Thursday, February 28, 2013

Forcing forysthia branches indoors

Do you have a forsythia bush or two?
Are you tired of winter?
Do you have a brown thumb?
Would you like a fabulous floral arrangement for free?  

Goooooood.  You are in the right place!

Go outside and cut some branches off of your bush.  

Split the bottom of the stems, so the branches can take up extra water.  Use a knife or pruners.

Fill a vase with water, and plunk your stems in.
Now wait a week or two (changing and adding water as needed), and suddenly you will have a spectacular vase of bright yellow flowers.  


I am patiently waiting for mine to bloom.  Right now the buds are starting to swell, and it will probably start to bloom in about a week.  

I love forsythia because it is the first big color that spring brings.  And I also love it left untrimmed - it is so exuberant!  Forsythia left is it's natural growth pattern looks like crazy yellow fireworks, and that is a very good thing.  Please don't trim yours into tidy little boxes or spheres.  Please?

Linking up with

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Painting on cookies - my first video tutorial

I can honestly say that this is the first time in my life I have ever been tempted to imbibe in a glass of wine at 9:00 a.m..  

Let's just say, it took a hundred few takes.

I had so many issues with my camera, I had to resort to consulting the owner's manual.  Now THAT is serious.  

My other issue was with my dog barking.  She would be lying there calm as can be or snoozing, and about 30 seconds in, she would start barking.  I tried giving her a barbeque chewy rawhide stick outside, and she just brought it back to the door, dropped it, and continued barking.  It brought back to mind when my five kids were small and the phone would ring.  They would come from every corner crying, whining, tattling, hungry, thirsty, and fighting.  As soon as the call would end, they would go back to being little angels.

Can I hear an amen from the other moms out there?  I can't be the only one  :\

So I decided to outsmart my dog Nellie (that's right - matching wits  with a little spaniel...).  She is a serious chow hound, so I took a handful of her kibble and tossed it off the deck hoping she would consider it to be a doggie scavenger hunt.  And she did - for about three minutes.  

Close but no cigar.  

Now my kids think Nellie is terribly spoiled and pampered by me.  

And no, she is absolutely NOT eating creme brulee in the photo.  

But, it needed to be quiet and I had to take tough measures with my  "6th child".  It was out to the garage with her, where she gave her vocal chords a good workout.  Happily, it wasn't heard on the video! 

And so with the house quiet at last, I made this video tutorial - 

Let me know what you think - suggestions for making it better or new subjects you would like to learn about.  

I also embellished the painted cookies with a Celtic knot border - I love the way it has a three dimensional look!  

Nellie and I hope you enjoy the video tutorial, and give painting on cookies a try!  

Link parties I am participating in:

Home Stories A to Z
Seasonal Sundays
Inspired Friday at Common Ground
Little Mom on the Prairie
Home Sweet Home
House of Hepworths
View from River Mountain
Stone-Gable Tutorial, Tips, and Tidbits
Seven-Alive Link it up Thursday
The Dedicated House
Wicked Awesome Wednesday
Sugar and Dots
Made by me Wednesday

Sunday, February 24, 2013

How to make royal icing shamrocks

St. Patrick's Day is in the air, and my Irish blood is stirring!

Time for leprechan mischief and green treats galore!  

Ready to learn how to make 

  The first step is to make traditional royal icing - this is the type of icing that hardens, used to make three dimensional roses or sticking gingerbread houses together.  I use the Wilton recipe that you can find here.  
When you prepare this recipe, you will notice it is quite stiff, and that is a good thing when making embellishments that will stand alone.  
Once you have the icing prepared, add food coloring till you get the shade of green you like, and then load into a pastry bag that is fitted with at least a # 3 tip.
On a piece of parchment or wax paper, draw a heart shape.

Now make a second heart on the side,

and now a third heart on the other side.

All that is needed now, is a cute little stem.

I was having such fun, I made quite a few!  
Then I moved on to trying Celtic knots,

and then changed to a star tip to make stars with a large green dragee in the center.

