Porch Pretty – a Welcoming 4th of July

The single-best way to welcome your guests to your door, and celebrate the seasons, is hanging a chalkboard in your front porch entryway. A simple childhood learning tool, the schoolhouse chalkboard is a great go-to if you are busy, don’t have the extra money to dress up your front porch every time a holiday comes around, or have the space needed to store all the seasonal decor.

I purchased my chalkboard from Magnolia, but you can find a similar one here on Amazon.  Then, visit Pinterest and search “chalkboard art.” I’ve made it easy for you – just head over to my two links on Pinterest for ideas -Chalkboard inspiration here and July 4th inspiration here.

Inspired by 4dotsdesign on Etsy

The flags are from my favorite hardware store Jabo’s Ace. They are on sticks so you can easily stick the flags into flower beds or flower pots. Store them away to use for Memorial and Labor Day, or just anytime you want to show your American spirit.

I also like putting a doormat right before people step onto the porch. I love the Hooray You’re Here mat that I picked up from Hobby Lobby (it’s on sale for $9.99!). Want to add a great-smelling feature to your front porch – plant thyme!  See the bright tufts of green spilling out onto the sidewalk? How easy to step out onto your porch and pick some fresh herbs to mix into salads or grilled chicken.

The chalkboard usually resides right above a bench. I added the rope detail for a rustic touch. Benches are the perfect spot for deliveries or sitting while you take off your shoes. The lantern is battery operated, and on a timer, so it comes on at dusk. I have had the potted fern since last summer. Since we had a mild winter, it stayed green all year long.  The home pillow is from Pottery Barn, and even though I have had it for several seasons, it is still available here. Be sure to bring your pillows in during storms and keep them in the shade, so the sun doesn’t fade the fabric. The basket on the front door is from Ballard Designs.  I keep it up year-round and fill with seasonal flowers – my favorites are sunflowers!

I hope you have a beautiful July 4th despite the hardships we are facing right now. Celebrate being together and the freedoms that come with that.

“One flag, one land, one heart, one hand, one nation forevermore.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Just a Minute Centerpiece

I have an easy Valentine’s Day centerpiece to share.  You could do this for any occasion, like a birthday party, ice cream social, baby shower or July 4th by changing up the colors of the flowers.

What you’ll need:

Carnations — I love Carnations and I think they get a bad rap.  They are fragrant, inexpensive and can go a long time without water which is perfect for this centerpiece project.  I bought three bunches at $3.99 each from Central Market.

Red Hots — I bought several scoops from the bulk bin at Central Market, or you could buy a large bag in the candy aisle.

Ice Cream Sugar Cones — I used nine cones which was one box.

Glass Cylinders or Vases – You can find these anywhere.  I just used ones I had in my vase stash.

I cut the carnation stems short enough to fit in the ice cream cone so the bottom petals of the carnation set just around the rim of the cone.  I put all one color in each cone.  As it worked out, I had enough to make three cones for each of the colors.  A rule of thumb, tablescapes always looks better in odd numbers — in this case three vases, three cones per vase.

I filled the bottom of each cylinder with red hots.  You don’t need to measure, just pour enough in each vase so it looks even.  Then, nestle the cones down into the vase.  That’s it!

The carnations went without water for 24 hours, and I put them into water the next day.  They are still fresh a week a later.

I styled the vases on top of cake pedestals I found last year in the dollar section of Target along with sweets we had.  My milk glass collection is always a perfect backdrop for the yummy treats from McKinley’s Bakery. The cute little chalkboard menus are from the Container Store.

These centerpieces would be so cute lined up on an ice cream sundae bar for July 4th, a baby “gender” reveal party or birthday!  If you put love into it, everything turns out amazing!

14 Valentines – Ideas for Giving

Valentine’s Day is my second favorite holiday behind Thanksgiving. I love conversation hearts, cherry sours, chocolates, and anything pink and red. I’ve rounded up fourteen ideas to celebrate this sweet little holiday. I’ve pinned all of these ideas and more on my Pinterest page “Be Still My Heart.”

