A Little Holiday Inspiration

I would describe myself a lover of the holiday season, not necessarily Christmas in the traditional sense. I believe the holiday season is a time to relax and get together with friends and family and to celebrate the past year. It is usually the only time of year that most of my family is able to get together, so it makes the time even more special. In addition to the family time, my favorite parts of this time of year are indulging probably more than I should in food and drink, as well as decorating, listening to holiday music (preferably Charlie Brown) and relaxing with at least a couple of weeks off of work.

I always hold off until December 1st to do anything Christmas related (with the exception of a bit of early gift shopping), but once the clock strikes midnight, I am ready to bring out the boxes of decor and make a trip to the tree lot (this year I’ll be getting the tree a couple of days early because I like to get it the first day the lot opens, which for me will be November 29th, but I will hold off on decorating until the 1st). I’ve been putting together a bit of inspiration to help me along this year and thought I would share it here. First up are a few of the looks I am going for:


1. Bottle brush tree shadow boxes via Pop Sugar. I really want to duplicate this idea, it is so simple but fun. I have a weird tall and narrow window leading up my staircase and a version of this on the sill with string lights coming down the length of the window would be so unbelievably cute.

2. Naked tree in a galvanized steel bucket via Dreamy Whites. Very simple and very lovely.

3. Pinecone garland via Pinterest. I actually made this garland last year and kept it up until about April in my dining room. A very simple project!

4. Holiday tree via Yvestown. I’ve actually had this image on my Pinterest for a couple of years – I love the pops of color used on the tree, especially with everything else being very neutral. I’m planning to hit up a vintage Christmas market in about a week so I’m hoping they’ll have some bright colored glass ball ornaments!

And now I pulled together some of my favorite ornaments and decor items to put the final touches on:


1. Mercury glass ornaments $21.99, Christmas Traditions –  I hang a ton of ornaments from my tree, but I also put them in vases or hang them from the windows. And mercury glass is one of my favorite things.

2. Retro-inspired glass ornaments $14.95, Paper Source – I love a pop of color with an otherwise simple design and especially love these as they remind me of the vintage ornaments you see at the junk shops every now and then (maybe I’ll score some of these at the vintage sale next weekend!).

3. Crochet snowflake garland $18.00, Terrain – I have a similar garland and I hang it from my chalkboard wall – it looks so lovely against the black background. Also, I love anything crocheted.

4. Gold bottle brush tree $16.99, Target – Bottle brush trees seem to be very popular the last few years and I love them, especially a gold one!

5. Partridge pillow $34.00, West Elm – This pillow is adorable and I love the dramatic colors – it would match my living room drapes perfectly (I may have ordered it on sale – I hope it comes soon!)

6. Gnome rotary candle holder $14.00, Terrain – I may have audibly shrieked when I saw this – it is so amazing! Although Terrain does not offer international shipping, I was able to track this thing down on a Scandinavian supply website for a few more dollars and ordered it for myself. I couldn’t resist!

7. Woodland creatures ornaments $5.95, Crate & Barrel – I love animal themed anything and these ornaments are adorable, especially the bear.

8. String lights $24.00, West Elm – These string lights are probably the best thing to happen to holiday decor since the giant plastic light-up santas, they are so pretty and give off such a beautiful yellow glow. I splurged on a string last year from Restoration Hardware to keep in a vase on my front table, but it seems that lots of other stores are now carrying them for a bit cheaper, so I may need to pick up a few more strings. I also may have recently picked up another string to decorate the antlers on my giant taxidermy buck.

9. Gold mercury glass mini ornaments $15.00, Restoration Hardware – I bought a gang of these last year on clearance after Christmas and I love them. Since they are small, they don’t weigh down my tree branches. Plus they are gold and beautiful and I want all of them.

I’m going to hold off on showing you what I end up doing with my house until closer to Christmas – up next are the gift guides! But in the meantime, what are some of your favorite decor items? Do you go for a more traditional look, modern look, or do you glam it up completely? I’d love to know!

Plan Ahead DIY Holiday Gifts

I know you’re probably rolling your eyes “Really lady, it’s not even December yet!”. And I totally agree with you. Why the heck am I even bringing up the subject?! Well, if you’re anything like me, you start stressing out over the holidays much too far in advance than is healthy. You would probably have even preferred to have everyone’s wish lists back in August so you could get a jump start on the shopping. Yes, I am borderline insane. But this year I am taking a huge step back – I want the holidays to include as little stress as possible – and that includes cutting back on the amount of money that I will be spending. Of course I will still be buying some gifts, but I will also be making a few of the gifts.

