Cruel Beans

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

Groundwork Organic Bitches Brew CoffeeWe’ve returned from hiatus to interrupt this season already in progress with Breaking Brews! Since surrendering to the inevitable and becoming a constituent of coffee culture, I have been trying an endless variety of brands and blends. This month, inspired by the season, I opted for the Bitches Brew from Groundwork Coffee Co.

It has been well-established that I am NOT a morning person, so bagging this bitchy blend was a no-brainer. Organic and fair trade with a robust, yet smooth, flavor, this bad-tempered brew is actually a charmer. Invoking notes of dark chocolate and caramel, it has cast a spell over my morning ritual.

Recently, I’ve been trying to bring back the phrase “Cool beans!” While it’s been difficult to convince my legume-loathing friends (“Why you gotta bring beans into it?”) that this extended family encompasses both coffee and cacao, these “cruel beans” from Groundwork might just weave a little black magic with their deliciously dark roast.

While I am late to the game, Groundwork is not. Established in 1990 right here in Southern California, this small batch roaster has clearly mastered the art of Bitch-craft, so conjure up a cup of this wicked good coffee and you’ll spend the day flying high.

S.W.O.O.N. Stamp
Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Bitches Brew

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For more festive fun, try their Black Magic espresso or spooky Supernatural blend with hints of candy corn and fruit punch.

Heart of Glass

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

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♪ ♫ Ornament the blog with a touch of class:
A picture…of a heart of glass.
Circle of gold beads ‘round a profile;
Classical bust, hint of a smile.

Two / Fourteen —
Will you spend it reading through our posts online?
‘Cause we’re choosing you to be our Valentine. 🏹
If we are amusing you, it’s just too good,
You swooning like you do…
♩♬

..

❤️ Happy Valentine’s Day, Swooners! ❤️

 

Lyrics adapted from Heart of Glass by Blondie.

Bloggers We Have Read Online

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

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♪ ♫ Bloggers we have read online
sweetly swoon @ their domain,
And the comments in reply
Echo in their “faint” refrain:
♩ ♬

“Fo—o-o-o-o-o—o-o-o-o-o—o-o-o-or our readers,

👼🏼 Merry Christmas Day-o!”👼🏼

..

“Fo—o-o-o-o-o—o-o-o-o-o—o-o-o-or our readers,

👼🏼 Merry Christmas Day-ay-o!”👼🏼

 

Lyrics adapted from the Christmas carol Angels We Have Heard On High.
Picture adapted from a detail in the Sistine Madonna painting by Raphael Sanzio.

Fir Real

Author: Kirsten K., Cocktails, Coffee, Food, Food & Drink, Fragrance, Holidays, Hot Drinks, Nostalgia, Spirits, Sweets, Tea

Loyal Swooners know that Kirsti and I are Fleur Crazy, but they might not be aware that I am also fir-crazy. Scent is the sense most closely connected to memory, and the smell of evergreen instantly conjures up happy childhood memories of decorating the Christmas tree and sitting beneath its boughs while tearing into presents with unbridled avarice. The scent always became sweeter as the tree dried out, and I used to gather the fallen needles into a muslin sachet, wanting to hold on to that adored aroma even after the last holiday decoration had been wrapped in tissue paper and put away.

When Starbucks introduced its erstwhile Juniper Latte a few years ago, it was a revelation to realize I could actually taste, as well as smell, this sylvan scent. Ever since, I’ve been searching for new ways to enjoy the flavors of the forest. I began this “noble” pursuit at Aftelier, the aromatic atelier of perfumer Mandy Aftel, which offers a range of Chef’s Essence® Flavor Drops for use in cooking and cocktails. Among them are Fir Needle, Juniper Berry, and Pine Needle. I was torn about which to try first when Kirsti went ahead and bought all three for me as a gift (BFF!*).