College student – Amazon has a RedBox Movie Night Kit ready to go. Free Prime shipping includes one movie code, candy, and popcorn.  How fun for them to receive this in their mailbox at school. Add a note “Even though you’re far away, you’re still my Valentine every day!” Love, Mom.

Personalized Gifts:  I found a ton of things on Personalization Mall and it was hard to narrow it down, but I did find two unique gift ideas:

Personalized collar stays. This is perfect for the man that has everything. If your guy wears dress shirts and is always needing collar stays – these are perfect. A set of six stays personalized with whatever you want!

And, if you want to give a really special keepsake, how about a silver, personalized fortune cookie! Go to your favorite Chinese restaurant (mine is Cannon Chinese) and have the waiter put this on a tray.  Maybe the message is a clue to the next destination on your date!

Sweetheart Breakfast in Bed.  This idea from Wilton is really clever. It’s something special without spending a lot of money and the kids can help. If you need a fantastic pancake recipe, I will share mine for Vanilla Cinnamon Pancakes with you here.

For the classroom or co-workers I am suggesting two ideas – one is Valentine’s Day Chex Mix. This recipe is from a blogger I follow Inspired by Charm.  He shares several ways to package this treat that serves 12.

Several years ago I started ordering these personalized classroom Valentine’s Day cards for my co-workers from Minted. So many cute designs. These are the ones I am gifting this year with big, juicy green apples! They are printed on heavy cardstock and come with the most precious tiny white envelopes.

A Letterboard – They sell these everywhere in all shapes and sizes. Back when they were first coming to the scene I ordered one from LetterFolk. Now they sell fun tile mats with interchangeable vintage-inspired hexagon tiles to create endless patterns, designs, and words.

Here’s a gift for yourself. Winter is the perfect time to spruce up your skincare routine and add a pop of color to your face – so why not find the perfect red lippy for your Valentine’s Day date?  Loreal Paris has a great guide to finding the perfect red lip here.

World Market Mug $7.99

Set up a gift for your visitors who stop by your home with a Valentine’s Day Beverage Bar. I found these adorable red and white polka dot mug at World Market.  On a recent trip to Euna Mae’s in Arkansas, she set pods of Apple Cider like these from Amazon and a mason jar of cinnamon hot candy next to her Keurig.

I think it would be brilliant to place a tray next to your Keurig with a bowl full of Cider Keurig pods, a mason jar with cinnamon hots, a package of Valentine’s napkins and mugs and a dish of these cookies from Trader Joe’s.  Too tempting to keep a plate of cookies out, then put them into an apothecary jar as I did on my desk at work. This tray idea is also perfect to take to a sick friend or have out in the reception area at your business or Sunday school class. Talk about welcoming!

If you and your sweetie have sworn off gifts and candy and 2020 is your year to be healthy, then make the gift of a smoothie your gesture. Trader Joe’s has a yummy recipe for a sweetheart smoothie I’ve pinned to my Pinterest board here.

A cinnamon candle. My friend Jacqui gifted me with a cinnamon candle for Christmas, but I am saving it for Valentine’s Day. It’s a beautiful red and smells just like red hots! I plan to put this in the kitchen on a white tray with my blue and white ginger jars. Blue and red look gorgeous together.

 

There are always flowers.  I have received these luscious blooms before from my dear friend Laurie, just because. Farmgirl Flowers are stunning and will make any Valentine blush. Designer quality, burlap-wrapped, super fast delivery and ethically grown you can’t go wrong with the investment in these blooms.

I love this idea from Uncommon Goods – a birth month flower kit. The kit includes an upcycled glass wine bottle planter, soil, seeds, cork-lid coaster and a card that tells the meaning behind their birth month flower. Transplant in their garden after it is grown and they’ll have an annual reminder of your love.

And last, for the dog-lover in your life, she will love this t-shirt from Target. Now, if I could just find one for cats…

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Make Your House Smell Like Christmas with this Homemade Stovetop Potpourri

Here is a last minute gift idea I made for friends that would be a perfect way to engage your children and teens when they are home for Christmas — homemade stovetop potpourri!

