A week ago I was part of a little cooking demonstration with ladies from our church. It was a fun, informal event, and the basic gist of the evening was that different women were asked to show how to make particular dishes.

One woman showed how to make THE pie crust (which I am so excited about trying, because all my pie crusts have been epic fails!), another how to decorate a cake using various tips, and still others on butter making, Bourbon Chicken, and Gyozias. It was so fascinating! Plus, our church ladies love to talk, so any spare minute we were busy chittering away. :)

My part of the evening was to talk about Making Biscotti. Since I’ve given a few biscotti recipes on this blog before (Chocolate Chip and Pumpkin Spice) I thought I’d include a third recipe here, along with a few tips I gave that evening.

Let me just preface by saying it really did tickle me to be giving tips on making biscotti. My roots are European of various kinds, but Italian is not one of them. So basically I’m a work-horse German giving advice on an Italian treat. It’s kind of like an Italian giving a class on Amish cooking. Kind of humorous, right? :) But it really is amazing the various cultures of foods we have available to cook and eat in our modern day!

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This is quite possibly my favorite recipe. I created it several years ago, and although it could be seasonal during the winter, it’s also perfect anytime of the year.

Gingerbread Biscotti with white chocolate icing

 

The Ingredients For Gingerbread Biscotti:

 

Cream together until fluffy:

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar

Then add:

  • 3 eggs, beating well after each addition
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup molasses

Sift together dry ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Gradually add dry ingredients to butter mixture,  then stir in:

  • 1 cup slivered almonds

 

Grease a jellyroll pan (which is slightly smaller than a cookie sheet). Divide dough in half. Using heavily floured hands, shape each half into a log form, and place on a jellyroll pan, on the shortest length of the pan. Continue to shape, making each log approximately 5 inches wide.

Bake at 300 degrees for approximately 35 minutes, or until the top is firm. Remove from the oven and cool, then cut each log into 1-inch slices using a sharp serrated knife or electric knife. Return to the oven and bake at 200 degree, or the lowest temperature, 7 hours or overnight Bake until completely dry. Cool, then frost with white chocolate icing (Ghirardelli melting chocolate).

 

 

Gingerbread Biscotti for a coffee party

 

A few pointers:

Many people are scared of making biscotti and think them intimidating and difficult. Let me just say: biscotti may take some time to make, but the truth is – they are really very easy. If you can pull out a mixer and put ingredients together, you can make biscotti. The twice-baking is what makes biscotti unique from many other cookies or specialty baked items.

In the recipe, there are a few basic instructions that factor into the biscotti of your dreams. :)


1. Softened butter vs. melted butter: This makes a difference in the final texture of the dough, making a soft dough rather than a watery texture.

2. Beating each egg well: Beating each egg well helps with dough elasticity, resulting in a final product that holds together well and isn’t crumbly/doesn’t break apart. Often homemade biscotti tends to fall or crumble apart, and it may be because of this small step.

3. The log size: Remember that the dough rises because of the baking powder, so be sure to spread the log wide (about 5 inches) rather than short and fat. The final product will look bigger than the pre-baked log on the pan.

4.  The slow baking times: I do not recommend a baking time of higher than 300* for the first baking, and 200* for the second. Of course, it’s very possible to bake at a high temperature the whole way through for both baking times and have a finished product much faster. However, I have a theory [and it’s only my own theory, but it has held true for me]: a fast baking, whether in biscotti, granola, or a few other things results in a bit of a “burnt” taste in the final product. Yes, it is finished faster, but there is a hint of a burnt flavor. A SLOW baking time, in my opinion, not only doesn’t have the look of the dark edges, but it also seems to enhance the flavors of what it being baked. A bite into a slow-baked biscotti, such as gingerbread, and you will be able to taste the ginger, the molasses, and maybe even some of the other spices. The flavor is incredibly richer. The overnight baking at the very lowest temperature your oven will do (180 or so) is what I’ve found to be perfect.5.

