Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Easter Fun!

Hi Friends:

Did you know that bunny rabbits, chicks and eggs historically symbolize Spring and new life? There are, of course, many traditions and practices surrounding Easter. Easter baskets, dyeing eggs, hot cross buns and Easter Lillies, just to name a few, all in some way celebrate newness and re-birth. Easter is joyous and hopeful!

At our house, even though we're all adults, Easter is a big event. I still make a big dinner, put together Easter baskets for everyone and I have managed to keep the egg hunt tradition going by upping the ante. In addition to hiding chocolate eggs in the yard, my husband and I hide plastic eggs filled with coins, dollar bills, a fiver or two, a ten, a twenty and golden eggs worthy of a gift card! With the holiday just around the corner, I have been busy gathering together some ideas for this year and want to share them with you in hopes of making Easter "eggstra" special for you and your loved ones!
Welcome guests with a carrot door decor. I embellished this one with indoor/outdoor fabric strips!
Display your eggs! This wire basket is ready for those hand-dyed beauties!
Decorate with a bunny. Whether ceramic, stuffed, or vintage wicker like this one, nothing says Easter like a bunny!
These picket fence baskets from The Lucky Clover Trading Company are too cute and a real bargain at $3.50!
This crochet carrot pouch from Repeat Crafter Me is adorable! It's the perfect quick and easy project and you can fill it with a special treat! Click on the link for complete instructions.
Leave it to Martha Stewart to come up with this Easter basket favor made from paper cups. So cute!
Aren't these chevron bags great! Perfect for Easter goodies. Here I glued an Easter chick to a small scrapbooking clothespin and used it as a bag clip. Bags and clothespins are available at Michael's!
If you're giving a special Easter gift, tuck it into a beautiful egg like this beaded beauty. 
I made this crocheted egg cozy with the help of a DIY tutorial from Flax & Twine using DMC pearl cotton size 5. I love the natural look!
Sew up a few carrots! How cute to decorate with or tuck in a basket. I used vintage bedspread fabric and calico to make the patterned carrots; the other two are felted. Cut carrot shapes from fabric, sew right sides together, turn inside out and fill with poly fil, add calico stem and whip stitch closed. Sew simple!
This baguette board loaded with filled eggs doubles as a table centerpiece and favors for guests! A cute basket would work, too!
Speaking of eggs, look at these cute alternatives for fillable plastic eggs. Fill with jelly beans, m&m's and more!
Make Rice Krispie treat pops! Simply cut Rice Krispie treats into an egg shape with a cookie cutter, decorate and add a lollipop stick!
Assemble a mini Easter basket for friends, neighbors or co-workers! This little basket from Michael's measures 3" x 4" and comes in a variety of colors.
How about these cheery mini paper bags also from Michael's sized perfectly for homemade cookies or candy!
Need a hostess gift? Embellish a planter with a bottle brush chick, pinwheel or candy-filled egg! Find embellishments at craft stores.

Georgia's crew wishes you and yours a happy Easter!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cooking with Cast Iron!

Hi Friends:

Don't tell me you don't own a cast iron pan! I bet your grandmother had one and so did her mother. If you're not a fan of cast iron cookware, my aim is to convert you by the end of this post! Made with comparatively low level technology, this cookware has excellent, I repeat, excellent heat retention and non-stick properties!

Cast iron pans were used as early as 206 BC by the Han Dynasty in China. Before stoves were created in the mid 19th century, cauldrons, dutch ovens and kettles were relied upon to cook meals in a hearth. Early cast iron pieces were made with handles so they could be hung over a fire and were prized for their durability. In the early 1900's, most Americans were using cast iron pans until the development of teflon-coated non-stick cookware in the 60's which we all now know can't handle high heat the way cast iron does and is not environmentally friendly. And no, enameled cast iron is not a good substitute either. While it can be cleaned more thoroughly, it, too, can't stand searing heat and resist sticking the way cast iron can. Also, it can be quite expensive and it chips!

What should I cook in cast iron? I'm glad you asked. First of all, cast iron can be used indoors or outdoors on the grill. Because it withstands high heat, it is excellent for searing fish, meat and making stir fried dishes. Meals can be seared or fried on the stove and then finished in the oven. Many cooks bake in cast iron, especially cornbread. Pancakes made on a cast iron griddle are the best; you get a great caramelized edge! And look at these toasted hot dog rolls! 
Cast iron is best suited for dishes that have a bit of fat or oil in them. Boiling or using very cold foods in a hot pan is not recommended as it can damage the pan. Noteworthy, too, is that cooking in cast iron pans provides dietary iron.