When I was little, Sister and I would make crafts together as my gift to family members.  One year we made spice ropes, another year we filled hairspray caps with plaster and stuck a fork inside to make a recipe holder.  Our creative skills were on fire!  I have fun memories working with her on these crafts instilling in me the spirit of giving.

For this project, I got the idea here on Pinterest from The Crafting Chicks.  All the ingredients and a free printable are available on the link.  But, I’ll give you the CliffsNotes version.

Gather all your ingredients and Ball jars.  I always purchase my Ball jars at Jabo’s Ace Hardware because they have the best selection and I can use the $5 off coupons they send me in the mail for being a reward customer (and if you use Rakutun they reward 2.5% back to you).  I purchased the cinnamon sticks at Fiesta International Market and sourced the cloves and cinnamon in bulk from Whole Foods.  The cranberries and oranges came from my local grocery store.

Then I got to work bagging up the spices into small snack size ziploc bags.  I placed the oranges and cranberries inside first and tucked the spice bags to the side.  Your little children could help with counting each orange and cranberries that go into the jars.  Note: I didn’t slice the oranges, per the recipe, because I wasn’t sure when people would make their potpourri.

Once the jars are filled, I wrote messages on black scrapbook paper and cut the paper into oversized circles to place over the top of the jar seal, and then finished with the Ball jar rim.  I tied the printable around the mouth of the jar with baker’s twine.  Your older kids could write the message in gold paint pen.

Now, pile the jars into a basket and take your little ones with you for deliveries.    Your friends and family will delight in seeing their faces bring a gift to fill their home with the smells of Christmas that was made with love!

Mrs. Twist’s Guide to Thanksgiving: Breakfast Recipes

Since we eat later in the day on Thanksgiving, I like to prepare a breakfast we can enjoy while finishing up the last minute cooking and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on television.  Today I am sharing four tasty, Twist-Lab tested recipes that are wonderful!

20161115_195101
Cranberry Christmas Cake

The taste-testers in the Twist Laboratory love this recipe for Cranberry Christmas Cake which you can find here on my Pinterest board.

16-1-5

It’s starts with a 12 oz bag of these ruby jewels.  During the fall and winter season I stock up on fresh cranberries because they freeze really well.  Tip:  If you freeze them don’t wash them first or they will get soggy.  Just keep the bag intact and tuck inside a ziplock bag and throw into the freezer.   You can add a handful of cranberries to your muffin recipes and throw a palm full into your oatmeal while it cooks on the stove.

Cranberry Christmas Cake

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour *
12 oz fresh cranberries

* Gluten Free Substitution:
1 1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1 teaspoon xanthan gum

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With a mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar until slightly thickened and light in color, about 5-7 minutes. The mixture should almost double in size. The eggs work as your leavening agent in this recipe, so do not skip this step. This mixture should form a ribbon when you lift the beaters out of the bowl. Add the butter and vanilla; mix two more minutes. Stir in the flour until just combined. Add the cranberries and stir to mix throughout.

Spread in a buttered 9×13 pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until very lightly browned and a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. (I baked mine for 43 minutes.) Let cool completely before cutting.

20161115_194712

It wasn’t even cooled when the Twist Lab assistants converged onto the cake.  They both ate two slices and said this was a winner!  And, for a twist, I made a smidge of powdered sugar and cream icing and drizzled a little on a slice.

20161115_195908

This cake is a MUST for your holidays.  I could easily see this cake divided into two 8×8 square disposable pans, tied with ribbon — perfect as homemade gifts!

The next recipe I just tried when Sister Bee was here for a visit is this recipe for Egg, Potato and Sausage Skillet from Six Sisters’ Stuff.

It was easy and delicious and a nice change from the traditional breakfast casserole.  What I liked about it is you put everything into the skillet and let it cook while you finish up the rest of breakfast.  It makes alot, too.  There were six of us and we had a few servings left over.

You can’t go wrong with the Pioneer Woman’s recipe for cinnamon rolls.  I found this recipe several years ago and make them all the time.  Even if you have never made cinnamon rolls, you can duplicate this recipe with ease and be so proud of yourself! And, as you can see, it makes about 6 pans of rolls you can freeze for company or as gifts.

