Monday, December 29, 2014

Spicy Toasted Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas)


These spicy toasted pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, are one of my favorite snacks, and they are super easy to make. They are delicious sprinkled on top of a bowl of creamy soup or chili, or on top of a salad. Or they're perfect to snack on with cheese and wine. In fact, they'd make a nice addition to a New Year's Eve party spread. Just be sure to double, triple or even quadruple the recipe. Once your guests start snacking on these spicy treats, they won't want to stop.

Spicy Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl, combine 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (do not use roasted pumpkin seeds) with 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt and 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice. Stir well until all seeds are coated with the spice mixture.

Spread seeds in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven until the seeds are browned and puffed, about 1o minutes. Remove from oven and let cool before serving.

 


On a separate note, I bought this cute black and gold candle holder at a lovely little gift shop the week before last while I was doing some Christmas shopping. I bought one as a gift and one for myself (I couldn't resist). I love how the gold interior glows when the candle is lit. The outside is matte black and provides a nice contrast to the shiny interior. I may have to see if the shop has a couple more of these. Three of them in a row would look so pretty down the middle of the dining table!



Before I sign off for the year, I would like to wish everyone a very happy New Year! Thank you for visiting My Little Bungalow. I can't  believe I've been blogging for four years now! I am so very appreciative to all of you who follow me regularly, and especially grateful to those who leave comments. Your feedback and interaction make it all worthwhile. To those of you who visit often but have never left a comment, please do! I'd love to hear from you and get to know a little bit about you. Have a safe, happy and healthy 2015!
 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Paper Snowflakes and Cinnamon-spiked Hot Cocoa


 




I'm sharing another great Etsy find! I purchased these handmade paper snowflakes from Paper Cuts Studios, and they look lovely and whimsical in our dining room hanging from the chandelier. Cut from pearlescent white card stock (they also come in silver and gold), the snowflakes would look pretty hanging in a window or on a tree. 

My dining table display hasn't changed much from previous years. I added glass candle holders and green tapers for a touch of color. Wax candle pine cones, real mini pine cones, white candle trees, and a silver faux bois candle are nestled in "snow" on a silver tray.

Wintry nights -- and mornings -- call for yummy hot beverages, and hot chocolate is one of my favorites. I found a delicious dairy-free hot cocoa recipe online, then tweaked it slightly by using dark cocoa powder and adding a pinch of cayenne. I enjoyed a mug of it the other morning with breakfast. Delicious!

Cinnamon-spiked Hot Cocoa

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon dark cocoa powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons plus 1 cup almond milk

Directions:
In a mug, stir together cocoa powder, sugar, cinnamon, cayenne, vanilla and 2 tablespoons almond milk to form a thick paste.

Warm 1 cup of almond milk in a small saucepan until steaming hot. Pour over chocolate mixture in mug, stir well and enjoy.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Nativity

Last year I ordered this six-piece nativity scene from Willow Tree. It is such a lovely reminder of what the Christmas season is truly about. I had been looking for a nativity scene for some time, but wasn't finding just the right one for our home. When I saw this one, I knew it was perfect. I love the simplicity of its design and its muted colors. 

This side table is the only place in our small living room where I can display it. If I had more room, I'd buy the three wise men and the shepherd and stable animals as well. I do like the their new small-scaled Holy Family set, which might be a nice addition to our dining room during the Christmas season.
 



I hope you are enjoying a peaceful holiday season.
Thank you for visiting My Little Bungalow. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Paperwhites


Bit by bit I'm adding touches of Christmas to the house. We've gotten a slow start this year because my husband has been sick, and all the Christmas decorations are in the attic and only he can get those big boxes down the narrow pull-down stairs. But I have added a pot of flowering narcissus and a pretty red poinsettia to the living room, an evergreen wreath on the front door and a boxwood wreath on the garden gate. Simple, but festive.


I have to admit, I cheated this year and purchased a pot of already started paperwhite bulbs at the market. But I did get to see them grow taller and bloom. I tried the pickling advice that Cindy referenced on her blog, A Curious Gardener, by adding one part vodka to seven parts water, but they still grew to be lanky.  I staked them and tied a ribbon around to keep them from falling over.

