Fruits of Your Labor

Author: Kirsten K., Crafts, History, Holidays

fruit-pomanderI love homemade holiday decorations, especially those fashioned from natural materials. The scents of the season—evergreen, bayberry, cinnamon, cloves—muster memories, both real and imagined, of an old-fashioned Christmas. While the creative process is part of the pleasure, it’s always nice when you can preserve your handiwork to last for more than one season, which is why I enjoy making pomanders.

Traditionally, a pomander (from the French pomme d’ambre, meaning “apple of amber”) was an apple-shaped ball of sweetly-scented herbs and spices held together by ambergris. It was carried in a bag or encased within an ornate orb and suspended from the waist or neck. Used since the Middle Ages to mask unpleasant odors and prevent sickness due to “bad air,” pomanders among the wealthy were often made of gold or silver and encrusted with jewels, but by the 18th century they began to take the more common form of the clove-studded orange we know today.

pomander-ornamentIn addition to oranges, pomanders can be made from lemons, limes, apples, pears, or kumquats. If you want this fragrant fruit to remain ripe with scent, cover the entire surface with cloves, then roll it in a mixture of ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and orris root powder. Allow the pomander to cure in the open air for a week and you’ll have an aromatic adornment that can last for years.

Pomanders lend themselves to all kinds of creative expression, so get inventive. For a sachet with cachet, use cloves to create patterns on the fruit, from simple lines and shapes to swirls and spirals, leaving some or most of the colorful skin visible. Tie a bow around the finished product and hang it on the tree, or pile several of the decorated fruits into a clear glass bowl for a sweet and spicy centerpiece.*

Pomanders are so easy to make that you can build an entire decorating scheme around them. If you take the necessary steps to properly preserve and care for them, you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labor all season long.

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Fruit Pomanders

 

williamsburg-pomander-kit-test-1For ease, I like to use the Williamsburg Pomander Ball Kit, which comes with cloves, preservative spices, ribbon, and detailed instructions, but do-it-yourselfers can use the following recipe (adapted from The Spice House):

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FRUIT POMANDERS

¾ cup orris root powder†
½ cup cinnamon
¼ cup ground cloves
2 Tbsp. ground nutmeg
2 Tbsp. ground ginger
whole cloves (about ¼ cup per fruit)
whole oranges, apples, pears, lemons, or limes

Working from the top in a circular manner, poke holes in the fruit with a toothpick or cake tester and insert cloves by the pointed end, pressing in. It will take 30 minutes to an hour (or more) to completely cover the fruit, so put on some holiday music, make a cup of tea or hot chocolate, and settle in to enjoy the process. I find the repetitive method to be meditative and relaxing, which is a nice antidote to the holiday hustle and bustle.

When the fruit is covered (or your design is completed), mix the spices and orris root together in a shallow bowl or ziplock bag and either roll or shake the fruit in the powder until thoroughly coated. Tap or brush off the excess and set out to dry for several days.

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The Williamsburg Pomander Ball Kit is not available online, but can be purchased from Williamsburg Celebrations by calling (757) 565-8642.

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*Sparsely decorated fruit pomanders won’t last as long as densely covered designs, so keep an eye out for mold.  To extend their life, put them in the refrigerator when not on display.

†Orris root is a member of the iris family. The powder is used as a fixative in perfumes and potpourri. It is available from Amazon and a number of online retailers.

 

Almond Joy

Author: Kirsten K., Food & Drink, Holidays, Hot Drinks, Tea

winter-palace-marzipan-rooibos-1Forget politics. This year, the most heated debate at the Thanksgiving table began when my brother-in-law declared his aversion to marzipan. For the half of us with German heritage, those were fighting words. Although it is beloved by many cultures around the world, marzipan is the German name for a paste made from sugar and ground almonds that is often shaped into special figures to give and serve during the holidays. Growing up, it was a treat to visit my parents’ German friends at Christmastime and receive a gift of marzipan molded in the shapes of fruit.

winter-palace-marzipan-rooibos-2My love for this almond confection is equaled only by my devotion to tea, so it was serendipity when I discovered Winter Palace Marzipan Rooibos from The Tea Shoppe. A ruddy blend with intense almond flavor, this crimson concoction tastes like a brewed bonbon. While rooibos does not contain any actual tea leaves, it makes an herbal infusion that is commonly referred to as “bush tea” in its native South Africa. It is caffeine-free and has a number of health benefits, but the variety was likely chosen in this blend for its warm hue and mild flavor, which allows the almond to dominate.