Pioneer Cinnamon Rolls

And last this retro dish that I just love — Hot Curried Fruit.  I mean what says retro more than pears and maraschino cherries!  This is a recipe similar to one Mother used to make for her famous brunches.  Look at the bubbly, buttery brown sugar sauce!

Hot Curried Fruit

Recipe:

1 29-oz can cling peaches

1 15-oz can pineapple slices (I used chunks)

1 29-oz can pear halves

5 maraschino cherries without stems, halved

1/3 cup butter

3/4 cup light brown sugar

4 tsp. curry powder (I only used 3 tsp.)

Preheat oven to 350.  Drain fruit.  Pat individual pieces of fruit, with paper towels, until thoroughly dry.  Arrange fruit in a 1 1/2 quart baking dish.  Melt butter.  Add brown sugar and curry.  Spoon over fruit and bake 25 minutes.

This can be made a day ahead, refrigerated and then baked.  It serves 10-12.

If you missed previous posts in my “Mrs. Twist’s Guide to Thanksgiving” click here for Part One and here for Part Two.  I’ve got more to share so be sure to sign up for my newsletter on the right-hand side of my webpage.  My posts will be delivered right to you email in box each morning!

Twelve Days of Treats: Week One


Welcome to week one of my Twelve Days of Treats!  What’s in store for the next six weeks – twelve delicious recipes, two each week, packaging ideas, gift tags, and resources.  The recipes I am sharing are either from my recipe collection, have been shared with me by friends, or I’ve found in magazines or Pinterest. All the recipes have been tasted tested and approved by my Hive members – Mr. Bee and Miss Bee, and are shared below with printable copies, links, and also posted on my Pinterest board, which you can access and follow here.

Week One – Cranberry Bliss Bars and Caramel Pretzel Bark

The recipe for Cranberry Bliss Bars comes from SkinnyTaste.  They are a copycat of the Starbucks Cranberry Bliss, but the skinnier version.  They are delicious and so pretty.  You can easily divide these into two, possibly three gifts. They will make a perfect dessert to take to a Christmas party, too.

They are best made the night before so they can chill before you slice them.  Here is the downloadable recipe card. Twelve Days of Treats Recipe Card Cranberry Bliss Bars PDFTwelve Days of Christmas gift tag pdf.  Include it with your gift to share the recipe.  The cranberry bars are an affordable recipe to make, too. Most ingredients I had on-hand, and I bought the cranberries, cream cheese, and white chocolate chips.

Recipe two is Caramel Pretzel Bark from My Incredible Recipes.  I did change the name, which she refers to as No-Bake Caramel Pretzel Crack Bars.  I didn’t think the name was very holiday-ish and I don’t consider them bars, more like bark. Feel free to go with either.

The bark is a super-easy recipe. One batch fills an 8×8 pan for gifting.  I think a sprinkle of sea salt on top will add a nice touch of savory to the sweet. I can see this packaged in a beautiful tin wrapped in a bow.  Here is a set of downloadable gift tags to tie on with a gold cord.  I printed them off on Avery business cards.

This recipe is a little more in cost since I had to purchase all the ingredients.  Caramel Pretzel Bark recipe downloadable recipe card.

So there you go, your first two recipes for gift giving. Join me each week for more merriment and inspiration.  Together we will Rule the Yule!

Twelve Days of Treats – Rule the Yule!

I am really excited to share with you the Twelve Days of Treats project!  Christmas is six weeks away, and I will be sharing two recipes for treats each week leading up to December 25.  Many of these recipes are from my personal recipe collection, and some are recipes I have found on Pinterest or from a magazine.  All have been tested and approved from my Hive – Mr. Bee and Miss Bee are thrilled I am doing this so they can serve as quality assurance!

Why am I doing this?  I believe every single person on your gift list would love to receive the gift of food.  The time you spend in the kitchen in your own home lovingly preparing and packaging a treat for your neighbor, hairstylist, postman, co-worker, friend, or Bible study leader is so much more meaningful than driving around town finding the perfect gift – when the perfect gift comes from your heart and hands.