I put the paperwhites in an antique copper pot, one of two that my parents brought back from their trip to France in 1967. I like the way the copper and the white flowers look against the matte green tile of our 1922 fireplace. The metal grate in front of the fireplace is something we bought many years ago at a wonderful garden and housewares shop. It's an old piece, and I'd love to know its history and where it came from.

Next up, a Christmas tree! I can't wait to unwrap all the vintage ornaments and hang them on the tree while listening to our favorite Christmas songs on Pandora. I also have some wonderful paper snowflakes I bought from an Etsy artist in California that we need to hang. I'll share pictures with you soon.

I hope you're enjoying a peaceful holiday season. For some inspiration, check out my Christmas board and Winter board on Pinterest!

Friday, December 12, 2014

More Calendars for the New Year

I just had to share another calendar idea with you (and please note, this is not a sponsored post, just sharing products I like). As I mentioned in my last post, I am a bit of a calendar addict. I've always wanted to create a personalized calendar, but I'm not very savvy about these things, and so I  never got around to figuring it out. When I discovered Pinhole Press through another blog recently and saw all the wonderful products they offer, I decided to give it a try and create a 2015 calendar using my own photos. It couldn't have been easier!


In less than 20 minutes I had put together a custom calendar and placed my order. The site lets you choose the color of the outer cover (I chose grey, one of my favorite colors) and any text you'd like to put on the cover. Then you upload your photos and drag them into the month of your choice. The program automatically crops the photo to fit the space, but you can make adjustments to the positioning of each photo as needed.


I received my order in less than a week and am thrilled with the quality of the heavy paper stock and the printing. I was considering wrapping the calendar and putting it under the tree (once we get a tree!) as a surprise for my husband, but I just couldn't wait. I tore into it last night, anxious to see my creation and share it with my husband. He was very impressed and liked my choice of photographs!

One thing I really like about this calendar is that it has space for each day of the month where I can jot notes, like when to give the the dogs their medicine, which days are recycling collection days, and reminders about volunteer duties. This calendar will go on the wall in the mudroom opposite the side entrance, which is the door we use most, and above the dogs' water bowl -- a good place for daily reminders.


The images I chose are a combination of original photographs from my blog and photos of our beloved pups, past and present. The photo below is one my husband took at the lake where he swims and canoes. It's one of my favorite photos of his; it's also framed and hanging in our bedroom.


While we're still on the subject of calendars, I wanted to share some photos of the cheery work of ModernPrintedMatter, an Etsy shop I told you about in my last post. I have two botanical desk calendars on order and will be receiving them any day now. 






ModernPrintedMatter photos used with permission.

Thanks for visiting My Little Bungalow!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Calendars for the New Year

As 2014 draws to a close, I'm beginning to think about which calendars to purchase for the new year. Calendars are one of my favorite things to buy. When I was younger, I gravitated toward glossy travel calendars with romantic destinations like Paris or tropical islands. Now I prefer simpler handmade calendars with bold graphic designs that reflect the beauty of nature, especially birds and flowers. I also like supporting artists and small businesses.

Last year I purchased a small desk calendar from ModernPrintedMatter through Etsy. The calendar comes in a plastic jewel case that folds back to act as a stand. I have really enjoyed the simple botanical illustrations printed on each month's card. I'll be buying one of their 2015 desk calendars for myself and a couple as Christmas gifts. ModernPrintedMatter also has lovely wall calendars with botanical and nature designs.

Yesterday I searched Etsy for 2015 calendars and an artist named Rigel Stuhmiller caught my eye. Her work can be purchased through her Etsy store, Drenculture, or her website. Her designs are beautiful, from colorfully printed note cards and art prints featuring birds and flowers to kitchen towels hand screen-printed with bold vegetable and fruit designs.

You can learn more about the printmaking process here. I took a printmaking class years ago and made (or tried to make) a block print by carving into linoleum. I found it very difficult and frustrating, so I really appreciate the skill level of this art form.

I'm a bird enthusiast, so the 2015 Garden of Birds wall calendar below is one that I will be purchasing. It would brighten up any space, don't you think? Look at the colors!


