Wednesday, April 30

Clever Ways To Re-Use Lemon Peels

I love lemons. They are bright, refreshing, tart and smell divine. I use them every single day. I’ve gotten in the habit of squeezing fresh lemon juice in a glass of water to help wake me - and my digestive system - up first thing in the morning. I’m ashamed to admit that I would usually just throw the lemon peel away, or toss it in the garbage disposal. But when my lemon habit really took off I started storing the peels. I’ve collected a lot, actually. So what to do with lemon peels?? Read on friends.....

Lemon Zest - Lemon zest is a common ingredient in both sweet and savory dishes. Zest some of your peel, use some now or freeze it for later. I love throwing it on grilled fish.

Make Homemade Lemon Pepper Seasoning - One of my favorite seasonings and easy to make. Here's how:
5+ large lemons
1/3 cup of crushed black pepper corns
1/4 cup kosher salt
Zest all the lemons and mix with crushed peppercorns.
Spread out on parchment lined baking sheet and bake on lowest setting until the zest is completely dried.
Add the lemon-pepper to a spice grinder and grind until desired texture. Mix with the kosher salt if desired and store in a airtight container for up to a few months.

Lemon Sugar - It's a great flavored sugar option, right up there with Vanilla Sugar! It's delicious to rim chilled summer glasses for serving lemonade! Be still my heart. Here's how: 
The zest from 2 lemons
2-3 cups Sugar, depending how sweet you like things - I use 2 cups.
Zesting releases the natural oils of the lemon and those oils absorb quickly into the sugar. Stir well, then let the sugar mixture sit out for at least an hour to dry slightly. Close up the container, give it a good shake and then store it in your cupboard so that it is ready any time you need it.

Lemon Olive Oil - Give your olive oil a makeover with a bright flavor. It's simple, here's how:
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 -3 tablespoons lemon zest, finely grated
Place the oil and the zest in a glass jar. Let it stand at room temperature for at least 2 weeks, shaking occasionally. Pour the oil through a strainer and discard the zest. Transfer to a jar and store, tightly covered, in refrigerator.

Homemade Lemon Extract - Sometimes I'm truly amazed at the things you can make yourself. Here's how to make lemon extract:
1 cup cheap Vodka
Peel of 2 lemons, just the yellow part
A small brown glass jar or bottle.
Place lemon peel and Vodka in jar and cover. Make sure the peel is fully submerged. Screw the lid on the jar, and store in a cool, dry place for at least two weeks, longer is even better. Transfer your finished lemon extract - minus the zest - to brown glass bottles. The dark glass will maximize the shelf life of your extract.

Lemon Twists and Ice Cubes - Brighten your drinks by putting twists of the peel into ice cubes. Perfect for summer parties. Use a vegetable peeler or knife to make long strips, cutting away from the white pith which can be quite bitter. Again, these can be frozen.

Herb-Lemon Zest Butter - Another “what more do I need to say,” right? Something so easy to make a wow meal! Here's how:
1/4 mixed herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, chervil, tarragon, and chives, chopped
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 finely grated lemon zest
Put herbs on a work surface. Add butter and lemon zest. Finely chop together until well combined. Season with salt. Transfer to a sheet of parchment or wax paper, placing on edge closest to you. Fold paper over and roll into a cylinder, twisting the ends; wrap airtight in foil. Chill until solid. Butter will keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks or frozen for up to 3 months.

Lemon AP Cleaner - Also known as lemon vinegar, this stuff is awesome at cutting grease and disinfecting. To make, simply place a bunch of lemon peels in any sized glass jar - mason jars would work great. Pour over. Put the lid on and let it sit for 2 weeks (I promise, it’s worth the wait). Then strain the liquid. Combine this with water (using a 50/50 ratio) and then use as you would your normal all purpose cleaner. It's smells great!

Freshen Your Fridge - Place a lemon peel or two inside your fridge to absorb smells and bring a bright citrus scent.

