My grandfather had the most amazing flower garden, and every week when I would visit as a child he would take me out to the garden and pick me a bouquet of flowers to take home. Those weekly hand picked bouquets sparked an immeasurable love of flowers for me that sticks with me to this day. You can imagine the excitement I felt a number of years ago upon seeing an Ad for a pick your own tulip farm in Rhode Island. I instantly went on-line to find out more information and to my disappointment they were sold out for the year. For the next few years I kept remembering about this farm too late and ran into the same problem. Well, not this year!
Last week as I was slowly driving through a beautiful neighborhood admiring all of the tulips that had bloomed, it occurred to me that the tulip farm in Rhode Island must be open. When I got home and checked their website I had hit it perfectly this year and there were still tickets available. I couldn’t text my daughter quickly enough to see what her schedule was like for this week so I could purchase us tickets.
Yesterday morning I grabbed some baskets for picking, a bucket and water for transporting, my camera, and off I went to pick up my daughter at school for the day I have been waiting for for years. We drove about an hour and forty five minutes from Boston to Exeter, RI and it was well worth the drive. You are instantly greeted with friendly employees in the parking area, followed by just as friendly employees at the check in tent. A ticket gets you 10 tulips and if that is all you will be picking, you are allowed an additional tulip. You can also purchase extra tulips if you choose. Believe me, it was a struggle to only taken home 11 tulips each.
Once entering the farm you are just in awe of the absolute beauty of the neat little rows, upon rows of tulips and all of the people carrying their baskets and buckets brimming with flowers. For a flower lover like myself it was as if I had entered a form of Heaven on Earth. And to share it with my flower loving daughter made for a perfect morning.
Many of the tulips are organized by color, while some are an assorted mix.
While all of the tulips were beautiful, we didn’t realize at first that tucked in amongst the classic tulips there are varieties that I have never seen. There is such a wonderful assortment of different shapes and color combinations.
My daughter noticed these unique beauties right away, and the bouquet she picked for herself were just breath taking.
We strolled through the rows of tulips for about an hour taking it all in and finding our favorites to bring home. This farm is also the perfect backdrop for photos and just about everyone there was not missing this opportunity, including ourselves.
As you can see they look even more amazing the next day!
If you are near Rhode Island I encourage you to take a trip to this farm, I am already looking forward to visiting again in the years to come!
These adorable candles are an easy fun craft perfect to do with children. If you are looking to make a properly colored candle, crayons are not the way to color them and you will need to use candle wax dye. However, as far as a craft goes, this is a perfect way to do it. You can be as creative as you want and depending on how much time you want to spend, you can make multiple layers.
For these candles you will need:
Find some crayons that you don’t mind parting with and think of the colors you would like to put together. This is a perfect use for all of those broken crayons you have laying around that the children no longer color with.
For the wax, I use soy wax but you can use whatever candle wax you choose. You can either melt the wax and crayons on the stove as I have, or melt them in the microwave if that is easier. For the stove method, add a small amount of wax to a saucepan along with an unwrapped crayon broken into pieces.
I made two identical small mason jar candles and used about 4 oz. of wax per layer with one crayon for each layer.
The wax and crayon melt very quickly. The color will be streaky as crayons don’t mix perfectly with candle wax.
Take the pan off of the heat and let it cool for a few minutes.
While your wax is cooling anchor the wick to the bottom of the jar. To do this dip the bottom of the wick into the melted wax before placing in the jar. Keep in mind once you pour the hot wax into the jar the wick may move. Be sure to either hold it in place while pouring or use a wick holder which sits on the jar.
Once the wax has cooled for a few minutes you can pour it into the jars. The easiest way to do this is to use a funnel. It not only helps you by not spilling the wax all over your counter, but also helps to keep the wick in place. I’ve tried a few different ways and the funnel was definitely the best option.
Let each layer set for about 30 minutes before repeating the melting process and adding another color.
Once the candles are set trim the wicks with scissors and they are ready to light.