Fir Needle and Juniper Berry are both essential oils with strong scents in the bottle, but surprisingly smooth flavors when added to foods and beverages. I’ve used them to “spruce” up my morning coffee and to bring the bright, fresh essence of evergreen to snowy scoops of vanilla ice cream and seasonal sips of Christmas-y cocktails. An unexpected delight is the deep forest green of the thick Pine Needle Absolute, which has a wonderfully woodsy aroma and a sweet, smoky flavor that transports me to a mountaintop timberland every time I taste it. (For links to recipes, click on individual Chef’s Essence®s in Aftelier’s online shop).

If Christmas is your cup of tea, you’ll love the Douglas Fir Spring Tips Botanical Tea from Juniper Ridge. A recent fortuitous find, this company makes sustainably harvested and wildcrafted products using organic ingredients sourced from the slopes of Northern California. Their caffeine-free Douglas Fir tea allows you to literally drink in the quintessential scent of the season with its fresh, light flavor, while the authentic aroma of their Christmas Fir Room Spray will instantly relocate you to the redolent rows of a tree lot. In combination with their full line of bath, body, and home fragrance offerings, it’s like dropping a Tannen-bomb.

Finally, I don’t know if the Balsam & Cedar fragrance from Brayer Ridge Soap in Maine is “fir real” or not, but the company deserves honorable mention, because their Handcrafted Goat Milk Lotion is the most swoon-worthy moisturizing cream I’ve ever used. Last fall, on a visit to Eagle Island, I stumbled upon a tube of this luscious lotion with the sweet scent of my beloved balsam and cedar. As a natural product without artificial preservatives, it had an expiration date less than six months away, but I kept it in the fridge and managed to ration it all the way through summer. Lisa at Brayer Ridge only makes this lotion during the colder months of the year and, unfortunately, she’s already out for the season(!), but I’m consoling myself with her equally swoon-worthy Balsam & Cedar Whipped Body Butter and Goat Milk Soap, which bathe my bathroom in an alpine aroma.

If you’re looking for last-minute holiday gifts and know someone with a firry fetish, there’s still time to stockpile these fragrant and flavorful finds—or to branch out and try them for yourself. You might discover, as I have, that seasons change, but tree love lasts firever.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Aftelier Fir Needle, Juniper Berry, and Pine Needle Chef’s Essence® Flavor Drops
Juniper Ridge Douglas Fir Tea and Christmas Fir Room Spray
Brayer Ridge Soap Balsam & Cedar Bath and Body Products

 

*Best Firry Friend!

 

Ancient Hissstory

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

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This year’s pumpkin carving is no great big mystery;
You only need study your Greek ancient hissstory,
While dealing with COVID and lockdown neuroses
By flipping through Ovid in Metamorphoses.

It’s Snakes on a Mane as our Halloween feature,
Depicting a Hell-enic mythical creature
With slithering hair and a gaze that’s hypnotic,
Which causes her victims to go all sclerotic.

..

The ladys a viper — to tempt her is unwise.
She’ll turn you to stone if you stare into her eyes.
So don’t look too long, or she’s bound to seduce ya,
This profile pic of our “Gourd-gon” Medusa.

🎃 Happy Halloween, Ssswooners! 🐍

 

This pumpkin was carved using a classical-style Medusa silhouette and tools from Pumpkin Masters.

Cameo Appearance

Author: Kirsten K., Crafts, Holidays

Halloween is almost here, and with more time at home in recent months due to the pandemic, I’ve finally been able to work on some of the seasonal decorating ideas that have been floating around my head for years. To go by the number of ghoulish and ghostly displays that have suddenly materialized in my neighborhood, I’m not the only one.

In addition to exterior décor, I’ve brought the Halloween spirit(s) into my home, where a spine-tingling twist on tradition is making a cameo appearance this year. Among the carved Fun-Kins and framed Killhouettes that adorn my abode, I’ve created an arrangement of creepy cameos around a blushing bride who is head over heels (his head, her heels).

