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August 17, 2018

Everything Chocolate PB & Pretzel Cookies | Freezer Cookies Tips

 What is it about back to school time that makes me want to stock the cookie jar?  Mike and Emma only like regular chocolate chip cookies.  Ugh.  I need a little variety!  Snickerdoodles, Peanut Butter, Sugar...  

They could eat chocolate chip cookies, boxes of brownies and plain chocolate cake their entire life and be fulfilled.  It makes it hard for me to want to come up with new recipes when they always ask for the classics.  However, when Emma was at school this week, I took it upon myself to experiment.  I started with their favorite chocolate chip recipe (tollhouse, but I use a little extra brown sugar and a little less white to make chewier) and added lots of yummy things - PB Chips, Chocolate Chips, Pretzels and Flaked Sea Salt.

They loved them!  Yay for a new favorite!

After school bliss after a long day in 1st Grade.   Sometimes I miss the lazy days of summer, but I also love a clean house, a full cookie jar and after school rituals : )  I pick Emma up from school everyday.  Those three hours we spend together before Mike gets home are so magic.  So many warm fuzzy feelings with after school routines - the walk home, snacks, hearing about the day, playing and dinner prep together.  After working by myself earlier in the day, I'm re-energized and ready to be a "stay-at-home" mom again in the afternoon.  I really make every effort to put down my phone and free my brain to piddle with Emma, laundry, time in the yard, dinner and keeping house.

I've just added/restocked one of my favorite baking essentials -  [Baking Scoops](  Every single time I made cookies, I scoop half of the dough into balls to bake immediately,  then I scoop the rest into balls that go in the freezer.  It is so nice to have them to pull out for last minute desserts or after school snacks if Emma has a friend over.  We serve them at dinner parties all of the time with decaf coffee - adults love fresh baked cookies warm out of the oven, too : )
Tip : I line them up on a small sheet pan lined with parchment paper, then freeze them directly on the pan.  After about an hour I take them out and put them into a freezer bag.  This helps them not stick together while they are freezing.
Small : 0.875 oz  (Pictured here.  I use this for regular size cookies + small muffins)
Large : 2.75 oz  (I use this for cupcakes and large cookies)
Note : These are scooped for the freezing.  For baking, I would spread them out and do about 8-10 per large sheet, 4-5 per small sheet.
I store all of our chips and goodies in my Plastic Kitchen Containers, (18 for $8) in the kitchen.  It keeps the pantry from overflowing with half-used bags of chips, nuts and sprinkles.  Also, I find that I always have a little left in multiple bags of chocolate chips that just sort of bury themselves in the pantry, so this way they are easily combined.
Everything Chocolate PB & Pretzel Cookies
2 sticks of salted butter, softened/room temp
1 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips*
1/2 cup of peanut butter chips*
1/2 cup of pretzels*
flaked sea salt

Begin by creaming together butter and sugars in a mixer until smooth, about 2 minutes.  Add vanilla and eggs, mix again until smooth.  Add in flower, salt and baking soda, along with chocolate chips, PB chips and half of the pretzels - reserve some of each type of chip from the mixture.  I put them on top of each cookie ball before baking to make them look extra loaded.  Mix together slowly just until combined.  
Scoop cookies onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet (you can find in my store, here).  I use a small scoop for regular cookies and a large scoop for extra large cookies.  (Scoops, here >). Put some broken pieces of pretzels and extra chips on each pretzel.  Sprinkle a big of flaked sea salt on each, also.
Bake for 8 minutes at 350 degrees.  They might seem slightly soft in the middle, but keeping them on the hot pan when you take them out of the oven usually finishes the cooking perfectly.

I like putting the chips, etc. in with the flour, then the flour sort of coats the chips and helps them not settle to the bottom while baking.

Note : These are scooped for the freezing.  For baking, I would spread them out and do about 8-10 per large sheet, 4-5 per small sheet.

Small Baking Sheet
Large Baking Sheet
Parchment Paper

Topped with pretzel pieces before baking/freezing.  This gives them extra crunch on top - and you can see that there are pretzels inside!

They take just a few minutes longer to bake when frozen.  I put them still frozen on the baking sheet and let them baking for about 10-12 minutes.  They are actually better after having been frozen... not sure why, but true!

In the freezer!  

I boxed up some for a birthday gift for a friend in my Navy Wellie Boxes.  They would make such a cute Back-to-School Gift for a teacher, too.  They are perfect for cookies or gift cards.

Navy Wellie Boxes, here >

Our gift was actually a 40th Birthday for one of Mike's friends... so, we also brought along a bottle of bourbon.  Swap bottle of wine and would be perfect for a hostess gift.  If we are going to a friend's home we usually bring something baked and a bottle of wine.

I hope everyone is having a great back-to-school!  