Simmering Stove Top Scents - This idea has been floating around Pinterest for some time, and with good reason. You’ll make your house smell heavenly simply by adding lemon peels to simmering water. Throw in some cloves, cinnamon sticks, and orange peels. This adds a wonderful scent and humidifies the air.

Clean Your Tea Kettle or Coffee Pot - To clean mineral deposits in your tea kettle: Fill the kettle with water and add a handful of thin slices of lemon peel. Bring it to a boil then turn off the heat. Let is sit for an hour, drain, and rinse well. To clean your coffee pot: Simply add your lemon peels with some ice and salt. Whirl everything around a minute or two and the dump and rinse.

Sanitize Your Cutting Board - Lemon’s natural acidity provides great antibacterial properties to home cleaning. After properly cleaning your cutting boards, rub the surface with half a lemon. Let it sit for a couple of minutes before rinsing.

Clean and Sanitize Your Microwave - We don’t use our microwave much, but I wish I knew this secret back when I did! Add lemon rinds to a microwave-safe bowl filled halfway with water. Cook on high for five minutes, allowing the water to boil and the steam to condense on the walls and tops of the oven. Remove the hot bowl (carefully!) and wipe away the mess with a towel. Yes.

Firelighters - Bake discarded lemon peels until they darken. These create natural, fragrant firelighters. So cool, and just in time for grilling season!

Make Drawer Sachets - Dry your lemon peels (either out in the sun or in a dehydrator) and place them inside of fabric sachets. Add spices, as desired such as cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and cardamom. Place in drawers to freshen.

Clean Your Stainless Steel, Polish Your Chrome, and Make Your Copper Shine - This one was my favorite as we’ve had some nasty residue on our steak knives that I’ve been trying to get off for a while. Simply sprinkle some sea salt on the metal, and then use the lemon peel to scrub away any dirt, grime, or stains. Rinse and polish! Think Natalie Dupree!

Skin Brightening Scrub - This will really perk your skin up.
2/3 cup unrefined sea salt or Epsom salt, finely ground
1/3 cup your lemon-infused oil
If you’re using coarse ground sea salt or Epsom salt, run it through a food processor or coffee grinder until the granules are very fine. Mix all ingredients in a clean jar and store in a cool, dry place. To Use: Step into the bath or shower, but before you turn the shower on spoon a little of the mixture onto a washcloth, exfoliating mitt or your hands. Scrub all over in a circular motion, then rinse! Pat skin dry and follow with moisturizer if desired.

Nail Whitener - Do your nails turn yellow after wearing fingernail polish?? Sometimes mine do. Whiten fingernails by rubbing with a lemon wedge. So easy!

Travel Sickness Cure - Suck on a slice of lemon to help you stop feeling nauseous. This SO works!

Lighten Age Spots - Many folk remedies suggest using lemon peel to help lighten age spots. Apply a small piece to the affected area and leave on for an hour. Avoid sun exposure while it’s on your face.

Soften Dry Elbows - Use a half lemon sprinkled with baking soda on elbows. Just place your elbow in the lemon and twist the lemon, as if you are juicing it, for several minutes. Rinse and dry.

Make a Scented Humidifier - If your home suffers from dry heat in the winter, you can put lemon peels in a pot of water and simmer on the lowest stove-top setting to humidify and scent the air.

Make a Foot Soak - Boil citrus rinds for several minutes. Allow to cool completely and strain. Add ¼ cup milk, 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Soak feet for about 20 minutes and then pat dry to moisturize and soften feet.

how-to, lemons, rinds, peels, recycle, reuse, beauty, facial, homemade, cleaner, freshen, health,

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Monday, April 28

Packing The Perfect Beach Bag

Time to head to the beach! It's wonderful and can't you just imagine yourself sitting on the sand enjoying the waves and Summer breeze? Everyone looks forward to a beach vacation. Here's a checklist to make sure you've got everything you need for the sand, surf and sun. I forgot to add a few bottles of water and a good book to my bag - ENJOY!