With its coppery color and flecks of dried fruit and slivered almonds, Winter Palace Marzipan Rooibos would make a merry gift for any almond and/or tea enthusiasts on your list…including yourself! Savor a sip by the tree as you hum O Tannenbaum, or host a holiday tea and pair it with German lebkuchen and marzipan stollen. With a hot cup on hand, you’ll manage those mounds of holiday tasks in a state of pure almond joy.

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Winter Palace Marzipan Rooibos

 

Winter Palace Marzipan Rooibos is also available from Amazon and a variety of online retailers.

 

The Swoon Society Holiday W.I.S.H. List

Author: Kirsten K., Author: Kirsti Kay, Holidays

Looking for holiday gift ideas?
We’re In Shopping Heaven
with these swoon-worthy finds.

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It’s that time of year when things start to get really hectic, and dreams you had of relaxing with holiday magazines, movies, and music turn into stressful, overly-planned weekends and mad dashes to crowded malls. Help is here, friends. Take a deep breath, put some of that cheerful music on, pour a glass of wine or make a cup of tea, and let The Swoon Society do your shopping for you. (For more ideas, see our 2015 Holiday G.I.F.T. Guide.)

All of the items on our 2016 Holiday W.I.S.H. List are either products we own (or have bought for others) or are on our personal holiday gift lists. Before you break down and get that last resort gift set for your sister from Bath and Body Works, check out some of these lovely ideas and maybe get yourself a present as well. Don’t we all deserve lovely things?
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KIRSTI’S PICKS

august-uncommon-tea-metropolitan.
AUGUST UNCOMMON TEA METROPOLITAN BLEND $29
The creators of August Uncommon Tea are bringing tea into the 21st century, one cup at a time. A beautiful blend for lovers of Earl Grey, Metropolitan is a vibrant black tea flavored with bergamot, plum and clove. According to the company’s website, drinking a cup feels like “sparkling conversation on a city terrace.” Meet you there for a chat?

savon-de-marseille-extra-pur-figue-liquid-soap.
SAVON DE MARSEILLE EXTRA PUR FIGUE LIQUID SOAP $24-31
I know what you’re thinking: who wants to pay up to $30 for liquid soap? YOU do. This soap from La Compagnie de Provence makes you wash your hands just to get a whiff of that glorious fig scent. It makes your guests ask, “Where did you get that soap? It smells so good!” Inhaling the fragrance is like taking a 10-second vacation. Plus, the beautiful glass bottle and its companion lotion look good on any counter and you can buy large refills. Trust me on this one.

dories-cookies-by-dorie-greenspan.
DORIE’S COOKIES BY DORIE GREENSPAN $21
Famous for her World Peace cookies, Dorie Greenspan has created hundreds of cookie recipes that she is finally sharing. Get this cookbook as a gift for someone and bake a batch of cookies to go with it. Sharing is caring, and we could all use a little more world peace at the moment.

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CLAIRE VELVET CHOKER NECKLACE $14
I’ve noticed that the girls I have been admiring out in the world…you know the ones, they are in the coffee line in front of you and seem to have perfect, effortless style…are wearing chokers with their drapey tops and round sunglasses. These necklaces are back from the ’70s and a perfect way to add Boho chic to your life—or someone’s stocking—without breaking the bank.

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DYSON SUPERSONIC HAIR DRYER $400
Sir James Dyson is on the top of my dinner party list. He puts so much care into everything he creates—I feel actual love for my vacuum. When I heard that he’d created a hair dryer, I swooned. It’s a game changer not only for hair drying, but for styling. A little pricey, but can you really put a price on the answer to a perfect home blowout
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talking-with-dogs-and-cats-by-tim-link.
TALKING WITH DOGS AND CATS BY TIM LINK $13-15
This is a wonderful book for anyone wanting to effectively and easily communicate with their animals. Tim Link is a professional animal communicator who shows you how to easily understand and interpret your pet’s needs and how to create an incredibly connective relationship. A great gift for anyone with a furry friend.

agent-nateur-shiva-rose-holirose-deodorant.
AGENT NATEUR HOLI(ROSE) DEODORANT NO. 4 $24
You’ve got to hand it to Gwyneth Paltrow for creating the Goop Empire. Most of the products she sells on her site are too expensive for me, but it’s a great place to find vetted natural products. I’m dying to try this non-GMO, pesticide free, food-grade rose deodorant created in partnership with Shiva Rose and scented with holi wood, sandalwood and rose. If I found this in my stocking, I would think Santa was a really awesome dude.