I’ve always loved classic forms of portraiture, like silhouettes and cameos, but I don’t wear much jewelry, so when I came across Cameo Jewelry Supply and swooned over their vast collection of affordable resin cameos, I had to consider alternate ways to use these wearable works of art. Naturally, their selection of Skull, Zombie, and Gothic cameos made me think of Halloween, and I knew at once that I wanted to showcase all of these spooky specimens for the season.

Using the shape of the cameos as my guide, I settled on a simple black frame with an oval opening encircling a school picture photo mat. Since a standard 40x30mm cameo would have been lost in the large oval, I chose a favorite Killhouette for dead center. It seemed appropriate for all of these disembodied heads to be looking upon Bridezilla, who has just “uncrowned” her Prince Charming. Leave it to cleaver!

This skull at bottom center glows in the dark.

As someone who lives in SoCal, I always keep plenty of QuakeHold! on hand, and I used a tiny bit to affix each cameo in its space so that I could mix, match, and remove them easily. Once I embellished Bridezilla with blood to match the red skull and crossbones, my creation was complete.

I also purchased some smaller skeleton and skull cameos, along with supplies to make eerie earrings and hair-raising hair pins for Halloween, but I don’t plan to stop there. With categories ranging from Alphabet to Zodiac, I have a feeling that these petite portraits will be making a cameo appearance in my life throughout the year.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Cameo Jewelry Supply

 

A wide variety of beautiful cameo settings—often referred to as “blanks”—for pins, pendants, bracelets, rings, and earrings is also available on Etsy.

 

World War Zzz

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

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We’ve been busy swooning instead of blogging,
but even though we’ve checked out recently,
we’re checking in on one of our favorite days
of the year to let you know that we haven’t
been turned into mindless zombies—yet.

..

🎃 Have fun “passing out”💤 candy, Swooners! 🍬

💀 Happy Halloween! 💀

 

This pumpkin was carved using a Victorian zombie silhouette and tools from Pumpkin Masters.

 

True Colors

Author: Kirsten K., Crafts, Holidays

This year, Easter arrives the day before Earth Day, which is a timely reminder to make sustainable choices when celebrating this holiday of rebirth and renewal. Consider one of these green alternatives to plastic Easter grass, then fill your basket with goodies from Natural Candy Store. Along with natural and organic jelly beans, lollipops, foil-wrapped eggs, and chocolate bunnies, this online emporium sells a superb set of Natural Easter Egg Decorating Colors.

These six vegetable powders from TruColor make potent natural dyes that are specially designed to color eggs (or alternatives). Ingredients like red cabbage and purple sweet potato provide a vibrant stain that deepens as it dries. Unlike the traditional method I learned growing up, which involved submerging eggs for five minutes in a mixture of boiling water, vinegar, and synthetic food coloring, dyeing eggs with these natural colors is as easy as 1, 2, 3:

  1. Mix powder with water in a cup.
  2. Let sit until completely dissolved.
  3. Submerge egg for one minute.

In just 60 seconds, the colors surpassed pastel and grew in hue, so play around with the amount of powder, water, and time for a basketful of options (such as diluting the dye mixture at intervals to create ombré eggs). You can also mix equal parts powder and water for applying color directly to the eggs with a paintbrush. Enter your “eggcellent” creation in the 2019 Easter Egg Natural Decorating Contest by April 21st (instructions and contest rules are included with your natural dye kit) and your artistry may be rewarded with a $100 gift certificate to Natural Candy Store. Sweet!

Once you’ve finished dyeing your eggs, you can use the leftover powder for cake and cookie decorating to make earth-friendly and people-pleasing holiday treats, so show your true colors on Easter while honoring Earth Day as you celebrate this spring awakening the natural way.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Natural Easter Egg Decorating Colors

 

Natural Candy Store is currently offering 10% off your entire order, including savings of up to 50% on overstock Easter-themed candy, plus a free gift for any $20 minimum purchase. Consult this chart for Easter shipping deadlines and get hopping!