I also love these raven cards for both the design and the subject. I'm fascinated by ravens and crows, which are very interesting and intelligent birds; the common raven is a larger bird than the common crow, but they look very similar. (If you're interested in learning more about crows, watch this PBS Nature show, which I thoroughly enjoyed.) Stuhmiller sells an 8 x 10 print of this raven illustration through her Etsy store. I think it will end up in my shopping basket along with the birds calendar!


Here are some of Stuhmiller's adorable designs for dog lovers (she also has a cat series). The holiday card assortment is so cute! The naughty beagle card reminds me of our Ella, and look at the face on that Chihuahua wrapped in Christmas lights. Precious! 




Stuhmiller's studio will be open this weekend and each weekend until Christmas as part of the Berkeley Artisans Holiday Open Studios event in which 100 artists and craftspeople open their studios and galleries to the public. Visitors can shop for unique, handmade holiday gifts while getting to know the artists. If you live in the Berkeley, Ca., area, check it out. Wish I could!
 
 Photos: Rigel Stuhmiller (used with permission)

Any of these items would make thoughtful Christmas gifts, don't you think? So tell me, do you purchase things through Etsy? What are some of your favorite Etsy shops? 
 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mocha Russian


I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We did, enjoying time with family, lots of good food and, after the clean up was done, a round of Scattergories. Have you played it? I'm a fan of word games, and this one always provides lots of laughs. My dear friend in Seattle has a nice family tradition going. Every evening after supper they play a different board game. What a great way to spend time together. I enjoyed a game of Battleship one evening with her 7-year-old son, and another night the four of us played a competitive game of Sorry!

Today, I wanted to share a recipe from the December issue of Martha Stewart Living, which I just had to try. A spin on the white Russian cocktail, it uses espresso powder instead of coffee liqueur, and adds cocoa powder for a little chocolate flavor. This beverage is served hot, so it's perfect for a cold evening by the fire, perhaps while playing your favorite board game. Enjoy!

Mocha Russian 

The following recipe makes two drinks.

1) In a saucepan, whisk together 1/4 cup light brown sugar, 2 tablespoons espresso powder or instant coffee granules (regular or decaf) and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder.

2) Whisk in 2 cups milk, 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1/4 cup vodka. Heat until almost boiling. Serve with whipped cream and a dash of espresso powder, if desired.

Notes: I used instant espresso granules; next time, I'll use decaf instant coffee because I'm sensitive to caffeine (needless to say, the espresso had quite an effect on me!). I also used skim milk and light cream. I added the vodka at the end so as not to burn off all the alcohol. I didn't have whipped cream, but a dollop would be wonderful on top.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How To Fold a Napkin Pocket


As I was setting the Thanksgiving table today, I wanted to do something different with my new linen napkins, so I looked on the Internet for some ideas. You can make a napkin pocket with a 20" square napkin in just eight easy steps. Here's how: 

1) With the right side of the napkin facing up, fold the bottom edge up to the middle.


2) Fold the bottom edge up to the middle again.


3) Turn the napkin over and fold the left side in to the middle.


4) Fold the right side in to the middle.

  
5) Repeat by folding the left side in to the middle again ...


6) And then the right side.


7) Turn the napkin over so the folds are on the bottom and the pocket is on top.


8) Insert silverware.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Preparing for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just days away. I love this holiday, the meaning behind it, and all the preparation that goes into planning the meal and decorating the dining table. Taking time to count my blessings and thank God for all the good things in life is something I try to do on a daily basis. This year I'm especially thankful for my husband, my health, and my employment.

During the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I begin to think about the dinner menu and how to set the table. This year I'll be using some new linen napkins, below, that I bought at Williams-Sonoma a few months ago (on a major sale). I love their rusty color, which is very similar to the color of our dining room walls (Pennywise by Sherwin Williams). I think they'll look pretty with our mix of mossy green and black dinner plates.


I'll be polishing the silver for our holiday dinner. Our simple Danish silverware belonged to my parents, the majority of the pieces given to them on their wedding day by my mother's mother. I've always loved this silver, and using it brings back such happy memories. I also have my mom's vintage set of white Dutch ovens that are nice to use at the holidays. They're not Danish, but have that simple and stylish Scandinavian look. I even like my parents' 1960s-era hot plates that we pull out of the attic each Thanksgiving and use to keep our side dishes warm. All these items have great sentimental value to me, and make me feel close to my parents, though they've been gone many years now.