I’ll be sharing creative and simple ways to package your treats, sharing downloadable recipe cards and photos, and links to resources.  Think of me as your celebration of treats concierge!  Maybe you already have a great collection of treats and this will inspire you to #bakedontbuy.

Subscribe to my emails so you don’t miss a single recipe. This Thursday the first two treats will be delivered to your inbox bright and early. Together we will Rule the Yule!

Happy baking!

Mrs. Twist’s Guide to Thanksgiving: Make Pies Your Centerpiece!

I came across an inspiration on Pinterest in my quest to share ideas with you to prepare for Thanksgiving.  The article is “Last Minute Thanksgiving Centerpiece Ideas” and immediately a light bulb went off!  Why do the pies always get put on a side table or the counter when they are the best part of the meal?  Flowers, gourds and pumpkins are nice and the Pilgrims did them justice but, this is 2017, let’s put a twist on it!  Use your pies, some clippings from the yard and create a beautiful, eye-catching, conversation piece.  I guarantee your guests have never seen dessert as the centerpiece.

For this challenge, I enlisted the help of Sweet Lucy’s Pies.  Lindsey, the owner, has been my go-to pie gal for a while now.  Her recipes are delicious and inventive using the freshest ingredients she can source and her crust is buttery and flaky.  Hands down, she makes the best peach fried pies you will ever eat in your life!  You’ve probably seen her at the Clearfork Farmer’s Market with her spunky adorable daughter.

The stars in this parade are:  Salted Honey Pie, Pumpkin Meringue, and Cranberry Buttermilk.

Once I got the pies home, I went shopping around my house and yard pulling together the parts of my tablescape — Mother’s green glassware and her Friendly Village dishes, vintage thermos containers you could fill with iced tea, napkins, silverware, glassware from the cabinet,  pumpkin plates I picked up at Target in the $1 section last season, Thanksgiving poppers from Williams-Sonoma, and a vintage tablecloth I turned on the diagonal.

Anatomy of a Tablescape

Once I got the table set, I put three cake pedestals down the center of the table and placed a pie on top of each one.  Then my favorite part — clipping pretty things from the garden like holly, fig leaves and mums.  On either end I put three fig leaves under each pie and filled in with mums and for the center pie, I surrounded the pie with holly clippings.

Look how beautiful Lindsey’s pies are!  By keeping the tablescape simple, your pies can shine!

For each place setting I went old-school and tucked the linen napkins inside the water goblets.  I remember when I was little and my parents took me out to dinner, I always thought it was so fancy to sit down and have the waiter pull the napkin out of the glass and place it on my lap!

Don’t be afraid to layer different dishes.  I mixed in pumpkin plates and little bowls that say “Give Thanks” and used two completely different styles and colors of glassware.

What is the takeaway from this tablescape?  The only investment was the cost of the pies.  Everything else I used was from my own collection of vintage and modern serving pieces and clippings from my own yard.  The best part, the centerpiece is edible! The clippings can be enjoyed for a while and them composted.  I think it’s perfect.

If you are interested in placing orders for Sweet Lucy’s Pies, be sure to check her out on Facebook and Instagram.  She is only taking orders through their catering manager by phone at 281-725-2441!     These are her pie offerings for Thanksgiving…

If you want more inspiring tips from my Mrs. Twist’s Guide to Thanksgiving, check out this post here.

Want to stay in the loop?  Sign up to receive my posts and they will be delivered right to your email inbox every morning.  You have the option to select a weekly digest or every time I post a new story.  I appreciate you following me and sharing my blog with others!

Vintage Memories of Christmas and Mother’s Cheese Grits

If you could go back to any point in time at Christmas when would it be?  Mine would be in the late 60’s, early 70’s during the “wonder” years, when I was little and I knew for sure there was a larger than life, fatherly man coming down the chimney after midnight.