Making gifts can bring on a whole different kind of stress, but with some planning ahead, it doesn’t need to be a chore. Here are a few ideas, as well as a DIY below.


1. Terrarium – I shared my own terrarium here but you could really get creative with this gift. Pick an interesting and inexpensive vessel (go vintage!) or create a little scene catered to your recipient’s interests (Doctor Who themed?!). Stuck for ideas? Pinterest is an amazing invention.

2. Knitting – This requires probably the most planning ahead, but there are lots of projects that you can make quickly and easily, especially with a chunky yarn. My advice is to make something that you’ve made before that you know will come out well – don’t be ambitious with a fancy sweater (of course I don’t take my own advice because I’m currently working on a very time-consuming holiday gift). My favorite easy knitting projects are ear warmers and wrist warmers. This neck warmer is on my knitting to do list and the pattern is free!

3. Custom embroidery on a linen dish towel. This can also be catered to your recipient’s interests – I’m currently working on this tomato themed one via You Grow Girl for myself.

4. Preserves – This is probably one of the easiest gifts if you have done any canning or preserving throughout the year (heaven knows I did). And I usually reserve a few of the tastiest and prettiest jars to give as gifts. Glam up your jars with some pretty labels and some baker’s twine (my favorite thing to wrap gifts in!). If you don’t have a stash of preserves on hand, take a look at my favorite canning blog, Food In Jars for some ideas – I just made the Pear & Cranberry Jam about a month ago.

5. Embossed leather key chain or luggage tag (personalized with name/phone number) – lovely DIY found here via Fair Goods.

6. Handmade recipe book or recipe cards. A book might be a bit ambitious, but putting your tried and true favorite recipes on pretty cards, tying them in some baker’s twine, and gifting them to your loved ones – easy and meaningful. I found a lovely free printable recipe card  (shown above).

Lavender Rosemary Foot Scrub DIY

I don’t know about you, but this time of year means my seasonal lizard skin comes out, especially on my poor neglected feet. I don’t usually notice just how bad my feet are until they start cutting holes in my socks. A few years ago a friend made me some natural foot scrub and it was the best thing I’ve ever used on my feet. It can be made with things you probably already have, otherwise you can pick these things up at the grocery store (I’ve also purchased natural products online from New Directions Aromatics and I’ve been pleased with the quality and selection).


– 4 tbsp olive oil (alternatively you can use coconut oil or another oil of choice, but olive oil is my favorite for soft skin)
– 6 drops lavender essential oil
– 6 drops rosemary oil (you could also use eucalyptus or peppermint oil if you want)
– 1 cup epsom salts
– a spoonful of dried lavender buds

– Combine the olive oil and essential oils.
– Stir oils into epsom salts (I used a fork)
– Stir in lavender buds.
– Put into glass jar and seal.
– Glam it up with a label and some pretty ribbon (any excuse to use my vintage typewriter to make a label!)

What are some of your go-to handmade holiday gifts? Or what are some of the best DIY gifts you’ve ever received? I’m always on the lookout for new ideas!

Look forward to more gift guides throughout the month of December, including more DIY gift tutorials!

Tale Of A Pumpkin: From Seed To Pie

I don’t remember exactly what possessed me to grow a pumpkin plant this year – I think it may have been guilt for having a package of seeds and not growing them for a few years. Pumpkins take up quite a bit of precious garden real estate, so it would be understandable that I would skip a few years. I’d actually only grown pumpkins twice prior to this year – once was in my first garden where the vines took up about half of the garden but didn’t produce any actual pumpkins, and the other time was about 4 years ago when I grew one plant up a trellis in the back of my garden, that did end up producing 3 small pumpkins which were made in to soup. I’d actually planned on making this year’s two pumpkins in to pie for Canadian Thanksgiving over a month ago, but that didn’t pan out so they’ve just been sitting on my counter collecting dust and cat hair. So with American Thanksgiving this week, I decided to go ahead and try making some pies (really, I’m just using that as an excuse to eat pie).


I started the pumpkin seeds in my house early May, a few weeks before they were transplanted outdoors in one of the raised beds. The plant was along side my chicken wire cat/squirrel barrier fence which acted as a trellis for the plant, so it didn’t end up taking up a lot of room in the garden. It didn’t actually produce any pumpkins until either late July or early August and I didn’t think they would grow big enough to be harvested before freezing temperatures hit. But luckily I was wrong and two green pumpkins were harvested in early September, right before the big freak snowstorm. From there, they turned orange over the next few weeks in the kitchen and lived on the counter until now when they were cut up, roasted, pureed and baked into delicious miniature pies. It seems like a very long and complicated process for pumpkin pie – and it is. I could have easily bought a can of pumpkin from the grocery store and called it a day. But there was something really special to me about planting a little seed, caring for the plant for several months, harvesting the pumpkins myself, and baking them in to a pie. Don’t get me wrong, I will still use canned pumpkin when I do not have access to home grown pumpkins, or when I am feeling lazy – there is actually nothing wrong with canned pumpkin, it is a wonderful thing! But my pumpkin pie from scratch was absolutely amazing – I have never tasted a pumpkin pie that was this delicious. The time you take making this pie is totally worth it, trust me.