For this year's menu, I'll be making my favorite Ina Garten cranberry conserve recipe (find the recipe here) and two pies -- pumpkin and pecan -- using commercially prepared gluten-free crusts (thank you, Whole Foods!). My husband will handle cooking the turkey and making gravy (thank you, Paul!) and I'll take care of the rest. I'm still trying to decide what kind of potatoes to make: basic mashed potatoes, bourbon-spiked sweet potatoes or potatoes Anna (similar to scalloped potatoes but without the cream/milk). Other sides will include steamed French green beans, stuffing and a wild rice dressing (this one or something similar).

What are your Thanksgiving day plans? Are you staying home and hosting a big meal, eating out, or heading out of town to enjoy dinner at someone else's home? If you're cooking, what's on the menu? Whatever your plans, I hope you have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving. And many thanks for visiting My Little Bungalow. I am grateful for all of you who read and follow my blog.

Monday, November 17, 2014

In the Christmas Spirit, a New Pie Recipe and Veggie Soup

The Christmas spirit is hitting me hard --and early -- this year. The weather has gotten quite cold, which always helps put me in the holiday mood. I bought Christmas cards at the end of the season last year and am going to get an early jump on addressing them so they can go in the mail soon after Thanksgiving. I have already purchased these Christmas stamps.

And I ordered return address labels from Tiny Prints in the two designs below. The neutral colors coordinate well with the stamps (yes, I am that detail oriented). Tiny Prints offers such a large selection, it's hard to choose just one or two! I received my order quickly and am very pleased with the quality. (Please note this is not a sponsored post.)


The weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas also inspire me to try new recipes, which is what I did this weekend when I made the chocolate pecan pie below. I brought it to a gathering on Saturday at the home of our friends' parents. It was an outdoor party that began at 6:30. The weather was very cold -- in the 30s, dipping down into the upper 20s by the time we left -- but there was a roaring bonfire to keep everyone warm, plus heaters in various locations where the food was set up, and a fire in the tepee (yes, they actually built a tepee on their property!). The hosts made two kinds of soups to keep us warm: chicken noodle and a vegetarian pumpkin soup with curry, which I loved (I must get the recipe).

The hosts live in a log home they built some 30 years ago. Their 5-acre property also has a barn where their two beautiful (and huge!) horses spend the night. Guests made several trips to the barn to visit the horses; they loved the attention. One couple brought their two small Chihuahua mixes who had quite the time barking at the much larger creatures. The taller of the two horses found that quite perplexing ... and we found it quite humorous. All in all, it was a lovely evening. 

The pie was a hit, so I'm sharing the recipe below. Since I avoid gluten, I bought a frozen gluten-free crust at Whole Foods. A couple of men at the party said the pie was delicious and had no idea the crust was gluten free. Now I know what to use for my Thanksgiving pie!

Chocolate Pecan Pie 

Ingredients:
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1-1/2 cups light corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pie crust dough, rolled and fitted into a 9" pan (or use a commercially made crust) 
1 cup pecan halves
 
Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place rack in lowest position in oven. In a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a pan of simmering water, melt chocolate, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Set aside. 

2) In a medium bowl, stir together (do not whisk) eggs, corn syrup, sugar, vanilla and salt. Stirring constantly, gradually add melted chocolate. Place prepared crust on a rimmed baking sheet and pour filling into crust. Arrange pecan halves in one even layer over filling.

3) Bake until just set (filling should jiggle slightly when pie plate is tapped), 50 to 60 minutes, rotating pie halfway through cooking time. Let cool completely on wire rack, at least four hours or overnight, before serving. 

Another thing I enjoy doing when the weather turns cold is making a big pot of soup, and this vegetable soup is one of my favorites. It makes an extra large batch so you can freeze it to enjoy later. Mix up the veggies each time for a slightly different take on the basic recipe. Yesterday I used what I had on hand: fresh carrots, potatoes and green beans, frozen corn and peas, plus onion and canned tomatoes. I added garlic and omitted the celery since I didn't have any. Go here to find the recipe for this satisfying and healthy soup. Enjoy, and thanks for visiting My Little Bungalow!

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