Butternut Squash Soup

Surely this soup can warm you up on a cold winter's night, but butternut squash just seems to embody all of what fall  is.  That's why I had to get this recipe posted before fall passes us by and winter arrives.  I make sure to cook this soup annually when fall rolls around, and this sweet, yet spicy, soup is most definitely a treat!  And with Thanksgiving just a few days away, this butternut squash soup would certainly make an excellent addition to your Thanksgiving menu!  Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Soup

1 medium butternut squash (peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped)
1 small onion (coarsely chopped)
5 potatoes (coarsely chopped)
6 cups of chicken broth
1 cup of half & half
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste


1.  In a large pot, over medium heat, heat the olive oil.  Add the onion and cook until softened.

2.  Add in the butternut squash, potatoes, broth, and bay leaves.  Cover and bring it to a boil.

3.  Once the soup is at a boil, remove it from the heat and dispose of the bay leaves.  Then, either using a blender or an immersion blender, blend the mixture until smooth.  If doing this with a regular blender, you will have to blend the mixture in several batches.  When I do this, I first pour the entire mixture, from the pot, into a large stainless steel bowl.  Then I pour the mixture from the bowl into the blender, blend, pour the smooth mixture back into the original pot, and continue this in batches.

4.  Once all of the mixture is smooth,  place the pot back on medium heat.  Then stir in the half & half, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper.  Season to taste, and add either more broth to make the soup's consistency thin or more half & half to make the soup creamier.  Remove from heat, serve, and enjoy!

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Caramel Apples

Well, peak apple season is well over, and next up for fall recipes include the use of pumpkins and butternut squashes! YUM!  But until those recipes roll around, try this caramel apple recipe to make yourself a treat that is both fun to make and fun to eat!  Enjoy!

Caramel Apples

Wooden caramel apple sticks 
6 medium Golden Delicious apples
1/2 cup of butter
1 cup of brown sugar
1/3 cup of corn syrup
1/4 cup of maple syrup
1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract
1/7 tablespoon of salt
14 oz. of sweetened condensed milk

Optional Confections:

  • chocolate
  • pretzels
  • sea salt
  • nuts
  • candy, etc.

1.  Insert a wooden stick into the core of each apple, and then place the apples on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

2.  To cook the caramel with out burning it, we must cook it in a double boiler.  If you do not have one, don't fret because its simple to make with items you already have in your kitchen.  All you need is a saucepan, half filled with water and brought to a simmer, with a stainless steel bowl placed to fit snugly atop of the pan.  Once you have created your double boiler and the water is brought to a boil, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup, vanilla extract, salt and condensed milk in the stainless steel bowl.  Stir the mixture constantly for about a 30 to 45 minutes.  Or, if you want to get technical and have a candy thermometer on hand, stir the caramel until it has reached about 230 degrees Fahrenheit.  Then take the pot off the burner and move the bowl of caramel to your dipping work space. 

3.  Taking each apple by its stick, dip them into the caramel to coat evenly and then try to swirl off any excess caramel.  Either just leave it at that, or create yourself a gourmet caramel apple by dipping the caramel apples in other confections.  Once done coating and dipping the apples, place them on the lined baking sheet and let them harden in the refrigerator for about 2 hours before serving them.  

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L'Occitane en Provence is offering a free 10 ML Shea Hand Cream (a $5 value) for everyone who likes their Facebook page and registers via their page!  If they reach 500,000 fans by October 15th,  L'Occitane en Provence will upgrade this free offer to a 30 ML hand cream (a $10 value) with the choice of three scents.  And by the looks of it, receiving a 30 ML hand cream is very probable because they already have reached 475,000 fans. 

So like their page, register, and await for your coupon.  Just be sure to redeem this offer in-store (find your closest boutique here) for it to be completely free. Enjoy!

Apple Pie

Fall is here, and it's apple picking season!   So, my family and I visited County Line Orchard and Radke's Orchard, in northwest Indiana, a few weeks ago.  Unfortunately, though, it is slim pickings in the orchards this season.  There was a warm spring and then a late frost, which destroyed many orchards' crops.  So I need to make the most of the apples that we managed to pick.  First on my list, to put these apples to good use, is to make apple pie!  
Apple Pie
makes a 9-inch pie

pie dough
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 & 1/2 sticks of butter, diced
1/4 teaspoon of salt
about 1/4 cup of ice water

pie filling

about 9 medium sized apples
1/2 cup of craisins
1/4 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
1 tablespoon of lemon juice


1.  Combine, in a large bowl, the flour, butter, and salt either by using your hands or a pastry cutter.  Once the mixture becomes crumbly, incorporate the water.  Combine the flour mixture and water, by hand, until the dough holds together.  If the dough is still crumbly, add a bit more water accordingly.  Then divide the dough in half, form them into disks, wrap them in plastic wrap, and let them chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. 

2.  Preheat the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

3.  To make the pie filling, first peel, core, and slice the apples.  In a large bowl, combine the apples, craisins, sugar, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and lemon juice.  Toss together until the apples are well coated.  Set this aside.