 

Erin Go Bread

Author: Kirsten K., Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Food & Drink, Holidays, Recipes, Snacks, Sweets

My version of this recipe defies all raisin.

For as long as I can remember, my mother has made Irish Soda Bread for St. Patrick’s Day. She is not Irish, nor is anyone on either side of my family (as far as we know), but every year in mid-March, I receive a freshly-baked loaf from her kitchen.

The recipe was found in a church cookbook compiled years ago from favorites submitted by parishioners as a fundraising effort. The Irish Soda Bread entry is credited to Pat O’Connor, whose name inspires confidence in the authenticity of the recipe, but neither the shape nor the texture of this bread resembles the traditional raisin-studded, round loaves with a cross cut into the top that I typically see for sale at this time of year.

That suits me just fine, though, since—unlike most Irish Soda Bread I’ve tried—this version is super m-word (I’m not allowed to write or say it!), with a light, sweet flavor and an unusual texture that I’d describe as slightly, though not unpleasantly, “rubbery.” In any case, it’s SO easy to make that why would you buy one of those dry, rustic-looking loaves when you can pull this church-sanctioned knockoff from your oven in no time?

Like St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland, my mother drives the raisins out of my Irish Soda Bread each year and replaces them with chocolate chips, so I ask you: who’s the real saint? It may not be traditional, but it’s tradition in my family. Every March 17th, along with the wearing (and sharing) o’ the green, my mother and I enjoy an Irish coffee with a slice from this recipe. Erin Go Bread!


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

IRISH SODA BREAD

1 cup sugar
1 egg
3 cups sifted flour
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup raisins (or chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350°. Cream sugar and egg. Add sifted flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix in buttermilk. Add raisins (or chocolate chips!). Bake for one hour.

 

Awesome Floss

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

Happy New Year, Swooners! Unfortunately, I spent much of my time over Christmas and New Year’s recovering from illness, so I wasn’t able to schedule our annual holiday posts, but I found comfort in sipping my new favorite drink: the Juniper Latte. I swoon over the scent of evergreen, but never thought it would grace my Grande until I saw this seasonal brew on Starbucks’ menu. Once I experienced the flavor of winter foliage, I wanted MORE of this “treet,” but adding pumps of the juniper syrup to my coffee order also meant adding unwanted sweetness, so I began to look online for a juniper extract to jazz up my java. That’s when I discovered Nature’s Flavors.

I ordered juniper in the form of an organic flavor concentrate (which works like a charm in my latte), but fell down the rabbit hole while exploring the many extracts, oils, syrups, powders, and other natural and organic flavors offered by the company. There were so many to choose from in such a variety of forms that I had to create a spreadsheet to make sense of them all! In addition to evergreen essences like juniper and pine, they have an endless assortment of fruit, vegetable, herb, spice, floral, liquor, and baking flavors, as well as surprising options running the gamut from acorn to zabaglione.

I wanted to try them ALL, but before I broke the bank buying up bottles, I found that they offered many of their flavors in the form of “floss.” Cotton candy may be referred to as candy floss or fairy floss in some parts of the world, but it’s still the same fairground staple we know and love, and it provides a light and (f)airy vehicle for sampling all types of tastes (Alfredo, anyone?). Naturally, I gravitated to the florals: jasmine, lavender, orange blossom, rose, violet…and one I’d never tried before—apple blossom. Awesome!

Nature’s Flavors also carries juniper cotton candy floss, but next time I might try something more daring, like dragon fruit, or bold, like bay. With their slew of selections, I won’t need a reminder to floss daily.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Nature’s Flavors Cotton Candy Floss

 

For the do-it-yourselfers, Nature’s Flavors offers all natural and organic cotton candy sugars. Click here for some more fun ways to floss.