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MILK MAKEUP TATTOO STAMP $12
Add a little instant spunk to your day or night with this super fun stocking stuffer. Put a few stars around your eyes like Kat Von D, or strategically hide a heart for your own special “Santa” to find later.

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PUNJAMMIES LOUNGE PANTS $54
These gorgeous lounge pants are made in India by women working to remain free from human trafficking. Fashioned from 100% cotton with a lovely brocade border around the hem, these beauties are a glamorous and meaningful gift.

le-labo-santal-33-liquid-balm-perfume.
LE LABO SANTAL 33 LIQUID BALM PERFUME $90
This perfume smells like an ancient church or a Cambodian temple: mysterious, meditative and deeply intoxicating. Just the tiniest roll on to the wrist and neck and you will float through the day, enveloped in notes of violet, cardamom, leather and sandalwood. Namaste, y’all.

stay-gold-14k-gold-vermeil-necklace.
STAY GOLD 14K GOLD VERMEIL NECKLACE $150
When your love for Ponyboy must be writ large for all to see. Get this for the girl who loves the ’80s. Throw in a first edition of The Outsiders. You’re welcome.

everlane-black-cashmere-sweatpant.
EVERLANE CASHMERE SWEATPANT $140
Cult brand Everlane does not disappoint with these luxurious cashmere sweatpants. With a relaxed slim fit and all the feels of delicious cashmere, these are going to replace every pair of yoga pants in your closet, stat.

color-me-book.
PERSONALIZED ADULT COLORING BOOK $25
Create a coloring book for that special someone using your own photos. One of the most buzzed about gift items this year and a wonderfully unique memento. Really easy to use interface—you can create a book in minutes—but do it now to ensure you receive it by the holidays.

mermaid-blanket.
MERMAID BLANKET $35
How did we live our lives without a mermaid blanket? Binge-watch Gilmore Girls while feeling like a very fancy mythical creature. Super soft with knit “scales,” it comes in a variety of cozy colors. You know that Lorelei would have one of these.

dog-a-day-pug-dessert-plate.
DOG-A-DAY DESSERT PLATES $14 each
For any dog lover on your list. Made of stoneware that’s dishwasher safe, these plates by artist Sally Muir will make guests gasp in delight! There are seven different breeds: Pug, Dalmatian, Whippet, Jack Russell, Labradoodle, Shaggy Dog, and Westie. Whether you get one of each or have a table of Pugs, we’d like to be invited to this party.

 