5. The melting chocolate. A friend recently introduced me to the Ghirardelli melting chocolate, which is amazing in and of itself. If you’ve worked with melting white chocolate chips before, you know that sometimes it turns out perfectly and other times it’s a sticky hard lump that you can hardly spread with a knife! The melting wafers are amazing. It’s the perfect melted consistency which you can then pour into a condiment bottle and use to drizzle on the icing. Melting instructions of various kinds are even on the back of the packaging.

the best melting chocolate

frosting Gingerbread Biscotti

So there is my favorite recipe and all the  things I’ve learned by trial and error tricks up my sleeve. Hopefully it will help someone out. :)

Enjoy!

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palms at the beach

Hellooooooo, March!
I am very happy to see your arrival, because it marks the beginning of a most happy month (namely, the birth of my first niece or nephew)!

However, February passed by ever-so-fast that it seems a blur,
so, the next few posts may just be back-tracking…
There may even be a few Valentine’s Day pictures, how sad. :)

But today, here are a few pictures of our first day at the ocean this year!
[Well, technically, it was our second, since we were there on a colder day bundled up a bit.]

This was a sunny, warm day in February, when some friends were in town.
And what better way to enjoy an 80 degree day in February than be at the coast?
We may not have snow days, but we do, on occasion, have beach days. :)
#perksoflivinginthesouth

And, it was one of the first 80 degree days of the year,
which seems crazy while 7 hours north there are still snowstorms,
but hey! We’re all trying to choose joy, right? :)

 

We joined three other moms and their kids, so it was a party for the kids.
Unfortunately, we arrived late because it was a last-minute morning-of decision to go
and I realized the kids had grown out of their swimwear from last year.
Enter quick shopping trips and lots of time lost looking for cute swimwear that didn’t exist.

[Also, since when is little girl swimwear so provocative?? Frustration is the mildest emotion of what I was feeling, as I looked at the little strings my six-year old was expected to wear.I shopped online after returning home and decided it’s worth it to pay more money for swimwear that is both cute and modest, so the next beach trip we’ll be better prepared. Lands End and DownEast Basics offer several options ~ thanks to Anita for the referrals! I’m off my soapbox now.]

// little boy child, enjoying the sunny blue day //

little man hudson beach day

But, even the few short hours we spent at the ocean were so worth the trip.

Warm sunshine,
sand between my toes,
kids laughing and playing, even in freezing cold water,
sitting with friends…

Ocean days are the very best kind of days. :)

// little girl child, always running and laughing //

sweet olivia girl always running

// Sibling snack break //

snack bread

palms and blue sky
One of the things I enjoy most about living in the South IS living close to the coast.
The ocean is therapeutic; the sound of the waves, the warm sunshine, the time to quiet.

But the greatness of God is so very evident there, and I love that the most.
Whenever I feel overwhelmed by life, by the challenges & unknowns,
all I need to do is walk by the water, or sit in the sand,
and my heart KNOWS.

I KNOW that my God can handle anything that is present, and anything that may come.
He is big enough, He is sufficient, He is more than adequate.
His resources know no limits.
His wisdom has no end.
His strength isn’t ever maxed out.
His love is always there.
His faithfulness will always continue.

How can I not trust this kind of Savior, this Lord who has given me all of Him?
My only response can be giving Him all of me.

Until next time, grand ocean…

the ocean is my favorite

 

/Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made/
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade/
To write the love of God above/
Would drain the ocean dry/
Nor could the scroll/
Contain the whole though stretched from sky to sky

Oh love of God! How rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure/
The saints and angels song!/

{a favorite song of mine, and of my beloved friend Ruth,
who now sings in the very presence of our Sweet Jesus}

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Well, if you want to be all technical, it’s actually the laundry room where I make all the pretties and sew the burp cloths and all the items for My Faire Lady Designs. But, let’s not be technical, because ‘sewing room’ sounds a little more inspirational than laundry room. :)

The blog front has been quiet. Usually a good guess for that would be there are lots of other activities & responsibilities pressing, and you’d be right 71-99% of the time. This winter has just been so full – so many good things, to be sure.

