the bedroom door for your valentine to these propped up on your bed? It’s ok if you have to fan yourself thinking of the reaction it might cause. These pillowcases are sure to make anyone see hearts…just ask our meow, Ollie. He’s totally ready to hibernate. Like, anytime, all the time.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

‘Hibernate With Me’ Pillowcases
Supplies:
2 standard white pillowcases (100% cotton is best for the transfers)
1 package of Avery Light Fabric Transfers for Inkjet Printers (#03271)
Inkjet Printer with black & colored ink cartridges
Scissors
Iron
Ruler
Hibernating bear & text images, downloaded

Directions:
Read the instructions that come with the fabric transfers very carefully. Set iron to highest cotton setting and turn off steam feature. Allow to warm up for at least 5 minutes. After downloading the bear & text images, do a print preview of the images to make sure they’re scaled to the page and then print them according to the directions from Avery and set aside. You should print two bears that face left, two that face right, and one copy of each text image. You will notice that two text images are written backwards. This is correct. You need to print the text as a mirror image in order to have it read correctly when transferred.

Iron pillowcases lightly to rid of wrinkles and allow to cool. Cut out the bears and text images. Because of the size of the printer paper (8-1/2″ x 11″), you will need to cut the “Hibernate” out in two halves – hiber & nate – and align and affix together on the pillowcase. You will need to do the same with aligning the “With Me!” I chose to cut out the entire words and not each individual letter so that I didn’t have to worry about aligning all of the letters individually.

Work on one pillowcase at a time. Find the center of your pillowcase and arrange the bears as you see fit. Again, following the instructions from Avery, apply the heat and pressure of the iron to affix the bear transfers. Allow to cool as you measure and align the “Hibernate” above. It may help to keep a note to yourself with how many inches in from the edges the bears are, how many inches are between the top of the bear and the bottom of the word, etc., so that you can easily apply these same measurements to the other case. Once your “Hibernate” is aligned, apply the heat and pressure of the iron and then allow to cool. Replicate this process with the second pillow case. Allow both cases to cool before use. Wash inside out and on delicate or by hand for longevity.

A Femme Fraîche Original: Free Mother’s Day Printable Image!

If you haven’t yet figured out that sentimental something to give your mom this Mother’s Day – Pssst! It’s this Sunday, May 12th! – I’ve got you covered! Download and print the lovely, little above image that I handmade in honor of the day and gift it however you choose. I’m giving this to my own mom as a framed piece; I printed it on some 5-inch by 7-inch matte photo paper, put it in a pretty little cherry wood frame, and sent it straight to New Jersey with my DIY garden markers for the occasion. But you could also turn this into a card or even your mom’s desktop wallpaper!

For me, the message of “Home is where your mom is,” is resoundingly true. I may have my own home, the one I’ve made for myself, the one I share with Bear, but my sense of “home” – what that feels like to me, what it is – has been cultivated almost single-handedly by my mom (also known as the gorgeous lady in the above photo holding onto a miniature me). So much so, in fact, that the concept of “home” and “mom” feel inextricably linked for me, even when my physical home doesn’t still include her. This message seemed the perfect way to articulate that the truest sense I have of what “home” is, always includes her influence and her presence. If I can’t be with her to celebrate the day, at least I can remind her of these things from afar.

On an end note, I also want to just say that Mother’s Day can be hard. I know that not everyone has a good relationship with their mom, or one at all, and that not everyone has a mom to begin with, or a mother who is living, or, frankly, feels better off without theirs. That’s real stuff and I get it; Father’s Day for me is intense for some of these same reasons. Holidays that focus on family, that reinstate specific gender roles, traditions, sets of “values,” and that favor heteronormative unions and familial structures make days like this Sunday sad and complicated for a lot of people. So, whether you’re celebrating this weekend or not, or if you’re a mom or not, I hope that, either way, your weekend is lovely and spent surrounded by sunshine, the people that make you feel best, and the beauty of spring having sprung.

DIY Garden Markers

Let’s pretend it’s for real spring. Like, the kind of spring that blows in with warm days and cool nights, that lasts a few weeks before the temperatures really rise and the humidity of summer is upon us. Let’s pretend the 70-degree days of just this past weekend hung around, that it didn’t drop 40 degrees overnight, and that I didn’t, prematurely, put away the down comforter. Let’s pretend that I was able to spend part of the day outside today turning over my small gardening plot in the side yard, laying down new ground cover, and bringing home my plants from the store. Let’s pretend that it didn’t, instead, flurry this afternoon, forcing me to drag my slippers back out and abandon my pitcher of iced tea in the fridge for the hotter, steamier variety.

Sigh. Let’s just pretend.

You see, I wanted to take photos of these adorable DIY garden markers among the beautiful, green, thriving plants of a garden, but Midwestern weather and I are having a bit of a tiff right now, so that’s not yet possible. For some of you, it may have already happened, while for others of us it feels like a distant dream, but whenever your vegetable garden is planted, consider brightening it up a bit with this simple craft, no? Most of the items needed are available from your local dollar store and the rest, which can be found at a craft store, or even Amazon, will only run you a few dollars more.

The best part about these, aside from being really cute and totally unique, is that a few thick coats of Mod Podge make them washable and able to stand the test of time by not peeling or chipping. They’ll last for years to come, fairly safe from the elements (I can’t yet promise that they won’t fade), which also makes them a really wonderful gift! Did someone say, Mother’s Day?

I just labeled my set with a marker and some cute handwriting, but I can see using a fancy paper cutter, like a Silhouette or a Cricut (oh, how I yearn for one or the other!) to create more elegant lettering, should you have access to one. Depending on fonts, colors, and pattern of paper, the sky is really the limit in how you customize these for your own. Charlotte made the green ones below to match her manicure. How femme is that?!

Since it seems I still have a few weeks to go in prepping my summer garden, I’ll be sending this batch to my mother and grandmother in hopes my good deeds will have me rewarded with some sunshine and warmth. Hopefully, they’re up for the task of growing more than tomatoes and basil this year! What’s on your list to grow this summer?

DIY Garden Markers
Supplies:
Wooden spoons
Acrylic craft paints
Foam brushes
Paper plates for your paint palette
1 piece of scrap paper for the label’s pattern
Craft glue
Mod Podge, original
Scrapbook paper
Scissors
Sharpie marker

Use the outline of a wet spoon on scrap paper to create a pattern for your labels.

Directions:
To create your DIY Garden Markers, first paint your wooden spoons with two coats of acrylic craft paint. As you finish the last coat of your final spoon, place the spoon on it’s back onto the piece of scrap paper to make a mark, as seen in the image on the right. This mark will serve as your pattern for spoons’ labels. Finish painting the final spoon and allow to dry. Cut out the pattern for the label and then use it to carefully cut shapes out of the scrapbook paper for each spoon. When all of your labels have been cut out, use the marker to write the name of each vegetable. Adhere a label to the back of each spoon with craft glue, smoothing out any wrinkles as you go. After each spoon has had it’s label affixed, paint the entire spoon from top to bottom with a fairly thick coat of Mod Podge. Continue applying first coat of Mod Podge to all spoons. When finished, begin again with the first spoon and apply a second coat. You will want to apply a total of 3-4 coats per spoon. When finished, allow the spoons to dry completely. I suggest waiting at least 12 hours before using.