Friday, March 16, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I can't believe I'm not getting around to actually posting photos of my St. Patrick's Day decorations until the day before. These have been up since March 1st... and while it's one of my smallest holidays decoration-style, it's also one of my favorites.

In our house, we have Celtic roots from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall... pretty much anywhere the ancient Celts lived, so did our ancestors. While we may not be Catholic - we ARE Irish and love celebrating our heritage during the month of March with traditional recipes, and fun leprechaun-free decorations.

On the front door, we hung this sweet little tin of shamrocks that may look familiar from THIS post from last year.

For the fireplace, we put up the same paper banner from last year. It's hard to read, so I may have to make a new one next year... but the letters spell out "Irish Blessings." Little Lambie sits on the hearth, in honor of all the sheep in Ireland.

On our little accent table in the living room, I borrowed an idea from Pinterest and filled a few of my hurricane vases with split-peas and tealights. The little angel is one of my favorite decorations, because her gown is printed with my favorite Irish Blessing:

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall softly on your fields.
And until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Over on the sewing table, I did actually pick up a few new pieces this year. The tablerunner is actually an aran-knit scarf, and I found the sweetest little spun-cotton mushrooms to sit in my favorite milkglass bowl atop a few faux-moss rocks from the dollar-store.

On our little hutch nearly everything is identical from last year. The one addition I made, is a little paper doll with her sweet little piggie friend.

And the last little bit of Irish decoration is also a repeat from last year. Up in my kitchen niche are two reprinted vintage cards, and a vintage vase of sequined floral picks.

Truly, while I may love decorating the whole house for fall, I also enjoy how just a few small decorations can make such a huge impact on the look of my house!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Whipped Cocoa Butter Recipe

My husband surprised me yesterday with a new stand mixer. I have been using the avocado-green Sunbeam mixer given to my mom when she was first married in 1968 for the past several years. It STILL works, but my son has asked several times if he could have it when he moves out and we've been looking for a replacement BEFORE the Sunbeam breathes it's last... and to be honest I've wanted something slightly more robust with a nice big dough-hook for awhile anyway.
Meet Vincent. I named him Vincent because this mixer is one HUGE beast. And with a 300 watt motor, he's powerful too. I think it could beat our car to a smooth frothy consistency.

Naturally with a new toy to play with, I feel the need to put it through a few... err... abusive paces to see what it's made of. Last night we whipped up some garlic-cheddar biscuits, and soon I'll be making oatmeal bread with the dough hooks. For this afternoon however, I thought I'd see how it handles running continuously. For an entire hour. On high. Because of course, you just never know when that'll come in handy with a mixer.

I had an amazingly simple recipe for homemade whipped cocoa butter, but in searching around a bit I found some nice alternates to a few ingredients that I've been dying to try. And since we've just about finished up the last of my most recent batch, this seemed the perfect time to replenish our stock.

To make this, you will need just four ingredients. These can be found at most health food stores, but if you can plan ahead... you can find them all online for MUCH cheaper! To make about four 4oz jars (I doubled the recipe because I plan on sharing) you will need:

* 4oz cocoa butter
(I prefer the wafers because they melt quicker)
* 2oz apricot oil
* 1tsp cornstarch
* and 1/2tsp liquid Vitamin E

If your cocoa butter is unscented you could also add up to a dozen drops of essential oils, (mandarin & lime would be divine!) but I prefer the chocolatey cocoa butter fragrance myself.

To make this, melt down your cocoa butter, then refrigerate for 15 minutes to start it cooling. Whip it on medium in your blender for 15 minutes, then put it BACK into the refrigerator for another 10 minutes. Then whip it on high once more, for anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour. It's at this point that the mixture will go from being a gold liquid to a frothy white "whipped cream" consistency. That's what you want. I did mix mine for a full hour, but it didn't seem to expand after the first 30 minutes so that might have been plenty. Your mileage may vary, of course but that's what I noticed.

Once it's done, simply spoon it into whatever cute jars you have laying around and use as you would a massage oil, or lotion. It will harden just a bit in the jar, but will melt on-contact with your skin so all you need to do is scoop out a teeny tiny bit and it'll melt down almost immediately.

My husband and I prefer this for deep-tissue massages, but both kids prefer using this as hand cream just before bed! It smells divine, and after about 5 minutes any "greasy" sensation has soaked into the skin so ALL you're left with is wonderfully soft (chocolatey) skin!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The "Our Movie" Date

Several months ago, my kids were looking over my shoulder as I looked up fun & interesting "Date Night" ideas for my husband & I. A few of them were based on a movie theme, and that seemed like a great idea... but none of the movies were OUR favorite movies. They asked if we could come up with a special Princess Bride date-night, since that's one of our families all-time favorite movies. And... they wanted to HELP with the details!

After a few discussions, we decided this would be best done with a slightly larger budget than our average date-night, so at the kids' insistence we told my husband that WE would be planning our next anniversary - and that it would be a surprise. He was pretty shocked that the kids were going to be planning this with me, but promised not to pester the kids for details.

For fun, each element of the day was based on a line straight from the movie. To begin with, we told DH "Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up." Then we presented him with the soundtrack to the movie, and this canvas print that we'd had made earlier with quotes from the movie.
He immediately figured out the theme for the day, and started asking when we'd be dueling left-handed. (Drat, should have thought of that!)

Then we headed to Caribou Coffee, (a favorite "splurge-spot") to order our favorite drinks... to replicate the quote "First, let's drink. Me from my glass, and you from yours."

During lunch, we handed him a copy of the book The Art of Kissing - to which, of course, he asked "Is this a kissing book?" And for dessert, we pulled out some fresh strawberries & bananas for a chocolate fondue snack because of course "The chocolate coating makes it go down easier."

Then we opened a new game for the Wii... National Geographic Challenge, (which is REALLY great for kids wanting to practice up on all sorts of world geography trivia!) saying "In that case, I challenge you to a battle of wits." This ended up being a girls-against-boys challenge because the questions were SO hard, but everything ended well... the girls won, of course. *grins*

We had PLANNED on having a four-way Just Dance competition in honor of the quote "We face each other as God intended... sportsmanlike. No tricks, no weapons, skill against skill alone." but decided against it, as I wasn't feeling terribly well. *sigh* Oh well, the best intentions & all that...

Since my husband has chosen where we eat out for EVERY ONE of our anniversary dinners, we decided to use the quote "As you wish" to let him choose once again. He turned the tables on us however, saying he really felt like fast-food since we rarely eat out anymore, and we all chose DIFFERENT restaurants & brought everything home to eat.

After dinner, we set up a cute little bedsheet-tent in the living room, made from vintage bedsheets & 1x2 lumber. When the kids were little, we used to pitch our tent inside the living room every February, and call it "winter camping" to help break up the monotony of cabin fever. Since having to give up tent-camping, we haven't done this in a few years however, and decided to recreate the experience in a slightly more playful manner. DH loved the tent, but I think the kids have enjoyed it more than him.

From within our tent, curled up with our favorite blankets, we watched the movie The Princess Bride... with movie-sized boxes of chocolate-covered peanuts, which my daughter handed out asking "Anybody want a peanut?"

My husband LOVED our little adventure-date. By the end of it, he was trying to guess what the next quote would be, and even had a few suggestions we HADN'T thought of! It was fun to take a day to play with the kids, act like kids ourselves, and reflect that while we may have been married for 17 years... we're not too old to have fun!