One of those things has been My Faire Lady Designs. I feel a little old-fashioned when I talk about sewing, because it’s an old art form that’s somewhat forgotten these days. But the truth is ~ I love it. I learn more about sewing all the time, and I enjoy that ~ the learning, and fun exploration and creativity that comes along with fabrics & colors & patterns.

This little business keeps me busy ~ as busy as I’d like to be with being a mom at home with my three precious little kids. I’m so grateful for all your orders, and the connections made through it.

Lately, there has been some more crafting and orders filled, and also some new inspiration. So here are a few pictures.

deer silhouette onesie

hipster glasses onesie

tuxedo top onesie

mary jane shoe onesie

pink lace top onesie

vintage inspired onesie

There is a reason behind the new inspiration, and no, it’s not bun in my oven. :) No, there’s actually a little one very soon to be born to my sister and her husband, and this soon-to-be-auntie is so excited I can hardly handle it!

Of course, I must be on my way on the long trip home as soon as I hear of the first signs of labor (or at least, very soon after the birth of the wee bebe’), so I must be all prepared to simply jump in the car and begin the journey, right?

Of course, right.

I was wanting a hint of vintage with a flair of modern on these onesies, and although it took quite a bit of time to come up with patterns and figure it all out, it was so worth it. I have the patterns now for future onesies, but these will always be a little extra-special. :)

So, if the bebe’ is a girl, she’ll be given these little dainties…

// 1. Peter Pan collar 2. gold shoes  3. cream lace 4. vintage tuxedo style //

niece's onesies

 

And burp cloths are always a necessity, so why not make them pretty?
// find them on Facebook at My Faire Lady Designs //

kumari garden burp cloths

 

And if he’s a boy, we are prepared for his arrival too.

I experimented with fabric paint for the gold shoes for the girl, and the deer silhouette and hipster glasses for the boy. That was a new thing for me, and much fun!

// 1. tie  2. deer silhouette  3. hipster glasses

nephew's onesies
I have to admit to being in love with the little deer onesie. It was an idea that I acted upon, and it turned out even better than I had hoped. This was an original with My Faire Lady Designs. Yes, I was a little happy. :)

navy anchors & dots

red anchors

 

Meanwhile, there have been other orders for baby things, some of which are being sold at the Main Street Exchange ~ locals in Pennsylvania, shop there and you won’t have to pay shipping! :)

stack of onesies

vintage inspired

the happy collection

aqua burp cloths

grey paisley

 

Headbands and hair accessories are still in the making too.

white flower headband

triple flower headband

blue and white stripe flower clips

pink lace bow headband

black and white stripe flower clips

aqua pink headband

And those are a few of the things that make my heart happy.
Mostly, it’s happy thinking of meeting my new little niece or nephew very soon.
These are just things to show my love and welcome him or her to the world.
I can hardly handle the excitement!!

Happy Thursday, you all!

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post script: these items and more can be found on Facebook at My Faire Lady Designs

 

 

personalized button hoop art for kids

 

It’s a bustling week over here at the Cottage, and we are still learning how to do life well amid busyness. :) Husband and I were away for a weekend getaway for our anniversary (or rather, the past three anniversaries, dated in June – ha! That’s how far behind we are, and how difficult it’s been to get away.) and had one of the best times together we’ve ever had!  I can’t wait to go through my pictures of our time in lovely Savannah.

But for now, here’s a little DIY for you and your favorite little person.

Zoe and I did this project together back in November when she was sitting low and recovering from her tonsillectomy. She wasn’t well enough to run around and play, but the days got long just sitting on the sofa and looking at books.

While a movie can be a good idea sometimes, I do tend to be a little old-fashioned, and I want my daughters to know how to do things like cook and sew and some of the other lost homemaking arts of today. This was one of the first sewing projects we did together, and we both enjoyed it very much.