August 16, 2018

Diamond Dot Block Print

I designed the Cream Diamond Dot Block Print to be a classic - seasonless and subtle.  In the fall, it is lovely paired with browns and gold, and during the holidays it will look just as nice with evergreen.  

The color is a soft, buttery beige that can read a little gold in the fall, but will also be perfectly pale in the spring.  The Diamond Dot pattern mimics quilting a little, which I love for cushions.  I'm thinking of adding these to the guest room.

If you have a darker sofa (like a grey or medium brown), these are a great way to lighten up your room. They come in my three standard pillow cover sizes : 

Left to Right : 

I use the following inserts for the covers.  For more details, read my Pillow Guide, here >

Ikea 26" Insert  ($9.99) for my 22" Pillow Covers

Ikea 20" Insert ($5.99) for my 20" Pillow Covers

Ikea Rectangle 26x16" Insert ($6.99) for my Rectangle Pillow Cover

I use Ikea inserts for all of the Cushion Covers in my store.  So, you can invest in the inserts from Ikea (inexpensive!!) once, and then switch out covers from my store each season like I do.

This is a good example of how versatile the Cream Diamond Dot is - it looks so fallish and neutral here with the Grey Ticking Stripe Runner and the Farmhouse Pottery Pitcher.  Below, I've paired it with more feminine colors for a shower.


Block print tea towels are so nice for a gift.  I'm often including one tied around a loaf of banana bread or around a bottle of wine.

Diamond Dot Runner & Napkins >

August 13, 2018

Tomato Soup | Back to School

And just like that, we're not spending the day baking donut cakes in the kitchen.  Emma's at school and here I am in a quiet house working on my computer.  This scenario seemed impossible just last week.  There were points in the summer that I would've gone to great lengths to have a quiet morning sitting at my computer with my entire brain to work with.  And now that it is here, I'm wishing it was still summer break and the only thing on our agenda was going for a bike ride and heading to the pool for lunch.

The other side of the story is that I love my work.  Last year when kindergarten started, I reclaimed a real workweek for myself that I hadn't had since she was born.  I truly enjoy my time working alone at home and after a breezy summer I'm glad to be at the grind again.  I also love the routine of the school year.

This morning after Mr. Darcy and I went on our long, leisurely stroll, I sat down to my desk brimming with ideas for the new season.  I have so many things I'd like to share - ideas for easy weeknight dinners, to-go lunches for working parents, tips for streamlining household chores, and of course, new products to make it all happen.

We spent much of our summer in the garden at The School House.  (Above, Emma's lemonade stand.)   About once a week Emma and I would venture out there and collect a basket of tomatoes, an armful of zinnias or hydrangea and fistful of basil.  We would walk down the road and pick up peaches from the neighbor's farmstand and whatever else we needed to fill in the gaps of our menu.  I'd like to think Emma's summer was filled with the tastes and scents of summer produce... mixed with the smell of chlorine and ice cream.   I want to bottle that up for her.  (Not the chlorine - ha!) I wanted to turn our garden tomatoes into something she could enjoy while at school and maybe she would be reminded of our carefree, wonderful summer spent in the garden.

One of Emma's favorite meals is "red soup and bread."  It started when we would frequent our favorite cafe, Bella Napoli, when she was little.  On a really cold day I would order the minestrone for myself and a bowl of red sauce for her.  She would eat it with a spoon and dip an entire basket of bread in it.  And so it started - Red Soup & Bread.

Navy Fleur Block Print Napkins, $34 for 4

It is one of her favorite lunches to take to school.  I send the soup in a small thermos and a bag of sliced baguette.  Since we had an abundance of tomatoes this summer (from our 16 plants!!) I made some big batches of homemade "red soup."  (I also made Garden Tomato Sauce, recipe here >)

I portioned them out into the small and medium plastic containers (here) that come in my set of Plastic Kitchen Containers.  This is the lunch I'll turn to when I haven't been to the store in a couple of days and we're out of all of the normal lunch option.  I'll be able to pull one of these out of the freezer... instead of having to shop by school and pick up a lunchable on our way (which we've also done several times)!

"Red Soup" (Tomato Soup) Recipe

8-10 Tomatoes** (or 3 x 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes)
2 carrots, minced
1 large white onion, diced
1 stick of butter
4 cups of chicken stock
2 teaspoons of sea salt (more to taste)
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
1/2 cup of cream

Begin by sautéing onion and carrots in the butter until slightly softened.  Add tomatoes**, chicken stock, salt and thyme.

**If using fresh tomatoes, remove the core, cut into quarters then blend until liquified in a blender or food processor.  If using canned, just pour them right in!