1. Athleta Perla Pintuck Cover UpThis classic lightweight natural cotton cover-up will give your skin a break from the sun. At the pool or beach, it's stylishly suitable not to even take it off! $29.99 at Athleta/Yahoo Shopping.

2. Scala Lanikai Sunhat, If you’re looking for a practical and casual style, get a ‘crushable’ hat that easily folds up and can be thrown in a bag without loosing it’s shape. Made from linen, this hat breathes easily and provides the ultimate sun protection when the kettle edge brim, measuring 4" wide, is turned down. Completely lined in cotton poplin, a drawstring inside the sweatband allows you to adjust for a perfect fit. $15.00, 15 Dollar Store.

3. Tommy Bahama Tortuga Beach Towel, Whether you're bronzing on white sand beaches, or drying off after a dip in the waves, the durable and soft Tommy Bahama Beach Towels are the perfect paradise essential. The plush and absorbent towels are adorned with vibrant tropical designs in bold, bright colors. Loomed from the highest-quality cotton, the generously sized towels feature a cut pile which reverses to soft, luxurious terry. $39.50, Frongate.

4. frē for iPhone 5s, Thinner, lighter, stronger and more protective than any other case available, frē keeps your iPhone 5s waterproof, dirt proof, and drop proof. Absolutely perfect for the beach! No worries man. $79.99, Lifeproof.

5. Aerin Rose Underwire Shirred Onepiece, Break away from plain black ladies. Bright solids can be slimming as well. A loose cut doesn't hide anything, believe me I've tried! However a body-hugging suit with ruching does. Take the plunge as well. Necklines that show a bit of cleavage or that have special details keep attention on your upper half. $129.99, Aerin Rose.

6. Ray Ban RB2140 Wayfarer Sunglasses, These multicolored crystal frames with gradient light blue lens are fashionably chic. Ray Ban Sunglasses always have great styling with exceptional quality, performance, and comfort. You are sure to look hip and be cool with these clean and sophisticated beauties!  $14.20 -seriously! Ray Ban 2014.

7. Hilltribe Beach BagI love everything about this sophisticated handmade bag. Decorated with ribbons and hand embroidered, you can tote this from beach to boardwalk on vacation, and then every day in between. Made of cotton canvas with a snap closure, adjustable handles, internal wall pockets and best of all, it's rigid enough to stay standing up rather than falling over and covering your gear with sand. 22" x 4.5" x 17". $78.00 at Love the Bag, Love the Shoes.

8. Nike Comfort ThongMemory foam on these flip flops treat your feet to superior comfort. Excellent breathability, waterpoof and come in a large array of colors combos to match any swimsuit. Wearing these sandals around the coast or poolside will make you feel like you're walking on sunshine! $28.00, Zappos.

9. Hayden Reis Wrislet, I have a 'thing' about leaving my valuables in a bag on a towel at the beach. It's just something I don't do. And along came the Hayden Reis adjustable wristlet, and with it a peace of mind. This water-resistant bag can afford to get wet, keeping you money, keys, cell phone safe and dry. They come in a variety of patterns and colors. $32.00, Hayden Reis.

10. Coppertone Sport High Performance Sunscreen, Clear Continuous Spray, Specially formulated, this clear, no-rub, no-mess spray goes on quickly and dries in seconds.  Ultra sweat resistant so it won't run into your eyes and sting. Sprays on at any angle for quick and even coverage, even in hard to reach places. The twist-and-lock cap means no cap to lose, no messy spills in your bag. Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB Protection. Water resistant. $9.49, Drugstore.

