There is a wonderful new shop in Charlotte that just opened, and it's right in my neighborhood! Ecolicious is a store full of environmentally friendly, cruelty-free, and locally made products that sits on Commonwealth Avenue right in the heart of Plaza Midwood. The shop is just lovely and so are its owners, Marley and Fionna. They are bringing a great vibe to the neighborhood and want to create a homey, relaxing space where people feel comfortable to hang out. This will all start this weekend with their grand opening, which includes live music, eats and drinks, and a trunk show by the Frock Shop. And guess what, guess what?! Verabelle has some goodies in the store for sale too, along with many of my fellow Crown Town Handmade crafters. Now, do you need any more reason to stop by and check it out?
I am so excited to announce a new blog feature, Animal Mad Libs featuring Verabelle characters! I have loved Mad Libs since I was knee high to a grasshopper, and I still keep several tablets of them around to stay entertained on road trips.
With my love of storytelling and a menagerie of animals to inspire me, every month or so, I'll put together an Animal Mad Lib for you to download and complete. Remember, to do it the real way, you should fill in the blanks before reading the story. I know it's hard to hold out, but it makes for the funniest tale!
Do it for a break at work, share with friends over dinner, or save it for your own adventure on the road. And if you want, take a photo of your finished story and upload it to the Verabelle Facebook fan page, so we can all read what you came up with. Now... have at it!
I can't tell you how many blueberry muffin recipes I've attempted, trying to find the perfect level of sweetness and the right consistency of batter. Finally, here it is! I adapted this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite cooking blogs! One thing I love about this blog is that she is always on the search for the perfect recipe too, testing out and reviewing multiple recipes for one particular dish. For this recipe, I changed some of the flour to whole wheat, substituted candied lemon peel for lemon zest and added some thyme from our garden. I think it turned out some of the most perfect blueberry muffins!
Perfect Blueberry Muffins
Yield: 12 standard muffins
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened 1/2 cup sugar 1 large egg 3/4 cup sour cream 1 cup whole wheat flour 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup candied lemon peel, chopped (recipe below) 1 tablespoon fresh thyme 1 1/4 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line or spray muffin tin. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well, then beat in sour cream. Mix together dry ingredients and then beat into sugar mixture. Fold in candied lemon peel, thyme, and blueberries. As Smitten Kitchen notes, "The dough will be quite thick, closer to a cookie dough..." Fill muffin tin 3/4 full and bake 15-20 minutes.
Candied Lemon Peel
leftover peels from about 5 lemons
2 c. sugar
2 c. water
Cut off as much of the white inner layer of your peels as possible (This is bitter.), and slice your yellow peels into whatever size pieces you'd like. Bring water to a boil in a small pan and add peels. Boil for 5 minutes, until tender. Stir in sugar and return to boil. Boil until peels are transparent. Drain and shake in sugar to coat the peels. Allow to air dry before storing (or dry in a dehydrator to speed up the process).
Reserve your liquid for lemon flavored simple syrup!
Another crafty Amanda. How perfect! I was booth neighbors with the lovely Amanda of Three Bad Seeds a year ago at Columbia's Crafty Feast and immediately fell in love with all her upcycled wares and cute display. Amanda uses thrifted wool and linen to make pillows, plushies, coasters, pennant banners, and other whimsical housewares. I recently purchased one of her beautiful pillows for a friend's birthday, but loved it so much that I kept it for myself! I kinda thought that might happen...
Amanda's hubbie and kiddo sometimes help out with crafting too (hence the name, Three Bad Seeds - ha, don't you love it!?). Like Paul and myself, they also believe in living a locally rooted, bound-to-the-earth existence, and I enjoy reading her blog posts about their backyard gardening, suburban foraging, and other adventures around town.
If you haven't checked out this "family adventure in handmade art and independent craft," as they call themselves, then it's time you do!
the pillow that my friend will never realize she's missing... ;)
a few other Three Bad Seed cuties, available on Etsy
This weekend I'll be in Asheville for The Big Crafty, one of the best indie craft fairs around. If you're in town or looking for a day trip, then plan on stopping by, as the Big Crafty itself puts it, for "a lively celebration of handmade commerce, featuring local food, beer, toe-tapping tunes, and the fine wares of select indie artists and crafters." The fun happens Sunday, July 10, 12-6 pm at Pack Place and Pack Square.
Last weekend, Paul and I drove down to Bush & Vine Farm in York, SC, for a Saturday morning gathering blueberries and peaches. From June to September, the farm grows over twenty varieties of peaches, both yellow and white, as well as a couple types of nectarines. We planned to go when the blueberries were still in season, too. York was a pretty town, and the early morning weather was perfect for picking.
It's amazing how many things you can make with just one type of fruit! From canning to baking to beer-making, here's what we came up with: peaches in vanilla bean syrup, peach salsa, peach hibiscus beer, peach quesadillas, peach chipotle marinade, peach couscous, brie puff pastries with peaches and blueberries, blueberry pie, and blueberry muffins with thyme and candied lemon peel. We also dried and froze all the leftovers for use this fall and winter. Below is the recipe for the peach couscous, and I'll share some more recipes in the coming weeks.
1 cup couscous
1/2 cup dried cherries
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 jalapeño, seeds removed and finely diced (use less according to taste)
1 peach, peeled, pitted and cut into cubes
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup chopped mint
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
salt to taste
For the full cooking instructions, please refer to the original recipe on Twin Tables, a lovely cooking blog!
When I was growing up, we spent most of our summer weekends at our lake house on Badin Lake. I have many fond memories of days spent there, and one of my favorites was our annual July 4th tradition. Every year, my best friend, Nicole, and I would decorate the pontoon for the Independence Day Boat Parade. We'd all line up at the marina and parade in and out of the coves, as people watched and waved from their piers. Some people even made number signs to score the "contestants," ours always taking a high score! Here are two photos of the pontoon just after we decorated it. I found these in our best friend scrapbook, the page from our eighth grade year.