I am constantly purchasing antique mason jars whenever I see them at estate sales and use them for so many different things. I absolutely love old jars, all kinds of jars actually. I have made snow globes out of antique mason jars, have many decorating my sunporch filled with shells and seaglass that I’ve found, and some on my kitchen window sill helping me root plantings I have cut. As an antique dealer I often use them to sell fun decorative collections of vintage marbles and thread spools. The repurposing possibilities are endless, and I wanted to share another fun use for those fantastic old jars.
Of course you don’t have to use antique jars to make candles, new mason jars will work just as well.
Making your own candles is quite easy, the only somewhat difficult part is calculating the wax to container ratio, and the fragrance to wax ratio. You have to remember that wax is measured by weight and not by volume. What this means is if you have a 3 oz. jar that does not mean you use 3 oz. of wax, you use 2.4 oz . I have included a chart below to help you calculate the measurements.
The first number represents the size of the container by volume, and the second number next to it represents the amount of wax needed by weight.
3 oz. – 2.4 oz.
4 oz. – 3.2 oz.
6 oz. – 4.8 oz.
8 oz. – 6.4 oz.
10 oz. – 8 oz.
And so on.
If you decide to add a scent to the candles, use fragrance oil specifically for candles. As far as the measurements go, I used .5 oz of fragrance oil for 1 lb. of wax, and .75 oz of fragrance oil for 20 oz. of wax and they smelled nice and not too overpowering.
You can also color the candles but you need to use dye specifically for candles. Food coloring or crayons will not work perfectly. I did make some candles with crayons for a fun craft idea, but the crayons don’t blend well with the wax and the colors aren’t as nice they would be with candle dye.
To start you need some candle wax, I purchased 10 lbs. of soy wax.
You will need a scale to measure out the wax. I used a kitchen scale that I had and just scooped the wax onto the scale.
Once the wax is measured, transfer it to a saucepan and melt it on medium heat on your stove. It melts very quickly and easily.
Once the wax is melted stir in the fragrance if you are using one, and remove it from the heat to cool.
While your wax is cooling anchor the wick to the bottom of the jar. To do this you can dip it in the melted wax and stick it to the bottom of the jar. Keep in mind once you pour the hot wax into the jar the wick may move. Be sure to either hold it in place while pouring or use a wick holder which sits on the jar as I have.
Once the wax has cooled for a few minutes you can pour it into the jars. The easiest way to do this is to use a funnel. It not only helps you by not spilling the wax all over your counter, but also helps to keep the wick in place. I tried a few different ways and the funnel was definitely the best option.
Once the candles have set, trim the wicks with scissors.
Now they are ready to burn. I am loving not only the coffee scent, but how it looks in this aqua colored antique jar!
On a bend in the road at the tip of Southport Island in Maine is the most adorable alpaca farm. I can remember years ago being in our favorite little library, which happens to be next door, and one of the librarians asking if we had seen the new neighbors that had recently moved in. After peaking through the library window trying to catch a glimpse, my children and I walked a little further into the library parking lot to see these cute furry creatures never imagining that someday we would be walking them on leashes. Right? Who walks alpacas on leashes?
Soon enough, this small farm opened it’s “doors” to the public and we met some of these fascinating animals as well as their people, Anne and Mike. And what wonderful people they are. Of course I assumed they must have been alpaca farmers for years but come to find out this was fairly new to them. I let out a little sigh every time I leave their farm and think of how nice it would be to pack up and leave things behind to have a change of life as they have. I’m sure being an alpaca farmer is much more difficult than they make it look, however, and I doubt I would last a week.
This year we spent the Christmas holiday in Maine for the first time and were able to reserve a spot to take an alpaca for a walk. How cool is that? I caught myself smiling under my mask every time a car went by wondering what the people must think as they drive past. I’m sure in the summer months especially there must be quite a few heads that turn as people utter “were they just walking alpacas?”
So the other day my daughter and I headed over to the farm on a 28 degree winter day ready for our trek. Anne explained how to walk an alpaca, filled our jacket pockets with feed, and off we went through the neighborhood while our alpacas took turns trying to lead the pack. Zara was on my leash and Gracie on my daughter’s making their cute little moans as we walked along. Gracie moaned quite a bit, I don’t think she was as excited as we were about this excursion.
