Last month, I gave my mom and sisters some hand bags. I was only thinking about how much I like hand motifs when I decided to make these, and the pun was a bonus. They’re identical in construction to the potato-printed bags from a few years ago, but were printed with hand-carved rubber stamps instead of the root vegetable variety. I used a heavy canvas so they’re extra durable, and each bag was decked out with its own zipper pocket, complete with a tiny hand charm:
This year, all the dudes in my life got some shaving soap for Christmas. I’d run across a few different recipes in my research, but what really clinched the deal was finding a fragrance oil that smelled like shaving cream (which, as everyone knows, is one of the best scents on earth). I used this recipe (but subbed shea butter for the cocoa butter) and poured the soap into thrifted mugs. It got a month-long cure, during which time my dining room was filled with the essence of barbasol. I was almost sad I had to give it away, but I’ve got plans in the works to make a batch of shaving-cream-scented soap just for me.
Each mug was paired with a badger-hair brush for working up a rich, creamy lather.
This year’s anniversary post is a little late because it required Nick’s input. Traditionally, year six calls for an iron present, but I decided to be less literal about it. This gift is totally non-ferrous, but it’s technically an iron, so I think it counts. Nick created a design (inspired by this) and I sent it off to a company that mills solid aluminum into a brand. He can use it on handmade furniture, art crates, or whatever else strikes his fancy. We have already tested its culinary applications.
Because most of our photos together are cell phone selfies featuring cats, we decided to break out the real camera. This had the dual purpose of capturing our portrait and working through the backlog of expired film taking up room in my freezer.
I made these macarons for a friend’s baby shower a few days ago, and it just so happened that the nautical-themed colors coincided perfectly with the July fourth holiday. Vanilla bean and red velvet are two flavors I’ve baked before, but the blueberry was a new one. I added a heaping tablespoon of blueberry powder (made by whirring some of these in a spice grinder) and each sandwich got a kiss of blueberry jam and a dollop of blue-tinted mascarpone frosting. Next time I’ll double the blueberry powder and up the jam so each bite is packed with a more intense blueberry flavor. Precisely ten minutes after I finished piping the last macaron, it dawned on me that parchment paper might be sold in sheets rather than in a roll, and it is! I don’t know how it took me so long to figure this out, but my macaron game is about to get a lot better now that I no longer have to fight the creeping edges of curly parchment. I wish I’d had this epiphany sooner!
Because these macarons served as party favors, I finally got some use out of this impulse buy from last year: macaron boxes!
I’m always grateful to be an American, but this Independence Day is made much more poignant and meaningful after the recent and long-overdue supreme court ruling. I’m so proud to live in a country that champions equality. Happy birthday, America!
There are few things in the world that I love as much as the scent of honeysuckle. One whiff and I am seven years old, barefoot in the backyard with my brothers, pulling apart the wispy blossoms to find the single drop of nectar inside. Even if you’re not the nostalgic type, it’s impossible not to appreciate these tiny ombre flowers and the way their heady fragrance marks the end of spring. I decided to preserve this fleeting moment with a batch of honeysuckle jelly.
I followed this recipe, which calls for four cups of honeysuckle flowers. The vine by my house is particularly prolific, so I grabbed a basket and filled it with hundreds of the butter-yellow blossoms. The honeysuckle was then steeped in hot water, creating a really potent, aromatic infusion that’s used as the base of the jelly. I found that a lot of the delicate flavor cooked out as I boiled it to gel point, but the result is still delicious– sweet and faintly floral, with some brightness from the added lemon juice. So far, my favorite jelly application is to spread it on a piece of toast with some fresh ricotta. This batch yielded ten four ounce jars, but I have a feeling it won’t last long.
Here are a few recent things not worthy of their own post:
Up top is an incredible mirror I got my mom as an early mother’s day present (and also, Pip, pretending to be majestic). It’s so precisely carved and in such intricate detail that you hardly notice what it’s reflecting. I wanted to keep it for myself, which is probably a sign it’s a wonderful gift, right?
We got an unexpected package in the mail containing eight superlative juice glasses, a belated christmas gift from some dear friends. I’ve kept two out for daily use, but the rest are tucked away safely. They’re nearly too pretty to drink from.
I made a batch of lemon-poppy seed soap a while back, and in many ways, it turned out better than I could have hoped. Completely by accident, the batch gelled, which means it’s more shiny and translucent than a normal batch of soap– a nice feature for a bar embedded with poppy seeds. Nick made me a few molds, so the soap set with perfect squared corners and straight edges, which made it much easier to cut into uniform bars. The recipe is one I concocted to use the oils leftover from the christmas soap experiment, and although it was untested and entirely made up, it resulted in a better batch than the recipe I used then. This is my new go-to soap base:
12 oz canola oil
8 oz castor oil
16 oz coconut oil (76 deg)
10 oz olive oil
4 oz shea butter
19 oz water
7.04 oz lye
To make it lemon-poppy seed, I added 1.5 oz lemon essential oil and a quarter cup of poppy seeds at trace. It’s got an excellent lather and it smells like dessert.
Nick had the genius idea to partially swirl food coloring into a batch of marshmallows, and my only regret is that nobody thought of it sooner. The ribbons of dye formed technicolor striations and made for some trippy looking s’mores.
– I’ve made this cake twice in as many weeks, and I already have plans to make it again. It’s that good.
– My antique mall luck has been off the charts lately– I’ve had my eye out for one of these for AGES, and I finally found one.
– I’m spending every second there’s cool, breezy weather listening to mountain man with the windows open, trying to enjoy this season before the onslaught of summer heat.
Soap making has been on the docket for years, but something’s always stopped me from getting organized enough to make a batch. There are hundreds of cold-process soap recipes on the internet, and it’s hard to know which are reliable and simple enough for a beginner. I also knew I’d need to amass a small collection of dedicated cookware, measuring cups, utensils and thermometers so I wouldn’t end up mixing pancake batter in a bowl that once had lye in it. Speaking of lye, I was nervous about working with such a potentially dangerous substance– especially considering how often I manage to spill boiling hot tea on myself (more frequently than I’d care to admit).
Nothing motivates me quite like the holiday season, so with the December deadline looming, I got to work. I used a similar base recipe for all the soaps, and subbed different liquids and additives to create each scent: goat milk, honey, & oat soap; peppermint soap; coffee soap; and beer soap. The peppermint batch was the only one I tried coloring. I’d hoped to achieve a vibrant red and white swirl, but the bright red I mixed up faded to a kind of dull brick-red, and when striped with an off-white, resulted in what Nick referred to as “bacon colors”. So, I still need a little practice coloring soap. Because I wasn’t sure my soap experiment wouldn’t be a terrific disaster, I didn’t invest in a soap mold– instead, I spent a shockingly short amount of time saving empty quart-sized cream cartons and used two for each 5 lb batch of soap. After a day or two, the soap hardened and I peeled the cardboard off. These worked pretty well in the short term, but bowed a little when they were filled, which meant my finished bars were a little wonky.
Each batch yielded 16 bars with a little trimmed off the top for testing. I used a crinkle cutter to give each bar a fancy rippled top. After the bars cured for a month, they were wrapped in paper sleeves, labeled, and handed out to family and friends.