Here are the top things I remember:

Tons of Friends Coming Over for Parties:

People like Mary, Rhoda and Lou were always at our house. Mother had such
great friends (just like me) who never had to come up with a reason to
throw a party.    Mother and Daddy would have parties for their employees,
a Christmas Eve party for close friends, neighbors and family, then get
together for Christmas day with family for an entire day of eating,
playing, and celebrating.  Not to mention the luncheons and coffees with
close friends she’d host mid-week.  I remember going with Mother to the
Winn-Dixie to load up grocery carts of jams and jellies so she could make gift baskets for people who dropped by.

Playing Christmas Records on the stereo:

It’s really Christmas for me when I hear songs by Perry Como, Johnny Mathis and Andy Williams.   Their smooth musical stylings and TV Christmas specials were the best way to spend an evening.

Christmas Decor:

Mother decorated every room in the Meadowbrook house.  She had a storage area that housed all of her decor and would hand me things telling me the room they were to be delivered to.  By the end of the day each room in our house was transformed into Christmas magic.  BTW — this could easily be her on the ladder decorating the tree…and I swear she had every party supply in this picture, including that rad percolator.

I don’t think we ever had an aluminum tree, rather it was always a giant white flocked tree from Hilscher’s Nursery on East Lancaster.  Mr. Hilscher would call Mother right after Thanksgiving to ask her what kind of tree she wanted delivered and within a few days the biggest, most fragrant tree would arrive!

Cheese Grits on Christmas morning:

This was a Christmas brunch staple in our house.  Mother would serve her grits in a lovely copper chafing dish on her beautifully decorated buffet
complete with a long centerpiece of greenery and candles down the middle of the table.

Here’s Mother’s recipe
from Jane Justin’s cookbook “Prescriptions for Hunger” copyright 1968:

Preheat Oven to 350
Put 8 cups of water in a large saucepan and add 1 TBL of salt.
When water starts to boil add 2 cups of grits
Cook slowly until grits are thick
Pour grits into a large bowl and add:
1 TBL Worcestershire sauce
1 Cup of whole milk
2 beaten eggs
1 tsp black pepper
3 TBL melted butter
1 Cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Mix well and pour into a greased casserole.
Sprinkle with more grated cheese and a few dashes of paprika
Bake one hour at 350 degrees.  She usually served the grits with fruit, scrambled eggs, tiny link sausages and a yummy coffee cake she would get from the bakery.

Merry Christmas!

Mrs. Twist Gives This: Gift Ideas for Her

I’ve got some great gift ideas for the sweet lady in your life.  If you want to check out the others ideas I’ve shared previously I’ve linked those stories at the end of this post.

First, pajamas from Soma.  Right now they are offering a great deal on their PJ sets for only $29 (normally priced $64)!  They are really soft and have the coolnights fabrication.  Check out all the styles both long and short sleeved.

Next, I would love a Mark & Graham monogrammed pill case.  I think it’s such a nice way to personalize and hide away the drug store plastic pill box.  Right now they are on sale for $38.99 (add an additional $9 for monogramming).

Next, this is going to seem random, but I love this blowdryer!  One of my bestie’s Mary introduced me to the Revlon One-Step Hair Dryer & Volumizer.  I detest blowdrying my hair — it’s a total time suck.  Having long hair there are so many other things I could be doing during the time it takes me to dry my hair.  However, this blow dryer has a built in large brush that smooths, volumizes, curls and dries your hair all in one.  The barrel of the brush is really big so you won’t get your hair stuck in it.  Plus, it has cut down on the time it takes to dry my hair.  It’s been a game changer for me. I got mine from Amazon for $51 because Target was sold out.

This is wrapped under my tree ready to give someone on my gift list.   How about this adorable mini drink dispenser for their desk!  It’s from Packed Party. It holds 8-ounces of water, or whatever you’d like to enjoy!  $42

And last, for the cook, I picked up a set of these wooden measuring spoons from Euna Mae’s.  This handmade wood two-sided measuring spoon is a kitchen must-have! Because each end features the two most widely-used measures, it becomes a go-to for your baking, cooking, and more! Each spoon is branded with the year it was crafted, making it an instant heirloom that will be in your kitchen and kitchens to come. Use it to spoon out condiments, sauces and spreads from smaller jars, too.  $24.99

If you missed my previous ideas you can find them here and here.  Happy gift giving!