So, inspired from my sister Ervina, who did a similar thing for our sister Claudia’s wedding, we did a little Button Hoop Art.

The hoop arts that are trending right now are so fun, I think. So vintage, so clever, and such a unique art that can be so varied.

So one quiet day, this is what we did.

Supplied needed:

cast of characters

  • wooden hoop (found in sewing departments of craft stores, size your choice)
  • cotton or muslin fabric
  • needles & thread
  • scissors
  • pencil for marking
  • assorted buttons of choice

 

Because Zoe only has three letters in her name, we used her name instead of a monogram. Olivia wants me to do this with her too, and then I’ll do her initials.

So, step one: write the name or monogram on the fabric, leaving allowance for the hoop. Be sure to stretch the fabric tightly in the hoop.

[Next time, I'd also leave more space between the letters. I used various sizes of buttons, and the letters of the name quickly crowded into each other.]

 

personalized hoop art

 

Step two: teach the favorite little person how to thread a needle.

Because this was her first time working with a needle and thread in a real project, I kept the thread fairly short so as to minimize the risk of tangling. :) That did result in many needles having to be threaded, so she and I did it together, trying to have 2-3 needles ready so we could keep going with the project.

learning to thread a needle

 

Step three: begin sewing buttons on the penciled pattern.

These buttons were an assortment of vintage & new buttons. Zoe’s Nana gave her the pink/blue/green ones that came from the dollar bins of Target, and they were the perfect pop of color!

assorted new & vintage buttons

hoop art for kids

[yes, those are pajamas :) ]

Zoe and I took turns, each sewing a button at a time. Doing the whole project by herself would have been too overwhelming for her (she’s six), but if we kept trading then she really enjoyed it. It took probably two hours or so, but it was a special time together.

teaching kids to sew

making button art

 

After the buttons were all sewed on, I took off the hoop and spray painted it, just for fun.

This is the finished product that now hangs in her bedroom, along with her one-year canvas photo and the lovely “Happy Girls” canvas from Aimee Weaver Designs.

button hoop art

 

Other options with this:

  • When I do this project with Olivia, who is 4, I may make this a hot-glue gun project instead of a needle & thread project. :) Her patience levels aren’t quite long enough for this, but the glue gun (one of the low temp kinds) would still be fun for her and teach her how to follow patterns and have the pleasure of a completed project.
  • At Christmas, draw the outline of a Christmas tree and use bright buttons for “ornaments.”
  • Use a small floral patterned or colored fabric for the background, and solid color buttons for the monogram (i.e. aqua fabric with white buttons)
  • Your ideas? :) I’m sure some of you have done similar projects, and I’d love to hear about it and see links!

 

Happy Hump Day!

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Down here in the Deep South, we are rather in amazement at all the arctic weather we hear about and see pictures of, all within a day’s drive due north.

Here? We just spent a happy weekend at the coast with friends, and are having weather in the 70′s and 80′s. It’s… nice. :)

But I would be lying if I’d say I don’t miss the snow. I spent the first few years of my life in the tropics of Central America, and after that, in the Northeast United States. Some of my favorite childhood winter memories include snowfalls and winter wonderlands and hot chocolate warming frozen fingers and making snow forts and snow tunnels and snow men with my dad and sisters and all kinds of things involving SNOW!

faux snow day

kiss the boy

 

I have to admit to a bit of wrestling with contentment this winter. It’s very probable that if you’re a “transplant” of any kind, you may feel as though your kids miss out on what you knew as a kid, to a certain degree. I’m not mad I live where I do… It’s just that it makes me sad that my kids don’t know what a real snowfall is like, or what it’s like to be snowed in! [Yes, I'm a real snow-lover, with no shame at all about it. :)]

And if you’re a transplant yourself, you may feel similar feelings, only with your particular memories in mind. If you experienced a happy childhood, you just want your kids to have a similar experience. Funny thing is, if we ever moved north, my southern husband would probably think his kids are missing out on southern things! :)

faux snow day with kids

blowing faux snow

holding faux snow

Olivia - blowing faux snow

Sometimes, the grass looks greener somewhere else.
Or, in my case, sometimes the snow looks more appealing than 70 degrees. :)
And sometimes, I just have to CHOOSE joy, no matter what the circumstances are.
I don’t know about you, but joy isn’t something that necessarily comes hunting me down:
it’s a perspective I must choose, even in the midst of what I think are less-than-perfect circumstances.