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Sunday, April 27

1,2,3 Chocolate-Coconut Candy Bar Cake

Chocolate-Coconut Candy Bar Cake is exceptional and amazingly easy to make. Using a cake mix and store bought frosting, this 3-step chocolate cake taste like it's homemade.  It’s extremely moist and the depth of the chocolate layers are enhanced by the addition of the creamy coconut filling. The cake was so moist, that I lost some of it to the cooling rack. It’s possible I was rushing it a bit, no biggie, I have a taste-tester that comes behind me scavenging for any remains. No frills, no fancy techniques or liqueurs or ingredients; just good, old-fashioned chocolate cake. And honestly, who would say no to EASY chocolate?

Chocolate-Coconut Candy Bar Cake
Rich devil's food cake, prepared from a mix, becomes sinfully delicious when layered with a sweet marshmallow-coconut filling. Ready-to-spread fudge frosting finishes this easy, yet stunning, Chocolate-Coconut Candy Bar Cake.
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  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 cup Evaporated Milk
  • 1/2 cup Butter, 1 stick
  • 24 large Marshmallows
  • 1 package {14 ounces} Flaked Coconut
  • 3 6 or 8 inch round Devil's Food Cake Layers {prepared from a cake mix}
  • 1 container {16 ounces} Chocolate Fudge Ready-to-Spread Frosting

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, evaporated milk and butter over medium-high heat. Stirring frequently, bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; continue to stir and cook an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in marshmallows until melted. Stir in coconut and chill filling in refrigerator for 1 hour.
  2. Spread coconut filling evenly between cooled caked layers.
  3. Spread frosting on top and sides of cake. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator. 

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Saturday, April 26

Chic Souvenirs: Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, Shopping The Largest Parisian Market

One early morning last June, I found myself alone in Paris. I know Paris is for lovers, but it's also a great city to get lost in all by yourself. When Mr.P and E decided to 'climb' the Eiffel Tower, and not seeing the need to do that twice in my lifetime, I chose to spend my morning scouring the stalls at one of Paris' most famous marche aux puces, a good old fashioned flea market. Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, or simply known as 'The Flea', is the largest antique market in Europe, receiving between 120,000 to 180,000 visitors each weekend. 

This vast flea market, founded in the late 19th century, has more than 2500 stalls grouped into a dozen marchés - market areas. Each with its own specialty, there are miles upon miles of ‘freelance’ stalls. Vendors from all over France bring treasures ranging from vintage Tolix stools to 19th century blue and white French plates. Be prepared to spend a good morning here with a bottle of water, good walking shoes and Euros - these professional French vendors accept cash only.

Although you never know what you'll find from weekend to weekend here at The Flea, there are particular items you can look for that are intrinsically French, and almost always certain to find. Read on for my short list of Les Puces' greatest hits.

Country French Grain Sacks 
Made of hemp and with a blue, red (or sometimes both) stripe down the middle, these circa 1920's sacks make great table runners or pillows. Le prix: 25 to 75 euros per grain sack, depending on the quality.

Cafe Au Lait Bowls 
Consider yourself warned: if you buy one of these, you'll become a collector. They're adorable, addictive, and great for serving soups, garnishes, and Texas-style chili. I've yet to use mine for coffee. Le prix: 18 to 22 euros.

French Jam Jars 
Look for tiny bubbles in these thick, turn-of-the century jars. That means they were made by hand, and are the most prized. The older the jar, the thicker the glass, generally speaking. The most coveted (and priciest) are the fluted ones, great for holding coffee spoons or serving dips and sauces. Le prix: From 8 to 25 euros.

Medici Vases and Garden Urns
Shabby chic, made of steel and often with years of rust still intact, these vases come in all sizes but aren't always so easy to find. Great in the garden, on a table with greenery or in the house as a vase with fresh flowers. Le prix: 60 to 80 euro. Take into consideration the price when you may have to ship this item home.

Torchons Red Embroidered Linen or Hemp Dish Towels 
Torchons, French kitchen cloths make great souvenirs, and do the job of drying far better than terry or woven cotton. Durable, timeless and bigger than any you've probably seen before, these can also be repurposed into throw pillows. Le prix: 12 to 45 euros, depending on the quality, the age and the vendor.