Step One: Roast The Pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. You’ll need one whole sugar pumpkin (sugar pumpkins are specifically pie pumpkins). Wash and dry the outside of your pumpkin and cut it in half (be very careful when cutting it and be very wary of hand and knife placement – luckily I did not injure myself this time but I do have an old pumpkin harvesting injury that has prevented my thumb from ever moving in the same way again). Scoop out the seeds and guts (save the seeds for roasting!). I cut the stem off my pumpkin because I was afraid it might start on fire in the oven. I doubt this would actually happen, I have a bit of paranoia. Place your pumpkin pieces cut side down on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven for about 45 minutes or until a fork easily slides through the flesh. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.

Next you’ll want to separate the flesh from the skins and discard the skins. My edges were a bit overcooked but they slid away very easily with my fingers from the rest of the flesh and had the same fate as the pumpkin skins. Puree the flesh in a blender or food processor. Think baby food consistency. You can go ahead and make the rest of your pie now or you can just put the puree in a jar and refrigerate it until you’re ready to use it. You’ll only need 1 3/4 cups of puree for the pie and the rest can be used for something else, used to make more pies, or frozen for later use.


Step Two: Make The Crust

– 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
– 2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
– 1 egg yolk
– 1 cup all-purpose flour (put some additional aside for dusting your counter)
– 1/2 tsp salt

– Beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until smooth.
– Add yolk and mix until combined.
– Add salt and gradually add flour until just combined – careful that the mixture is not too dry (if you squeeze some of the dough together in your fist it should not crumble apart).
– Form dough into a disk and refrigerate for an hour or overnight (the dough will be good for up to 3 days).

Just when you’re about to make the filling, remove the dough from the fridge and shape in to your crusts. I used eight 4 inch tart pans (with removable sides) because I prefer baked goods in individual serving sizes because it is easier to control portions and everyone can have their own adorable little pie. The pies will easily come out of your tart pans if they have the removable sides that you push up gently from the bottom. You can use a large pie plate but my guess is that you would have to adjust the baking times a bit longer.

Dust your surface and rolling pin before you roll out the dough. If you don’t have patience for this, you can divide the dough up into smaller discs and mash them in to the tart pans, which is exactly what I did. The wonderful thing about using these tart pans is even though you think your pies will come out looking terrible, they come out the opposite because the tart pans shape the dough beautifully and you don’t have to worry about making a nice decorative edging like you would on one big pie. One of the reasons that I don’t do a lot of pastry baking is that most of my end results come out looking like they were done by a child with sausage fingers. These tart pans are heaven sent for people like me. When your crusts are finished, just set them aside until your filling is ready.


Step Three: Make The Pie Filling

– 1 3/4 cups pumpkin puree
– 1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
– 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
– 1/4 tsp nutmeg
– 1/4 tsp ground cloves
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 1/2 cup granulated sugar
– 1/4 cup maple syrup (I realized as I was making the recipe that my regular syrup had expired over a year ago and tasted very much like molasses. But luckily I had a little bottle of the Noble vanilla & chamomile infused syrup which I used instead)
– 1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
– 2 large eggs
– 1 cup heavy cream

– Combine the sugar, spices and salt in a bowl.
– In a separate bowl, combine the pumpkin, maple syrup and vanilla extract.
– Lightly beat the eggs, stir them in to the pumpkin mixture, then add the spice mixture (I used my stand mixer on “stir” function). Stir in the cream.

Step Four: Bake The Pie

– Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
– Grab your pie crusts – if you used individual pans like I did, put them on a baking sheet, it will be much easier to maneuver them in and out of the oven.
– Use a small ladle or a measuring cup to pour the filling in to the crusts – fill level to the top of the crust, not over top.
– Bake the pies at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for about 25-30 more minutes or until filling is set in the middle (you’ll know if you tap the side of the tart pan and the middle does not jiggle and the top is slightly darkened).
– Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.


Step Five: Eat The Pie

This is the part where you whip some of that left over heavy cream to plop on top of your pie (I love just plain cream whipped, no sugar added – it cuts some of the sweetness of the pie). Eat the pie and declare it the best pumpkin pie you’ve ever tasted.