For me, joy is a trust that God’s ways are perfect, that He is good, and His heart for me is kind; and that even when things don’t make sense, I can still trust HIM. Out of that spills joy – the knowledge that God knows best [for me and my kids, and they're not missing out!] and He sees the bigger picture.

It’s a lesson I only have to learn, well, every day. :)

a faux snow day

Faux Snowday

So, just for fun this year, on one particular day when my family [who lives in the arctic weather] was having yet another 8 inches of snow, I declared a snow day here. Yep, right here in the Deep South. There was nary a flurry in sight, or even the hopes of one, but thankfully it was cool enough to build a fire in the hearth,  so I gathered the kiddos around and told them snow stories of when I was a little girl. And I told my wide-eyed children that some people get to have snow days, when it snows so much they can’t even go to school or to the store, and they stay home and have fun. [Right, northerners-with-cabin-fever? :) ] And we had ourselves a snow day! *insert cheers and hurrays*

We read stories, like The Long Winter, the kids played and colored pictures and couldn’t believe the great idea of their mother, and we pretended we were in a blizzard. :) It was just the most fun ever!

So where does this “faux snow” come from, you may wonder? Well, places like Target or Michaels sell a generous bag of faux snow  ['faux' rhymes with 'snow'] for $1.99, so we opened up a bag leftover from Christmas and had us a little snow fall. :) The pictures were taken on Christmas Eve, our snow day was two weeks ago, and I’m just now writing about it. :) – thus the Christmas décor (which is still up on my front porch, actually: I just cannot bear to take it down).

I absolutely loved the kids faces on these pictures ~ Zoe especially. When she’s thrilled out of her mind, she laughs. And she was laughing and laughing during this little snow play. ♥

it's snow fun

happy snow fun

faux snow fun

And they were having faux-snow much fun, I had to join them! This little spur-of-the-moment snow fun will be one of the best things of the Winter of 2014 for us! It really IS the little things. :)

just snow fun

take time to play in the snow

on a faux snow day

And what do you know, we made [faux] snow memories, even in the south! :)

May your day be sweet, as you choose joy this day.

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Postscript: Just a reminder that this is the last day of the Chalk Shop giveaway! The winner will be chosen and notified tomorrow.

 

 

 

When we were in Pennsylvania over the holidays, I spent an afternoon with my dear friend Shelly.

As I think over our friendship, it’s been so unique in that most of the time we’ve been long-distance from each other. There have been a few segments of time where we’ve been in the same location for two months, at two different times, but mostly, we’ve lived far apart.

The amazing aspect of all that is that we’ve only grown closer with time. As we’ve gotten married, had babies, remodeled or built our houses, Shelly has been a friend that’s been constant. She’s not threatened (if our phone conversations don’t happen as often as we’d like), and simply does not carry offenses (even though I’m not nearly a perfect friend).She enters my world, delights in my children, exclaims over new details in my life, has inspired me to make food an art form, challenges me as we raise our children in the love and fear of God, and has taught me precious things about friendship.

So imagine my delight when I was able to spend some an afternoon with her ~ just the two of us [and the two of us have multiplied into 11 now, including us and our husbands and children! :)]!

Shelly suggested Styer’s Garden Café, also known as Terrain. Knowing she has great taste in food and restaurants, and we both love an adventure, we set off. It was a bit of a distance away, but that only allowed for time to us to talk and catch up with each other.

And before we knew it, we were at Styer’s. This place is so hard to describe… but just think ~ what if Anthropologie turned into an upscale café? And that is exactly it. Yes, it’s not just an eating place ~ it’s an experience!