I just kept on cruising until I ran out of icing!

All that is left to do, is allow them to dry (and that doesn't take long).  Just peel them off the paper, and they are ready to add to cookies, cupcakes, or cakes.  
AND, they keep indefinitely in a storage container.


Having fun with

Masterpiece Monday

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mini greenhouse and winter germination

As some of you already know, for me gardening ranks right up there with baking.  This time of year finds me plotting and scheming my flower, herb, and veggie adventures.  I happened upon an article about winter germination that I found to be quite interesting.  After telling Mr. Enchanted all about it, he built me my own mini greenhouse.  How sweet is that?
Using scrap lumber and plastic from Lowes, he came up with this little beauty!

After putting the wood pieces together and stapling 6 mil plastic on it, he moved it to a small secondary deck behind the house.  This deck gets good sun and isn't used very often.

It was then my turn to go to work planting seeds in a variety of containers.  Some went in peat pots and some went in containers that were fished out of recycling (spinach container and apple cider jugs).  For the recycled containers, I punched a few holes in the bottom for drainage.

For the jugs, I cut around the centers leaving a small part attached, so they could hinge open and closed.  

All of my seeds got a gentle misting of water, and then into the greenhouse they went.

The idea behind winter germination, is that the seeds experience the thaw/freeze cycle but still have some protection.  After they germinate, you open the lid on warm days and then close it at night.  For perennials, you can start the seeds in December or January, and for tender annuals you plant in February or March.  

The winter germinated plants are supposed to be stronger and sturdier than seeds started indoors under grow lights.  I know I have killed more than my fair share of seedlings in the hardening off process. 
Total bummer when that happens.

I also think this would be great to use a cold frame next fall!

I am quite excited to see how well the process works!  

I am checking my garden every day to see if my Lenten rose (Hellebore) is coming up, but nothing so far.  For right now I have to be content with planning my veggie garden and misting my greenhouse babies.  

Oh yes, and whilst tramping around my yard I snapped a picture of one of my favorite shrubs, Dwarf Firepower Nandina.

The leaves turn red/orange/coral in the late summer, and stay that way all winter in my zone 6 a-b garden.  The fiery fall color really helps to bring interest to a winter landscape.  They also have bright red berries in fall and winter as well as white flowers in early summer.  

AND, they are deer resistant and low maintenance -

I live in south central Pennsylvania and took these pictures today, Feb. 21, and you can see their color is still going strong. 
For all of their wonderful characteristics, I think they are under utilized.  If you are looking for a small shrub with great fall/winter beauty, this is the one for you! 

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Seasonal Sundays
I Heart Naptime
Mockingbird Hill Cottage
Funky Junk Interiors
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One Artsy Mama
Common Ground Be Inspired Friday French Country Cottage
The Charm of Home

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pastel cookie bouquet

Sometimes cookie projects go as planned, sometimes they turn out better than I anticipated, and sometimes, well, they just frustrate me.   

This one goes in the frustration category.  

I had an idea of how I wanted to do a cookie bouquet where the faces of the flowers sat on top of the stems.  I have done several other bouquets where it is simply a cookie on a stick pushed into floral foam and they face outward.

Like this.

Or this.

With a plan in my head, I decided what kind of cookie flowers I wanted to make.  I decided that double stacked cookies would make for a more interesting presentation.  

Note to self:  keep it simple when attempting a new technique.

Anyway, I began by cutting out my flower shapes in two sizes and making a hole in the centers using a skewer.

Bake and cool, you know the drill.

I decorated the cookies with icing, and let them sit overnight to dry.  The next day I assembled the cast of characters that would become the cookie bouquet.

The first thing I did was to hot glue floral foam into the bottom of a basket.  I pieced together two shapes because I was trying to use up what I had in my craft supplies.

I love The Dollar Tree.  

You want to be sure to hot glue it to the bottom of the basket so the whole thing doesn't topple out.  That would be tragic.  