KIRSTEN’S PICKS

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the-federalist-visionary-zinfandel-wineTHE FEDERALIST WINES $18-35
Our recent election has ignited renewed interest in the electoral process created by our Founding Fathers, making a bottle of wine from The Federalist a timely gift for the oenophiles on your list. After getting started with Visionary Zinfandel in honor of Federalist Party pioneer Alexander Hamilton, they’ll want to experience the full collection, featuring tributes to the duel between Hamilton and Aaron Burr, the genius of Ben Franklin, the leadership of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and the symbol of the Statue of Liberty. (Since the Federalists opposed “my” party, one Founder is conspicuously absent.) If the talk turns to politics, you may need wine to get through the holidays, so be sure to stock up!
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dessert-and-baking-saltsDESSERT AND BAKING SALTS $19
Any pastry chef worth his or her salt knows that adding a pinch of these pungent granules to desserts and baked goods can balance the sweetness of sugar and make flavors pop. Replace regular salt in cookie dough, pie crusts, and brownie batter with flavors like Vanilla Cardamom and Orange Ginger. Sprinkle Rose Peppercorn or Hibiscus on ice cream and cheesecake for a floral flourish. This culinary kit will allow the cooks on your list to express their creativity with Espresso, or liven up vanilla desserts with Lavender, so give generously and you just might get invited to experience the sweet—and salty—hereafter.
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opera-by-david-leventiOPERA BY DAVID LEVENTI $28-100 and up
Whether your musical tastes run to Die Fledermaus or deadmau5, you will swoon over this coffee table book from photographer David Leventi. Filled with dazzling images of opera house interiors from around the world as seen from center stage, it is certain to be the talk of any holiday celebration. Each theatre and its décor, from the spare to the opulent, reflects the character of a distinct city and era. Every single page is a frameable work of art. Opera can be purchased directly from the Italian publisher, but copies are available in the U.S. from marketplace vendors at Abe Books,  Amazon and Barnes & Noble. (In the meantime, enjoy the pictures on David Leventi’s website.)
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vintage-typewriter-note-cardsVINTAGE-STYLE NOTE CARDS FROM FIGMENTS STUDIO $10
From the time I could write, my mother instilled in me that it is basic good manners to send a thank-you note whenever you receive a gift. To remind me, Santa would put a small box of cards under the Christmas tree each year, but nobody will need a reminder to use these charming Vintage Typewriter note cards from Figments Studio. Perhaps one of your New Year’s resolutions is to begin a written correspondence. If so, purchase the Letter Box or Vintage Mailbox note cards for yourself and send a box to a distant friend or family member to get the ball rolling. Each set comes in a decorative box with magnetic closure and includes 10 note cards, envelopes, and wax seal stickers.

aftelier-chocolate-saffron-body-oil.
AFTELIER CHOCOLATE SAFFRON BODY OIL $50
You won’t know whether to wear or eat this gourmet body oil from renowned natural perfumer Mandy Aftel. Surprisingly lightweight, it absorbs completely into the skin, leaving only the ambrosial aroma of chocolate and flowers behind. Just a few drops massaged into the ends of damp hair controls split ends while enveloping you in a sensual scent. A little goes a long way, so get your honey some chocolate and saffron for the holidays and he or she might be willing to share…in more ways than one.

vosges-peppermint-candy-cane-drinking-chocolate.
PEPPERMINT CANDY CANE DRINKING CHOCOLATE $15
Speaking of chocolate, innovative chocolatier Katrina Markoff is returning to sweet simplicity with a special drinking chocolate for the holidays. Containing grated dark chocolate and crushed peppermint candy, this decadent beverage from Vosges Haut-Chocolat is made the Parisian way. Set out a rich, festive cup for Santa in lieu of milk and cookies and you are sure to get everything on your list. Ho Ho Ho là là!

jane-steele-by-lyndsay-faye.
JANE STEELE BY LYNDSAY FAYE $19
A must-have for the historical fiction fans on your list, this reimagining of Jane Eyre turns the beloved gothic romance on its head. The book is not simply a retelling of the tale, for Jane Steele herself has read the novel by Charlotte Brontë and remarks on the uncanny similarities between her “real” life and that of the fictional Jane Eyre…with one notable difference: Ms. Steele is a killer. In the hands of talented wordsmith Lyndsay Faye, this is no horror story, but a fresh and fun (really!) take on one of English literature’s most enduring classics.

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anchor-hocking-bake-n-serve-storage-dishesVINTAGE-STYLE GLASS STORAGE DISHES
$13-26 each
A practical gift that will win hearts with its 1930s charm and utility, this set of glass storage dishes from Anchor Hocking goes from oven to table to fridge. Made entirely from tempered glass to prevent leaching of unwanted chemicals into food, the dishes are available in 2 cup, 5 cup, and 12 cup sizes that store neatly together, making efficient use of space. With proper handling and care, these dishwasher and microwave safe Bake ‘n’ Store containers will someday become actual vintage treasures.

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strauss-waltzesSTRAUSS WALTZES $10-$17
Most of us are familiar with The Blue Danube and Tales from the Vienna Woods, but what about Morning Papers, Vienna Blood, or Emperor’s Waltz? Even those who aren’t classical music enthusiasts will appreciate these lively compositions from waltz wunderkind Johann Strauss II. I defy anyone to listen for more than a few bars before falling into step…1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3…as if twirling—or being twirled by—an invisible partner. I listen to this nostalgic 19th-century music every year during the holidays in anticipation of watching the annual New Year’s Concert performed each January 1st by the Vienna Philharmonic. There are many recordings to choose from, but I enjoy this collection from RCA Victor’s Basic 100 series, a primer for those who are new to classical music. It is also available for download from iTunes.