Deliberating over the menu took a considerable amount of time. It was not the normal cuisine that I’m accustomed to eating, but we finally chose a…

Red Wine Poached Seckel Pear Salad
parsley & frisee salad, toasted hazelnuts, Rogue smokey blue, pomegranate vinaigrette
And a platter of Artisanal Cheese…

Nancy’s Hudson Valley Camembert, Rogue River Smokey Blue Cheese, Shellbark Farms Sharp Chevre, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, Cypress Grove Lamb Chopper

house-made pickles &‎ preserves, honeycomb, crostinis

[um, I know, right?? how does one even pronounce many of those foods?]

Let me just say, it was an entire experience that delighted the senses!
I have rarely ever enjoyed food to such a degree as I did that day;
the atmosphere, the presentation, and the flavor were all simply delicious.

 

pennsylvania holiday 117

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The location is within a greenhouse, converted into a unique dining experience. There is still a fine greenhouse on location, with exquisite plants and greens, and you walk through part of it to arrive at the café area. It’s most enchanting.

pennsylvania holiday 121

pennsylvania holiday 119

They had fabulous kraft paper rolls around the restaurant area, displaying specials and notices. I dream of them in my kitchen one day. Dream.

pennsylvania holiday 123

After a leisurely lunch of a few hours, we strolled around the Terrain - the store part of the venue. It is in collaboration with Anthropologie and a few other noteworthy stores, so you can only imagine the unique and delightful pieces we exclaimed over!

pennsylvania holiday 131

pennsylvania holiday 132

We attempted a self-timer photo, and this is the best that we got. :)

pennsylvania holiday 136

And another take… You’d never know by these pictures that Shelly was within days of birthing her 4th baby. I was a little nervous, lest the baby decide to come early, and I’d need to take a midwife role on a highway. :) Thankfully, bebe stayed put and waited until the right time.

pennsylvania holiday 129

As I look through these picture I relive the afternoon all over again. :)

Moments such as these are truly what brings beauty to our lives – the richness of relationship, the time to savor and enjoy special moments, the delight in loveliness and uniqueness and creativity. It was inspiring in so many ways. Thank you, Shelly, for a treasure of a day! xo

Now it’s your turn! What is one of your most favorite cafes or dining experiences?

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And we have a WINNER!
Sharon was chosen from an online random number generator, and we will be contacting you promptly!  Congratulations, Sharon!

On listing her favorite piece, she said, “Too many to choose from, but JOY or the Christmas one with the names of Jesus!”

[There may be more than one Sharon who entered, so if it was you, you will be receiving an email within a few minutes.]

Thanks so much to all of you who participated, and made this a fun giveaway!

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When I featured my sister Jana’s beautiful home on my blog in December as part of the Christmas Home Tours, there were quite a few people interested in her lovely chalk art. At that point she was considering making it a business venture, but hadn’t gotten it off the ground yet.

Well, I am here to announce the opening of The Chalk Shop!

 

the chalk shop

 

Jana is a superbly talented woman, with much artistic ability, and I wish her well in this business venture! Her handwriting has been much admired long before the opening of this shop, and I love to see Jana using her God-given abilities to bless other people through art.

Here is a little sampling of some of the pieces she’s done. The chalk art is available framed or unframed, on wood or canvas, and special orders and customization are available!

 

the chalk shop - collage

The giveaway piece is an 11 X 16 “You are my Sunshine” chalk art, valued at $30.

 

You are my Sunshine

The chalk art is a sealed piece of art, meaning that although written with chalk,
it will not smear or smudge off.

 

To enter  the giveaway, please do both of the following:

1. “like” The Chalk Shop on Facebook

2. Leave a comment on this blog telling Jana your favorite piece of chalk art in her Facebook shop.

 

The giveaway entry time is from January 29-February 4.
The winner will be announced on Thursday, February 6th.

 

Happy entering! :)

entry for the giveaway is now closed.

 

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