Cook for 1 hour until reduced.  Remove from heat.  Cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes.  Transfer to a blender with a ladle until blender is half way full.  Put lid on, but remove steam/pour lid and cover loosely with a towel.  The hot liquid will cause the lid to want to pop off if left sealed.  Blend until smooth.  Add the 1/3 of the cream and blend until creamy and smooth.  Pour into freezer containers.

I don't worry about removing skins or seeds - the entire thing goes in and gets blended up.

Since this was my first day back at "work" I decided to make myself a grilled cheese to go along with the soup for the photos.

Freezer Tip : One of my favorite short cuts is to always make an extra and throw it in the freezer.  Even for leftovers, if we have an entire portion of something leftover and no one wants it for lunch the next day, it goes in the freezer.  I can't tell you how many times that has saved me from having to go get takeout.

Someone is saying, "really, freezing a pre-assembled grilled cheese? aren't those easy to make fresh when you want them."  Yes, but sometimes we're out of bread and sometimes we're out of cheese.  So, because it is just as easy to make two as it is one, now I have an easy dinner/lunch in the freezer for Emma on a busy night if the fridge is empty and Mike and I have dinner plans.  Otherwise, we'd be running through Chick-Fil-A...

Happy Back to School!!  xoxox

August 08, 2018

Emma's Cake | Cake Decorating with Kids

Emma is very into crafting.  The entire summer has been filled with her craft projects all over the house.  There are scraps of fabric, string, foam sheets (a new obsession), ribbon, paper, glue, glitter and soooo much tape ev-ery-where in our house.  She can spend hours making things.  She's a creator.  The best part is that she is convinced she can make absolutely anything and everything.

She's had a vision for this cake decorating idea she had come across.  Brightly colored layers topped with donuts and "ice cream."  A 6-year-old girl's dream.

I really let her take charge of this project.  She wanted my help to smooth the buttercream when she got frustrated, so that was my only real contribution.  She made the cakes (I lined the pans with parchment and put them in the oven).  We made the buttercream together and helped with mixing the colors.  

She insisted we use candy melt to make the icing for the donuts - a tip she's come across.  We purchased the plain cake donuts from the grocery store and she did the dipping and decorating.  I think they turned out so cute.  We used skewers to hold them in place.

Emma's Donut & Ice Cream Cake Supplies

I keep a fairly simply kitchen and use my essentials over and over for all kinds of projects and recipes.    See how I organize my kitchen, here >

I love that she gets it - we can make beautiful things with our hands and very simple ingredients and supplies.

Note : If I was in charge this cake I probably would've stopped here ; )  But she's a more sprinkles is more girl - I get it!

I used to take photos like these close up of her eyelashes on a weekly basis, but I don't get my big camera out as often anymore for our projects.  I typically like them to be just the two of us.  But, she wanted to do so much of this project all by herself - it was fun for me to silently watch and document.  Also, I think she felt a little bit like a YouTube star (ugh).

We used a White Cake Mix and my Homemade Swiss Buttercream (soooo good!).  A boxed cake + homemade frosting is our go-to combination for cakes and cupcakes. 

I line my cake pans with Parchment Paper by cutting a round for the bottoms (by tracing) then strips for the sides.  They come out of the pans perfectly.  I bake them on a Large Baking Sheet.

We baked the cakes, let them cool, and made the buttercream.  Then, we layered with white buttercream and did a skim coat on the entire cake.  We put it in the refrigerator to harden for about 30 minutes before we decorated. 

We made 4 colors - Purple, Aqua, Coral & Mint Green

We put each in a large disposable pastry bag and cut the tip off so that there was a large opening.  She piped a big circle of the purple on first then we smoothed it around with a knife.  Next she did the aqua and we smoothed it all the way around blending it/overlapping it with the purple a little.

She did the pink around the edge then pushed it over the sides as she blended around.  This is the part I helped her with a little.  

If a color got blended over too much, we went back and added over, then smoothed again.

She did the mint green layer on top, blending with the coral a little for a marbled effect.

I LOVE how this technique looks.  I can't wait to experiment with other colors, too.  

She microwaved the candy melt, then tinted with food coloring.  She dipped the plain donut in and put it on a skewer.  I trimmed off the skewers for her once they were in place.

Then she sprinkled!  She also added the ice cream cone and filled it with "melting ice cream."  

She also added some texturing details and got out her icing gel she picked up from the hobby store ; )

But how cute is this cake?!  It was so much fun to make and really very simple.  

Best of all, she's learning the value of making vs. buying and she's discovering that she is capable of creating real, beautiful things that seem challenging or difficult.  Skills that she'll use for a lifetime - and not just in the kitchen!

Emma's Donut & Ice Cream Cake Supplies

I've also added a new Party! and Kid's Parties! sections to my online store with lots or pretty ribbons, birthday candles and party supplies (like clear cups with lids and clear cello bags for favors).

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