Enamel Street Signs 
These familiar, French blue and white signs are on building corners all over the country, and just one makes a great gift or addition to a wall that needs a French accent. Le prix: 35 euros.

Monogrammed Table Linens and Napkins
You'll find old linens in whites, creams, stripes and even ones in bold colors like pumpkin, cherry and deep marine blue. Generally speaking, the thicker, the richer the fabric, the higher the price. Le prix: 100 euros or more for a tablecloth and around 20 euros a piece for napkins.

Vintage Silverware
You can always find over-sized French silverware here, which you'll usually find and buy in bundles. Deep rounded soup spoons, engraved fish knives and an incredible number of other food-specific pieces, such as egg spoons, flat-edged jam spoons and long forks made for spearing pickles. Le prix: Around 5 euros a stem.

Gravure Prints
The art at The Flea is hit-or-miss, but sometimes there are incredible deals, like the gravure prints I spotted last year. French Castles are always in fashion. I picked up a print of the Chateau de Chenonceau, that we visited in the Loire River Valley, for only 2 euros! Le prix: Usually 5 euros and up, but you might get lucky!

Tips on How To Bargain French-style:
In France, price negotiation is all about diplomacy. You don't just walk up to a seller and offer a low-ball figure like you might in the U.S.. EVER. Instead, ask the vendor if this is the best price he or she is willing to offer, and in French say, "C'est le meilleur prix?"  Don't worry about sounding silly, the French appreciate Americans putting forth a bit of effort when it comes to their language. Also, whatever it is you're buying, if you're looking to buy more than one, you'll often get a discount if you ask. Also make sure to carry small bills, vendors don't take credit cards and you'll find no ATM anywhere close by.
Directions To Les Puces de Saint-Ouen: 
Take the métro to Porte de Clignancourt on Line 4 and follow the crowds towards the large concrete overpass. Rue des Rosiers is the main street which you walk down in order to go into the separate markets. The market and neighborhood is very colorful and you will love the diversity of personalities, stall keepers and products for sale! The 18th arrondissement, where the Puces are located, is in a poorer part of Paris and the market gets very crowded - watch your wallets. 
Hours of Operation:  
Every Saturday from 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Every Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (please note that many stalls close around lunch time.)

Another great Parisian flea market:
Porte de Vanves is a great small Paris flea that’s held every Saturday and Sunday from about 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Look for lots of small things, like tiny keys fit for a necklace, old photographs, kitchenware, etc. Go early to avoid the baby carriages, dogs and slow-strolling, cigarette-smoking Parisians. Metro: Line 13, Pte. de Vanves.

After my morning of shopping and Mr.P and E's trek up the Eiffel Tower.....

I bought fresh fruit and sandwiches at the market and we picnicked in the shadows of this Parisian icon. 

We soon realized that Sunday afternoons in Paris were meant for relaxation. 
Note the Parisians napping below. Comfy looking isn't it? We thought so......

and since E was noticeably tired, we decided to take a cue from the Parisians, and rest as well.

Me and Mr.P lounging in the cool grass on this gorgeous day!

Our feet, laying in the grass, snoozing, and enjoying the view.

It was by far one of our favorite days in France. 

DISCLAIMER: The information for hours and prices were accurate when posted. ENJOY!

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Friday, April 25

Ham and Cheese Sliders with Poppy Seed Spread

I know what you are thinking…ham and cheese sliders; does that really require a recipe? The answer is YES it does. These have so much flavor. Sure you have your classic ham and cheese sandwich as the base of the recipe but then you top it with a flavorful poppy seed spread. This spread is a combo of Horseradish, onion, butter, and poppy seeds that make these sliders anything but ordinary. They can be made ahead for a party and are kid friendly because they are small and familiar.