It also didn’t take Gracie very long to figure out my daughter’s pocket was filled with treats.
By the end of the trek my daughter Sara and Gracie seemed to have a little more of an understanding of each other 😅
When we returned to the farm it didn’t take long for the other alpacas to also realize what Sara had in her pocket. What an amazing experience to be surrounded by these beautiful gentle creatures. I am pretty sure my daughter would say the same even though she may have gotten “sneezed” on by one of them, twice. Better her than me 😛
This little farm is truly such a special place and I could not be more thankful to have it as a neighbor in Maine.
The next time you are visiting the coast of Maine, make sure to take a detour down Rt. 27 towards the Boothbay peninsula and head over to Southport to pay a visit to Anne and Mike and all of their wonderful alpacas at Cape Newagen Alpaca Farm.
I can officially say this is my favorite cake, and not just my favorite cake recipe, but my favorite cake. It is better than a bakery. While it is very time consuming to make, it is completely worth it. Unfortunately the vintage lighting in my Maine cottage was not very good for photos 🙁
Carrot cake was my wedding cake and every year on our anniversary we would buy a carrot cake from the same bakery. When they stopped offering to bake the cake without walnuts, instead of looking for another bakery I decided I would just bake a carrot cake for our anniversary. HUGE thank you to that bakery because this cake is so much better! Now every year on our anniversary we have this cake.
Even though I do not use walnuts you can absolutely add them to this recipe if you choose. I also only use 1/2 cup raisins because no one in my family likes raisins except me. If you enjoy a carrot cake with more raisins you can increase that to 1 cup.
2 cups sugar
3 extra large eggs (room temperature)
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour (plus 1 tbsp)
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 lb. carrots grated
1/2 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease two 9″ round cake pans, line with parchment paper, then grease and flour the parchment paper.
Peel the carrots and grate them using the fine side of a hand grater, you do not want the carrots shredded. Once grated put them aside. This is my least favorite part of making this cake, and pretty much the only reason I don’t make this cake more often.
In a large mixing bowl combine the sugar, eggs, and oil and beat on medium speed with an electric mixer for 2 minutes.
Stir in the vanilla.
In a separate bowl sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet mixture while beating on low speed with the electric mixer. The batter will be thick.
In a third bowl combine 1 tbsp. of flour with the carrots and raisins and mix well. This helps prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the cakes.
Have you noticed the vintage Pyrex bowls yet? These were my mother’s, I love everything vintage.
Stir the carrot mixture into the cake batter and pour into prepared pans.
Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool the cakes in the pans for 15 minutes and then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely.
Once the cakes are cool it is time to frost these delicious cakes with cream cheese frosting!
Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 stick of butter softened (1/2 cup)
1 8 oz. block of cream cheese softened
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar (or more per taste)
Using an electric mixer on medium speed beat the butter and cream cheese until well mixed and smooth. Add the vanilla and beat just until combined. Beat in the powdered sugar.
You may like the frosting sweeter and if so, just add a little more powdered sugar.
Place one of the cakes upside down on a dish or cake stand and start frosting the middle.
Place the second cake round side up on top of the first cake and finish frosting.
Make sure to keep the cake covered and refrigerated.
Technically you can make a chocolate bark by melting chocolate and throwing whatever you like in it. While you may really like the taste of anchovies and crushed Kit Kats, I am thinking the recipients of your holiday bark may prefer something a little more mainstream and festive. Even though I have made many a different bark over the years, this peppermint marble bark is my go to favorite.
I use Baker’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate and Baker’s White Chocolate if I can find it. Most stores don’t seem to carry the white chocolate, and if not I prefer to use Ghiradelli White Chocolate Chips. This recipe has a really great taste and I recommend sticking with the semi-sweet chocolate, and sticking with the Baker’s brand. You will need 1 package of each.