Next I covered some small skewers with floral tape.

This isn't strictly necessary, but I was still in dream land about how great this would look.

I then pushed a green Dot candy on the skewer, followed by the large cookie, then the small cookie, and finally a yellow dot candy.  
Think shish- ka- bob.

Any hard gooey candy would suffice here - it is just to keep the cookies in place and hide the top of the skewer.  I also added some royal icing between layers in hopes of keeping things together.  

For an extra splash of snazzy, I put some royal icing around the bottom of the yellow Dot and then rolled it in nonpareils.  
This was my favorite part of the entire project.  

Time to push the skewers into the foam and make my 
bee -yoo- tee- ful  bouquet.
Problem was, I didn't have the proper amount of cookie flowers.

Ok, you can all stop laughing now.

No time to make more cookies or go to the store because this was to be a gift for my daughter's after school Spanish tutor, and I had about an hour before it had to go to the school.  


I made a mad dash for my garbage bag full of gift wrapping ribbons and opened up another box of Dots.  I jabbed un-floral taped skewers into the Dots, made a few dots of icing on top of the Dots, and tied gobs of green curling ribbon on.  
I was hoping they would look like flower buds.  
A girl can dream.

Still looked too empty, so I added more green ribbon and piled in paper Easter grass.  I only had about 1/4 of a bag of green, so I put a whole bag of yellow in and then top dressed it with green.  

Still too bare.

Back to the ribbon bag, and I grabbed a massive ribbon package topper that was a good color match.  

Smoke and mirrors folks.

On the positive side, it was bright and cheerful and I really liked the cookie flowers.

The nonpareils were the star of the show.

Oh, I almost forgot!  I had also made a little cookie message for the sweet girl who gives up her time to help my sweet girl.

Cookies are sweet and so are you!

I ever so carefully loaded it into the car and drove it to the high school for the

This was a learning curve for me, and I hope know I can tackle another one with somewhat better great success!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Lavender tea time cookies

I am beginning to dream of my garden.


One of my favorite herbs is LAVENDER.  I love it's clean scent, and the flowers are divine in the herb garden as well as landscape!
Today I am going to show you how to make sweet little tea cookies enhanced with culinary lavender and a simple royal icing treatment -perfect for a formal tea party OR a quiet afternoon spent alone with spring seed catalogs!

To begin, I made a regular sugar cookie dough.  After I had rolled and cut out the shapes, I gently sprinkled the tops with dried lavender.  Fortunately, I don't have to purchase edible lavender buds because I had harvested it from my herb garden and then dried it.  

If you have never grown it, I encourage you to give it a try.  It is extremely easy to grow, has a long bloom time, and requires next to no care.

I could have added it into my dough when mixing, but I didn't for two reasons.  One, I wanted to go very sparingly because lavender can easily overwhelm in flavor - a little goes a very long way!  Two, I wanted to see it on the top so it would give my cookies a textured background for the icing treatment.  

After baking and cooling, I gave each cookie a quick spritz of food coloring spray.

See the little flecks of lavender?

I did half in purple, and half in pink.

I didn't spray the entire cookie, only a diagonal spray across the center.  A quick tip about food color sprays:  try it on some paper before the cookie, because it has a tendency to shoot out some big blobs on the initial spray.

I made four different colors of icing -

I used the green first to make the straight lines of the stems.  The first stems go from a center point up the cookie.

And then then go from the center point down the cookie.

See the blobs of color spray?  You wouldn't want that on your cookie!

Now you are just going to start adding dots of the two shades of purple.  

I used two shades because it gives the design more interest and depth.
Now with the pink icing, you make a simple ribbon - two loops, two  flowing lines, and a dot for the knot (hey, that rhymed!).

And there you have it!  
When you deconstruct a design into lines and shapes, it make the execution less intimidating.  You can make lines and dots, right?

I believe it is time for afternoon tea and dreams of spring!
I can't wait to show you what Mr. Enchanted just built me for starting seeds!  I will be posting it soon  :)