What about the rust/cleaning issues you ask? Most cast iron cookware today comes "seasoned." Lodge, the only major manufacturer of cast iron cookware in the United States, "sprays vegetable oil onto the cookware and then bakes it on at high temperatures to create a natural, easy-release cooking surface." These pans should not be cleaned like other cookware; washing in a dishwasher or heavy scouring will damage the seasoning. I have never needed to use more than dish soap, hot water and a scrubby. I then dry the pan and apply a thin layer of oil with a paper towel. This builds a seasoning layer which protects the pan from rusting and ensures a non-stick surface. A well-seasoned pan is much easier to clean than many high-end brands of cookware.
Well-Seasoned Griddles
My Skillet's Just A Youngin At 30 Years Old!
Have I convinced you? Not yet? Take a look at this stir fry made in a cast iron wok from Lodge's Specialty Cookware.
I love this pan!
If you just don't cook, cast iron is collectible and can be used in home decor. Georgia's repurposed this hard-to-find vintage cast iron ham boiler into a log holder. This old vessel has definitely been durable and reliable!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Lisa and Nikki's Friday Finds - Java Edition!

Hi Friends:

What has inspired and delighted us this week? Here they are - the java-inspired sights, sounds, tastes and one-of-a-kinds we loved!
While flipping through TV channels the other day, I caught the tail end of "My Family Recipe Rocks" on Live Well Network. Host Joey Fatone and his chef-for-the-day Jonathan Sara were making Amaretti Panini Cookies that I had to try. So I made them this past weekend and let me say, you are missing out if you don't give these a whirl. They are easy, delicious and pair perfectly with a hot cup of coffee. Click here for the recipe.
Coffee in our homes is an experience, not a beverage. That’s why we take our coffee beans seriously. If you want a great cup of java, then look no further than Jim’s Organic Coffee from Whole Foods. It’s not only delicious; it’s organic, fairly traded and socially responsible!
Can you think of a better way to enjoy a hot cup of coffee or a foam-covered latte than in this vintage-inspired coffee cup from Anthropologie? We can't!
Need to take your coffee on the go? We've tested countless travel mugs and found the Contigo Autoseal mug keeps our coffee hot through the last sip.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

White Ironstone!

Hi Friends:

While walking through snow this morning contemplating what to write about, I found myself once again appreciating "white." It's clean and exudes a sense of peace, calm and comfort. It's neutral - a blank canvas - offering center stage to other elements. This is exactly what I like about white ironstone. 

Ironstone china, harder than earthenware and stronger than porcelain, was developed in Staffordshire, England in the early 1800's. Most often decorated with transfer patterns, it was an inexpensive and practical alternative to china. By the mid 1800's, undecorated pieces made it to America when English potters realized that plain, durable china was preferred here. White ironstone marketed to farmers became known as thrashers' ware. These pieces were often embossed with corn, wheat or prairie flowers to appeal to this community.

White ironstone is a popular collectible today, especially if you are a vintage lover. It can be used safely as there are no harmful chemicals in the glaze or china itself and it's so utilitarian! Take a look at these examples of white ironstone:
Soap Dish and Small Casserole Dish 
Small Gravy Boat Repurposed!
Serving Platter Embossed With Wheat Design (Harvest Pattern)
Lovely Old White Ironstone Pitcher
Stack of White Ironstone Plates   
You can find a variety of white ironstone pieces in antique stores and flea markets. Put them to work in your kitchen or simply decorate with this tableware! It's plain, but it's beautiful!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Lisa and Nikki's Friday Finds!

Hi Friends:

What has inspired and delighted us this week? Here they are - the sights, sounds, tastes and one-of-a-kinds we loved!
What's in Tennessee, Nashville. What's in Nashville, a good time. There's a reason why Southern Living magazine calls it "Nash-vegas!" Pop in and out of bars (no cover) where bands perform everything from George Strait to ZZ Top and dance the night away. Indulge in a Goo Goo Cluster - a milk chocolate, peanuts, caramel and marshmallow nougat confection made in Nashville since 1912. Buy Western boots! And, most importantly, shop vintage!
Garlic Crusted Chicken Nuggets from Dr. Junger's Clean Blog! This quick and simple recipe developed for his new Gut Cleanse program is out of this world. Dr. Junger and his team are devoted to improving health through clean eating!
Vintage pins! We love them. Wear them on everything from jackets and shawls to sweaters and shirt cuffs. Love, love the idea of clipping one on a strand of pearls!  
Animal Cookie Cutters and Animal Cookie Recipe from King Arthur Flour! How cute are these? For a real authentic taste, order the Princess Cake and Cookie Flavor; it will make a difference. 
Spring is just around the corner so we're taking a moment to appreciate the beauty of winter!

Have a great weekend!