If you'd like to read more, and to find this recipe, meet me over at Texas Women Bloggers, where I am writing today. See ya there!

ham, cheese, sliders, hot, melted, poppy seeds, horseradish, onions, butter, appetizers, sandwiches, no-cook Friday, kid-friendly, quick and easy

Thursday, April 24

Sweet Baby Ray's Crock Pot Chicken

What do you do when your husband shops Costco alone and comes home with a case of BBQ sauce? You pull out your Crock Pot and get busy of course! I know when Mr.P calls and says he's running by Costco on the way home to expect a large quantity of a variety of items. Crates of grapefruit, bushels of apples, quarts upon quarts of berries, 4 dozen croissants, or boxes of BBQ sauce. I never know what to expect, but after 27 years, I've learned to be prepared! (Mr.P is an Eagle Scout - he taught me well.) 

Last week he walked in with an industrial size bag of frozen, skinless, boneless chicken breast and Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce. He eats BBQ sauce on everything. Having little room in my freezer - I've been making and freezing candy for our son's wedding - I pulled ye olde crock pot out and decided BBQ Chicken was on the menu for dinner. This recipe has been floating around for awhile now and couldn't possible be any easier. Throw it all in the pot and leave it alone to cook. You can shred the chicken and make sandwiches or serve the chicken breasts whole with veggies and rice. Be prepared and enjoy!

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  • 4-6 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, I used 4
  • 1 bottle Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1/4 cup Brown Sugar, dark or light
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder

  • Mix all ingredients except chicken in the Crock Pot.
  • Add chicken to Crock Pot, still frozen is okay, just make sure to allow a bit of extra cooking time.
  • Coat chicken well with sauce and turn on LOW.
  • Cook for 4-6 hours. Our 4 chicken breasts, thawed, were ready after only 4 hours. Just enough time to run a few errands!
  • Shred if you are serving on sandwich buns.
Tips: If you don't like spicy leave the red pepper flakes out of the pot. If you like extra sweet, add a small can of pineapple. Add what you like and leave out the rest. So very easy and delicious. 

BBQ sauce, sweet baby ray's, Costco, Sams, boneless, skinless, chicken breast, frozen, onions, easy, crock pot, garlic, brown sugar

Sunday, April 20

Our Easter Brunch Table Setting

This year, as the family gathers for Easter Brunch, our table will be decked out in 
vintage linens, green dinnerware and pink tulips - bringing the fresh look of Springtime indoors.

I came across this gorgeous piece of vintage hot pink material last Fall at a particularly good estate sale.

On my knees digging through a box, I spotted this prize near the bottom.

It was made for Spring, don't you think?

Paired with my inexpensive green plates, it reminds me of  a Lily Pulitzer print. I love her textiles!

I pulled the bunnies from my craft storage/laundry room.  E's room was decked 
out in bunnies when she was an infant. She banished them somewhere around the age of 8. 
But like any good mom,  I saved them. You never know when you're going to need a good bunny.

I'm not sure where the birdhouse came from. If I was a betting woman, 
I'd lay odds on Hobby Lobby. I purchase almost everything there. I shop the half price sales!

Rich greens and pinks make for an inviting garden theme for this years Easter brunch.

I filled our fruit bowls with festive colored egg-shaped lemon drops and Easter grass. 

Strawberries and fresh cut mint - deliciously fragrant!

My go-to Oneida silverware! I use it all of the time.

I adore these scalloped white plates. I picked them up years ago at 
Pier 1.  I own six and have searched e-Bay in vain. I would love a set of twelve.

Green place cards tied with sheer pink ribbon are tucked into the Easter grass.

I placed fresh cut mint at every place setting. Not only is it beautiful but it smells wonderful as well.

Did you know tulips are the only flower to continue to grow once cut? 
To keep them fresh, take them out of the vase every other day and snip off the ends. 

Hot pink tulips look perfect in this round, green vase I purchased at Goodwill.

One of my few prized possessions, monogrammed 
linen napkins. I also discovered them up at an estate sale.

I truly hope your Easter is one filled with family, friends, good food and lots of memory making!

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