I know it’s still January, but I already have one foot in spring. Today was a balmy 46º and the little bit of sun peeking through the clouds had me dreaming about the coming spring. I have big plans this year involving waterfalls and sweeping views – yeah, I’m talking about hiking! I’m a little ashamed to admit just how sedentary I’ve been this winter. Back when I worked in downtown Portland, I’d use my hour long lunch break to go on brisk walks, ensuring at least moderate exercise on a daily basis. These days, though… does walking from my couch/desk set up to the kitchen for another cup of tea count as exercise? Suffice it to say I need to spend some time stretching my limbs and working my muscles before I’ll be ready for any spring treks. Likewise, my skin is out of shape; it’s always a tad on the dry side, but in the winter it’s like paper. That’s why, toward the end of every winter, I start using this rejuvenating winter facial scrub.
What makes this a winter scrub, you ask? Two things: first, it has fresh squeezed winter grapefruit juice which is both astringent and loaded with skin-friendly vitamins; second, because it does double duty as an exfoliator and moisturizer, which we can all use by winter’s end. The coarse sugar in the scrub sloughs off dry, flaky skin while the olive oil gives your skin an ample dose of moisture at the same time. I’m not exaggerating when I say one use is the difference between dull winter skin and silky, dewy spring skin. The scrub has just three ingredients – sugar, olive oil and grapefruit juice – and chances are you have them all in your kitchen already. My skin isn’t picky, but my sister has very sensitive skin and she uses my scrub all the time without any redness or flare ups. Oh and it smells deliciously rich and naturally fruity; another little taste of spring for ya! Read on for the recipe and a making-of stop motion, too. Continue Reading
Late last week a winter storm swooped in over Portland and we were snowed in for a couple days. It was only a few inches, but snow isn’t a regular enough occurrence here for streets to be plowed or salted overnight. Instead, everything just sort of shuts down until the rain washes it all away. It’s pretty magical seeing everything clean and still, knowing you officially don’t have to put on real pants for the day. We used that time at home to listen to some Christmasy records, finally wrap presents and we even took Bisou out in the snow for the first time. She loved feeling the freshly fallen snow on her paws and seeing chubby winter squirrels running through the trees right above her (hop over to Instagram for some Bisou in the snow pictures). On the flip side of the snow storm was our dwindling food supply. We ran out of leafy greens and bread after the first day, and I didn’t have the stuff to make gingerbread cookies to go along with the music and gift wrapping. I did have the chocolate and milk on hand to whip up some rich and silky lavender hot chocolate though, and it fit the bill!
I grew up drinking hot chocolate from a packet, and while those little marshmallows do bring back fond memories, hot chocolate from scratch is so much tastier and free of mysterious additives. I usually make it with a dark, high quality chocolate bar chopped into pieces. I couldn’t get to the store though, so I swapped in the semisweet chocolate chunks I had in the pantry. Lesson learned: you can use just about any chocolate and not go wrong. You can use any milk too, dairy or otherwise, but whole milk does give the hot chocolate a rich, creamy quality that’s hard to top. Dairy milk is also the easiest to infuse, which is a plus if you want a lot of lavender flavor in your hot chocolate. My favorite part of this recipe is that it can be tailored to any consistency: use a bit of chocolate for a silky and light hot chocolate, and a whole lot for an extra rich sipping chocolate. Continue Reading
Picking, wrapping and giving gifts is my favorite part of the holiday season, tied with eating all the tasty food that abounds, so it was only natural that I’d put together a gift guide for the year. I’m so excited to share this selection of gifts with you, each so charming, one of a kind and quality made I’ll be gifting them to my own nearest and dearest*. I’m confident each one will delight its recipient, and in many cases become a new heirloom to be treasured and shared for years to come. Bisou pawpicked some of her very favorite items that she’s sure the cats (and cat parents) on your list will adore, and I’ve rounded up my favorite home wares, kitchen staples and beauty obsessions that I love not just because they’re beautiful and functional, but because of the hard working and dedicated folks behind them.