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black-pearl-and-swarovski-crystal-magnetic-wrap-necklaceMAGNETIC WRAP NECKLACE/BRACELET
$15-25 and up
Forget David Blaine, you’ll be awestruck at the magic performed by this versatile piece of jewelry, which can double as a necklace, choker, bracelet, or anklet. Made from crystals and beads interspersed with Lodestone—a naturally magnetic mineral known as Magnetite—the strands will “lock” together as they are wrapped around the wrist, neck, or ankle, allowing for a variety of different looks. black-pearl-and-swarovski-crystal-magnetic-wrap-bracelet(For examples of how to wear a magnetic wrap necklace, click here.) There are so many online vendors and styles of Magnetite* jewelry that it’s best to simply search for some combination of “magnetic,” “magnetite,” “wrap,” “necklace,” and “bracelet.”

*Magnetite is a permanent magnet that looks like hematite. Be aware that some magnetic jewelry is made with hematite that has been magnetized and may lose its charge over time. Adding “magnetite” to your search will produce higher quality results.

Images of Black Pearl & Swarovski Crystal Magnetic Wrap Necklace/Bracelet from Charms of Light.

 

And, as always, you can give a gift from The Swoon Society S.H.O.P.
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Happy shopping, Swoonsters!

 

Shell-Stocked

Author: Kirsten K., Food & Drink, History, Hot Drinks, Tea

cacao-shell-teaThis presidential campaign has left many Americans feeling shell-shocked. The divisive rhetoric, constant twists and turns, arguments among friends and family members, and contentious result have brought a new level of anxiety to an already incendiary topic. When I’m stressed, I usually deal with it by making myself a hot cup of tea, enjoying a bit of chocolate, and reading up on a favorite subject—such as American history—which is why I’ve been keeping my cabinets well-stocked with Martha Washington’s cacao shell tea.

The latest twist on drinking chocolate, cacao tea is actually a Colonial American tradition.martha-washington An invigorating brew made from roasted cacao shells, Martha Washington’s Chocolate Shell Infusion is as delicious today as it was during her tenure as First Lady. Cacao shells are the husks that encase cocoa beans before they are removed during chocolate production. When steeped in hot water (at least 10 minutes for optimal flavor), they create a tasty caffeine-free beverage with just a touch of chocolate’s natural stimulants, making it a great way to start the day or end the evening. According to the label, Martha Washington enjoyed sipping cacao shell tea at breakfast.

While the roasted shells have a similar aroma to brewed chocolate, the infusion has its own unique flavor profile. Cacao tea has a delicate bouquet and mild bitterness that is completely unlike hot cocoa or chocolate-flavored black teas, delivering the essence of chocolate without the richness or the jitters. For a treat that’s lighter than hot chocolate and won’t keep me up at night, I add a little milk and sweetener. When I want a more intense flavor, I heat the shells and water together on the stove for several minutes before straining into a teacup. It’s a versatile brew fit for both the White House* and your own house.

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It was tea that got this party—and these Parties—started, so why not host a post-election tea and serve Martha Washington’s Chocolate Shell Infusion? It may not contain any actual tea, but it might help you form a more perfect union, because whether you gather to celebrate or commiserate, cacao tea is sure to get the popular vote.

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Cacao Shell Tea

 

Martha Washington’s Chocolate Shell Infusion is available directly from the producer, Oliver Pluff & Company, which also makes a mint version.

 

*Yes, I am aware that Martha Washington never lived in the White House.

 

Swoonstruck

Author: Kirsten K., Author: Kirsti Kay, Holidays

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♪ ♫ When a new moon is nigh,
But the werewolves still cry,
That’s a Monday.

When a sky black as pitch
Hides the flight of a witch,
That’s a Monday.

Little feet running down each street, 
Calls of “Trick-or-treat!”
Candy trade deals are soon struck.

Even though moonlight doesn’t show,
Pumpkins are aglow,
Leaving everyone swoonstruck.♩ ♬

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Happy Howloween
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🎃 Happy Howloween! 🎃

 

 

“The Howling” pumpking carving pattern from Pumpkin Masters (adapted from a design by Tod O’Daniel).