This is my own recipe with inspiration from lots of other recipes I found online – please feel free to use the recipe on your own blog but please link back to my blog and give credit where credit is due.

Casual Fridays Part 3

The weekend is here! I’m always excited when Friday arrives, but some Fridays bring that extra bit of excitement/relief, you know? November has been an absolutely insane month so far, so I’m hoping the rest of it calms down a bit. It seems that everyone is talking about the holidays so much earlier this year, so I definitely have that on my mind. Next week I’m going to start putting together my holiday posts, starting with a DIY/handmade gift guide! But until then, here are some of my current favorite things:


1. Duchess Bake Shop cookbook $45. My favorite bakery, Duchess Bake Shop, just put out their first cookbook and I cannot be more excited for it. The Duchess is probably the only bakery I would ever make an hour detour for on a road trip because it is that good (and yes, I have made that detour).

2. I’m on the hunt for a new wool coat and while I’m going to scour the thrift store first, I do have my eye on this lovely from GAP, $178. 

3. Knitted elbow patches via Purl Bee. My favorite sweater, which is now too shameful to even wear outside of the house, had massive elbow holes. So I whipped up some of these elbow patches and I’m thankful that my sweater will have a bit more time on this earth with me.

4. Caramelized onion & potato hand pies, via Beekman 1802. Cold weather + pies = perfection, especially if they happen to be hand pies. This recipe looks so easy and making a large batch seems like the perfect plan (I love freezing things for eating at a time that you don’t feel like cooking, but also don’t feel like leaving the comfort of your home). I’m definitely trying this recipe out on the weekend!

5. Twinkle lights, Crate & Barrel $14.95 – I’m absolutely loving these battery powered twinkle lights. I bought a string last year from Restoration Hardware, but I see other stores offering similar strings for a little bit less dough (the Crate & Barrel version is $10 cheaper for the same length of string!). I love that the strings are metallic – much prettier than the typical plastic! I am going to put these lights on everything.

6. Cat cross stitch pattern – DMC $FREE – With the cold weather and not wanting to leave the house unless absolutely necessary, I’m really into cross stitching right now. I’m currently working on a holiday project (hopefully it will be finished soon and I can share it!), but I came across this cat pattern that I’m dying to make – I’ll probably just do the actual cat and then design my own background. Now the real challenge will be finishing my current project before starting on this one.

7. I’m thinking about lighting again (while I am in love with the string lights above, they are more decorative than functional).  This seems to be a common theme around this time of year – there never seems to be sufficient lighting in my living room, which becomes a problem when I’m knitting or cross stitching in front of the television. I have always thought it was a bit bizarre that our living room does not have any hardwired lighting (our old rental didn’t either!). I think two more table lamps might do the trick and I’ve got my eye on this really pretty and inexpensive option from Target for $50. I have seen more expensive and nicer versions from Schoolhouse Electric and Rejuvenation, so if Target does not pull through for me, I will probably hold off and buy the more expensive option.

I don’t have a ton of stuff planned for the weekend – I just picked up season 4 of Boardwalk Empire so I’m hoping to binge watch that (we don’t have cable or satellite television so all the episodes are brand new to us!). Otherwise, I was planning to do a bit of cooking (obviously those hand pies above but I’m also craving hearty stews with fresh baked bread!), work on some projects around the house and do some work on my holiday gift knitting. I hope your weekend is full of rest, food and whatever else makes you happy!

Roasted Beet Chips

A few years ago my brother took me for lunch to a little sandwich shop and said “You have to try the beet chips. Trust me”. Of course I agreed because I love beets. And the beet chips were amazing. So after that I had to come home and make them for myself because that’s just what I do. They are really simple to make and an excellent side dish to basically everything. Or you could just make a batch and eat them on their own – I don’t judge.


Preheat your oven to about 350 degrees. You’ll have to wash your beets, cut off and discard the tops. Slice the trimmed beets fairly thin – using a food processor or mandolin slicer is your best bet because all your beets will be cut in less than a minute.


Toss the beets in olive oil, some balsamic vinegar, fresh rosemary, salt and pepper. Stick them in the oven for 25 minutes, turn them and put them back in for another 15-25 minutes (depending on your oven – mine is an older electric oven that runs a little high so it took less time for me).


Done! Some of my edges may have been a little crispy/slightly burnt, but I swear it was intentional (my partner likes them this way!). If you want to add a little something more, you can make a smokey/tangy dipping sauce using mayo, a splash of lemon juice and some paprika. Enjoy!