It’s easy to fall into the big box store trap when it comes to gift shopping, especially when your list is long and during the holidays there are a million other things to do. But what better time to support small businesses and the talented craftspeople who put in long hours this time of year so you can gift their wares to the people you love? I’m making it extra easy to support family- and women-owned businesses, makers who lovingly handcraft every item they sell, and brands committed to responsible and animal-friendly practices by including some of my favorites here.
*To my closest family and friends: avert your eyes now, or there could be spoilers. You’ve been warned! To everyone else, read on for our favorite picks for all the cats and human people on your list and watch in amazement as your gift shopping pretty much does itself this year!
If you’re already in the market for a New Year’s resolution, or are just looking to change things up in the dessert department, I’ve got one for you: baking with tea! Why more of us aren’t doing it on a regular basis is a mystery to me; maybe it’s that we’re in a rut of thinking of tea as only a beverage. If you think about it though, using tea to flavor food is no different than using other dried plant bits, like pepper, thyme or basil. When you’ve got a really flavorful tea, adding it to your basic baked goods can completely transform them with depth of flavor, delicate floral notes or a hint of citrus zest.
In this case, I used one of my favorite Stash winter teas, Christmas in Paris, to infuse my trusty chocolate chip skillet cookie with extra chocolatey flavor, a hint of lavender (that’s the Paris part!) and a touch of cool peppermint. Oh, and I decided to make a quick batch of tea infused no-churn ice cream too, and it turns out tea also tastes amazing in ice cream form.
Don’t ask me to explain the science behind the magic, but dairy happily takes on the flavor of whatever you put in it. So working the flavor of the tea into the skillet cookie and the ice cream is as easy as steeping a few tea bags in melted butter and cream before mixing everything together. Just like when you make a cup of tea, the strength of the tea flavor that comes through is up to you. Simply use more tea bags for bold flavor or fewer for just a subtle hint of tea. Either way, you’ve got a uniquely delicious cookie and ice cream pairing on your hands.
Why use the same tea to infuse both the cookie and the ice cream, you ask? This particular tea lends itself well to both, but in different ways: the cocoa shells in the tea add a smooth chocolate taste to the cookie batter, while in the ice cream I taste more of the peppermint, which keeps it from feeling too heavy. Whether you cut your skillet cookie into humanely portioned slices and serve it like pie a la mode, or just dive in with spoons like P and I did, I guarantee it won’t last long.
Happy November everyone! It’s hard to believe we’re already halfway through autumn, and the month of Thanksgiving (and Gilmore Girls!) is upon us. Before you know it, it will be Christmas which I can’t wait for, because it means P will have two weeks off of work and my sister will be home from college. December also happens to be Bisou’s birthday month! Needless to say, I’m very much looking forward to the next several weeks. For now though, I’m still making the most of fall – even if it is an extra gray and rainy one in Portland – before all the leaves fall and it’s too cold out to go on strolls around the neighborhood. Speaking of leaves, how about this laurel wreath? The leaves aren’t technically from a laurel bush, but once they’re layered into wreath form, they look pretty darn festive anyway. Don’t you love how the wreath looks like it’s magically floating on the front door!?
I’m not usually one for seasonal decorating; I think it’s because I don’t like the idea of storing a bunch of objects that only see the light of day a month or two out of the year. I’m happy to make an exception for this wreath though, since it’s seasonally appropriate for fall and winter, and afterwards I don’t have to worry about finding a place to store it. All you need to make your own wreath is a bit of floral wire, hot glue, fishing line and any thick, glossy leaves you can find. I couldn’t decide whether to make a natural green wreath or a fancy gold one so I tried it both ways, and I still can’t choose a favorite. Either way, hanging a laurel wreath on your front door or somewhere in the house adds some natural looking autumnal vibes and holiday cheer, depending on the month. It complements our pumpkins now, and I really hope we get some snowfall this winter so I get to see it in the snow, too. Read on for the tutorial, and a look at Bisou wondering what the heck I was doing standing outside. Continue Reading