 

Criminal Profiles

Author: Kirsten K., Crafts, Holidays
a-rose-for-lady-ravencourt

A Rose for Lady Ravencourt

I have a large collection of silhouettes hanging on my bedroom wall. Some are hand-cut antiques, others are recent prints, and a few were created by me. Most are classical portraits of 19th-century men and women, but every October I like to switch a few out for something a shade more sinister.

John Fair has given the old-fashioned art of the silhouette a digital upgrade and introduced it to the dark side of the Victorian era with his clever—and cleverly named—Killhouettes. Years ago, knowing of my love for silhouettes and my morbid fascination with Jack the Ripper, my sister gave me “A Rose for Lady Ravencourt” as a birthday gift, because the image reminded her of the infamous serial killer. Instantly smitten, I jumped online and found the full Killhouettes lineup of criminal profiles.

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Victorian Drive-By

I immediately saw the possibilities for using the pictures as pumpkin-carving patterns. Many of the images can be adapted to smooth over complicated details or account for detached spaces that would be lost in the carving process, but until someone makes even tinier saw blades than Pumpkin Masters, I won’t be attempting the spokes on “Victorian Drive-By” anytime soon. This year, however, I did manage to (somewhat) successfully carve a child-sized weapon from an older design called “No Candy. Your Wallet, Mister!”no-candy-your-wallet-mister

In addition to offering 5×7” prints for sale on the website, John Fair is active on the Killhouettes Facebook page, where he regularly posts new designs and special, limited-supply items, such as mini Halloween lanterns, door hangers, postcards, and temporary tattoos.

Halloween is in less than a week, so whether you decide to carve a knife-wielding “Isabel” into a pumpkin or hang a “Jumping Rope with Claudia” on your wall, it would be a crime not to get the complete series. At just $6 each, including shipping, these sick silhouettes are a killer deal.

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Killhouettes

 

To view both current and past Killhouettes, search Google Images.

 

The Big Steep

Author: Kirsten K., Food & Drink, Holidays, Hot Drinks, Tea

back-from-the-deadJust in time for Halloween, DAVIDsTEA has “resurrected” three of its past seasonal teas and boxed them up in a cute coffin (I can’t help myself—it’s cute!). Reminiscent of the Haunted House Collection from Moonstruck Chocolate, this “casket of tea storables” includes two bloodcurdling brews and one fall-friendly flavor to warm your spirits—or summon them.

swampwater

Enjoy drinking this Swampwater.

Kirsti and I recently returned from a trip to New Orleans where we took a swamp tour, so I was eager to try a sip of Swampwater. This caffeine-free rooibos blend steeps to a dark, murky green, but features the bright tropical flavors of papaya and passion fruit. It’s a must-have for your Halloween-themed drink table or bar. Scare up a creepy cocktail by adding a splash of simple syrup and a bit of BOOze.

swamp-water

Avoid drinking this swamp water.

Stormy Nights creates a tempest in a teapot with black tea, dark chocolate, and fiery spices that will reanimate you to face a whirlwind of trick-or-treaters, while the soothing sweetness of coconut and vanilla helps you remain calm in the eye of the storm.

DAVIDsTEA has its roots in Canada, so it was natural for the company to create a blend featuring the sweet sap of the maple tree. Maple Sugar is a black tea with apple, cinnamon, and maple syrup pieces. Evoking the aromas of crisp waffles and hot apple pie, it’s comfort in a cup.

In addition to bringing this trio of teas Back From The Dead, the Halloween collection from DAVIDsTEA includes a Book of Spells with six bewitching blends, a Haunted Castle Box containing a tin of Stormy Nights and a mug with bats in flight, and a ghoulish gathering of teas and accessories. These items are only available for a limited time, so get yours before they’re dearly departed.