Not only is this a great tasting and impressive looking bark, it allows you to get out some of your holiday frustrations. You will need a cup of crushed candy canes or peppermint starlight candies and the best way to crush them, is to smash them. I put a bunch in a plastic bag and have at them with a wooden mallet. Instant stress relief. And an instant mess if you use a thin plastic bag.
Once you are done annihilating your mints, line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Microwave the semi-sweet and white chocolates in separate bowls. Start with a minute, stir the chocolate, and continue in 30 second intervals until melted. Be careful with the white chocolate because it can burn easily.
Stir half of the crushed mints into each bowl of chocolate. Drop spoonfuls of each chocolate close to each other on the baking sheet and smooth the chocolate to the thickness you prefer. Once all the chocolate is laid out, use a knife to swirl the chocolates together to marbleize them.
Refrigerate the bark until firm, and then just break into pieces. Store in an air tight container.
These melting snowmen cookies bring instant smiles to children and adults. They actually make me giggle, but I am easily amused. I am not going to lie though, they are a pain in the neck to make, but the reaction you get from them is worth it. When you are about to make these cookies set yourself out a chunk of time, put on some music, and pour yourself a large cup of coffee because you are in it for the long haul. I’m exaggerating slightly, but they are time consuming.
I found this recipe on-line years ago, but after many different attempts at making these I have settled on a slightly different version. If you look you on-line you will see that people do these all different ways. However, I think mine are the best 😉
I know I have said before that I always make my cookies from scratch, but these are my one exception. If this recipe was the only cookie I was making I may be tempted to make a homemade sugar cookie, but I make so many different varieties around the holidays that I just cut corners on this one. They take so long to put together and they are more about the cuteness than about the taste anyway.
So the first thing I do is cut open the roll of Pillsbury Sugar Cookie dough and bake the cookies. Once they are done they need to cool completely before decorating. The good thing about this recipe is that you can bake the cookies hours or even a day before and decorate them when you are ready.
You will need a bag of large marshmallows for the heads. They look better if you cut off one end of the marshmallow. Since I hate to waste food, I usually munch on the ends that aren’t needed. Or you could save them and put them in hot chocolate? I prefer to just eat them.
Once those are done you will need orange sprinkles long enough to be the carrot nose. If you can’t find just orange sprinkles, you will need to fish through a container of colored sprinkles which is what I typically end up doing. Even though I have seen multicolored carrots before, I haven’t yet gotten to the point where my snowmen have had purple and yellow noses. All you need to do is push the orange sprinkle into the marshmallow far enough until it stays.
When I first tried making these cookies I used black decorator’s gel for the eyes and mouth. Personally I find that it is not only easier to use a food marker, but I think it looks better. By food marker I do not mean a Sharpie, they sell edible markers at craft stores. I like to make a circle for the mouth to give it a “oh no I’m melting” look. You could make a smiley face, but I’m pretty sure that snowmen would not be too happy about melting. Frosty never seemed to be anyway.
Now it’s time to make the melting snow. The first year I made these cookies I used a store bought icing. The next year I purchased a different icing that didn’t work well, and instead of running out to the store I decided to just make my own icing instead. That is what I have continued to do since then.
Mix together 1 cup of confectioners sugar and 2 tsps. milk until smooth. Beat in 2 tsps. of corn syrup until it looks smooth and glossy. If it is too thick, add a little more corn syrup.
I use a spoon to drop some icing onto one side of the cookie, and then tilt the cookie while turning it so that it looks like melted snow. I also like to let a little run off of the sides. Make sure to stick on the marshmallow heads before the icing sets, the icing acts as a glue to hold the heads in place. Make sure the icing really sets before you finish decorating.
Originally I also tried using black gel for the arms but had difficulty with those as well, and decided to just use the food markers. I am not really sure why I seem to have so much difficulty with such things, maybe it’s just me. If you are more skilled than I am with decorator’s frosting or gel, you may decide to use that instead. If you decide to use the food markers, you have to use a very light touch because it cracks through the icing.
The last step is using gel to make a scarf. Then let the smiles and giggles begin!