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Back From The Dead Seasonal Tea Trio

 

 

Have Your Day in Courtesy

Author: Kirsten K., Holidays, Self-Improvement

Kirsti and I find few things more swoon-worthy than good manners and common courtesy, but it often seems that people today think minding their Ps and Qs means checking their phones and maintaining their quarrels. In 1986, a group of concerned citizens in England made similar observations about the lack of civility they were witnessing around them and formed The Polite Society (since changed to the National Campaign for Courtesy) with the goal of bringing awareness to the “behavioural problems of the nation.” To that end, they established a National Day of Courtesy on the first Friday in October.

national-campaign-for-courtesy

Although there is a National Common Courtesy Day each March 21st in the U.S., Kirsti and I believe this is an issue worthy of repeated acknowledgement, so we encourage our own Society members to celebrate civility, praise politeness, memorialize manners, and commemorate courtesy today—and every day—in the following ways:

  • thank-you-noteRemember to say “please” and “thank you.” This is Courtesy 101, but you’d be surprised how often these words are left unsaid.
  • Write thank-you notes—even if only by email or text—after receiving gifts and attending parties, or for any reason at all. I like to put notes on the doorsteps of houses in my neighborhood that are beautifully decorated for the holidays to let them know how much I enjoy their displays. People love to be appreciated!
  • Ease up on the pedal when another driver wants to merge. It’s the journey, not the domination.
  • Step outside of a store or restaurant to take a phone call if you must. You’re louder than you think. Really.
  • RSVP by the date on the invitation. Someone thought you were special enough to include on their guest list. Don’t make them hunt you down for a response.
  • Be on time. This is a huge one for Kirsti and me. To quote Vince Lombardi, “If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late.” Give yourself extra time to account for unexpected delays.
  • vexed-by-textHonor your commitments. I’ve grudgingly attended many events that I wanted to back out of at the last minute, only to end up having a wonderful time. People may have declined other offers, purchased food and drink, or cleaned their homes in anticipation of your arrival, so unless an actual emergency arises, don’t make excuses—just go!
  • Respond to emails, texts, and voicemails in a timely manner. We all get busy, but it only takes a minute to write or say, “I’m swamped at the moment, but I received your message and will respond as soon as I’m able.” When you do respond, make sure to address each point in the original message. Nothing wastes more time than going back and forth.
  • Save your comments until the end of the movie. Keeping a running commentary is the filmmaker’s job for the DVD extras—not yours.
  • Hold doors for people. It may turn into a clown car situation, but you might restore someone’s faith in humanity and set an example for others at the same time.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it’s a beginning. And while we’ve all slipped up from time to time, making a consistent effort to be courteous is what gives you a reputation as Someone Who Often Observes Niceties.

With the current atmosphere in our country, shining a spotlight on civility has never been more important, so now that you have your day in courtesy, spread the word and do your part to polite up the world!

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National Campaign for Courtesy

 

Pickled French Plums – The Condiment You Didn’t Know You Needed

Author: Kirsti Kay, Entertaining, Food, Food & Drink, Recipes, Snacks, Starters

boat-street-pickled-french-plums-1I remember the olden days when fig jam and quince paste were exotic additions to a cheese plate. I used to really feel like an adult serving guests these fancy-pants confitures. It didn’t matter if your cheese platter was from Trader Joe’s or curated by a man with a handlebar mustache and bushy beard from the hipster cheese store—it was elevated. Now, even kids know what quince paste is, and fig jam is no longer special. You can buy it at Ralphs.

On this blog, we’ve written about rose petal jam and Jimmie’s Chipotle Pepper Jam as we quest for tasty additions to our plateau de fromage, but it has been a while since I’ve found something new that was worthy. Recently, I was visiting the cheese stall at my local Farmer’s Market and they introduced me to my new favorite: Boat Street Pickled French Plums.

boat-street-pickled-french-plums-2Made by acclaimed Seattle chef Renee Erickson, these Frenchie fruits will make your mouth sing. A winning combination of sour, sweet and spicy—the taste triumvirate—this spread creates a perfect storm when layered on top of some creamy, rich, soft cheese. Made with French plums, cider vinegar, cane sugar, coriander, mustard seed, arbol chili, orange peel, and bay leaf, it’s a complex explosion of flavor. It’s also amazing on sandwiches (grilled cheese—hold me!) or ice cream. Trust me, you will need several jars. Boat Street also makes pickled cherries, apricots, figs and raisins. So scratch that—you are going to need a boatload (see what I did there?).

There is nothing quite like a cracker spread with runny French cheese and a dollop of some magically fruity, smoky deliciousness and a chilled glass of Sancerre. Your mouth (and your guests) will say merci.

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Boat Street Pickles