4.  Take out both disks of dough.  Lightly flour your rolling surface, and roll out one disk into a circle that will fit your pie pan.  Place the dough in the pie pan, and let whatever excess dough hang over the edges of the pan.  

5.  Pour the pie filling into the pie pan.

6.  Roll out the other disk of dough large enough to cover the top of your pie.  Then cover the pie with the dough.  Trim excess dough from the edges, crimp or pinch the edges, and cut a few slits into the top of the pie dough.  (For my pie, I opted to create a lattice design for the top and used a fork to crimp the edges.)

7.  Place the pie in the oven, and bake for about 50 minutes, or until the pie dough has turned  golden brown.  Remove the pie from the oven, and let it cool.  Then serve, eat, and enjoy!

P.S.  Keep a look out for my next project to make use of these apples.  Caramel apples are on their way!

Free Card at Cardstore.com

Did you know that September has the most birthdays than any other month?  Well, whether you did or not,  take advantage of cardstore.com's current promotion.  In honor of all of the birthday's in September, cardstore.com is offering one free card per account!  Use the coupon code  CCL2673 , now through September 23rd, at checkout.  Cardstore.com will print the card, seal the envelope, stamp it, and send it for you for free.  Enjoy!

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Spiral Tie Dye Tutorial


The past few weeks have been getting a bit busier, with getting back into the rhythm of school, so my posts have fallen a bit behind.  But this week, I have a tutorial on one of my favorite crafts: tie dying.  I've learned to do some of, what I consider, the more intricate designs, but my go-to folding technique is the simple and classic spiral.  So, here goes it: another tie dyed t-shirt to add to my never-ending tie dye collection! Enjoy!

What You'll Need

  • A white or gray t-shirt made from 100% natural fibers
  • A bucket that can hold at least 2 gallons of water
  • 2 gallons of  warm water
  • A long wooden or plastic spoon
  • A few garbage bags
  • A spray bottle filled with water
  • A tie dye kit ( or you can buy the following individually) that includes: 
      • Fuchsia, turquoise, and yellow dye in bottles
      • Soda ash
      • Rubber gloves
      • Rubber bands 

Making Your Spiral Tie Dye T-shirt

1.  Prepare your work place by laying out your unopened garbage bags.  Mix the dyes according to the kit's directions.  Then prepare the soda ash wash by mixing, with a long wooden or plastic spoon, 2 gallons of warm water with a packet of soda ash.

2.  Dampen your t-shirt using a spray bottle filled with water.  This will make the fabric pliable for the folding technique.

3.  To create a spiral tie dye,  begin by pinching the t-shirt in the area you would like the center of the spiral to be.  I typically choose the center of the shirt, but off-center spirals are great as well.  Then with the pinched center of the spiral, begin twisting, until the shirt begins to form into a circle.  Use your hands to guide the fabric and to make as neat of a circle as possible.

4.  Once you create the spiral, use the rubber bands to secure the t-shirt.  The rubber bands should create a cross section in the middle of the t-shirt, which will create pie shaped sections.  For this t-shirt I used 4 rubber bands to create 8 sections.

5.  Place the rubber banded t-shirt in the soda ash wash for twenty minutes.  After twenty minutes, ring the water out of the t-shirt.  Now we are ready to dye the fabric!

6.  First, put on those rubber gloves!  Now dye each section whatever color you wish.  Make sure, that when you dye one section, you flip the t-shirt over and dye the same section the same color.  Also use the dye bottle's tip to dig into the folds and crevices of the t-shirt to ensure the dye  reaches all of the material.  Continue to dye all of the pie sections.  P.S. Below is a cheat sheet that shows you how to combine the three primary colored dyes to create more colors.

7.  Once the dying process is complete, place the t-shirt in a plastic shopping bag or in a garbage bag.  Let it sit in the bag for about 24 hours so that the dye can set.  If you take the t-shirt out earlier, that is fine, but the colors may not be as vibrant. 

8.  Now it's time for that magic moment: seeing what you have created after waiting so long!  Take the t-shirt out of the bag, and place it into a sink.  Remove the rubber bands, and run the t-shirt under cold water.  Rinse the dye out until the water runs clear.  Then wash the t-shirt in a washing machine, with warm water and detergent.  Dry it and then wear it!

Flower Pens

It's back-to-school time, and who doesn't want unique, fun school supplies?  Here's a craft to make your boring, old pens fun, stylish, and unique!  These are so easy to make, and after all it is back-to-school time, so take advantage of this time to make these pens!

P.S.  Flower pens are one of my mom's specialty crafts that she has been making for years.  So, thank you Mom for sharing your craft!  

What You'll Need

  • Silk flowers
  • Ballpoint stick pens
  • Floral tape in green or brown
  • Glue gun and glue sticks
  • Knife or utility knife

Making Your Flower Pen 

1.  Remove the silk flowers from their stems.

2.  Remove the cap of the pen, and discard it.   Then from the rear end of the pen, use a knife to remove the end cap or plug, in order to create a cavity in the pen.

3.  Using your glue gun, squeeze a bit of glue into the cavity of the pen.  Then press the underside of the flower into the glue until it has adhered. 

4.  Place the end of the floral tape on the rear end of the pen, just under the flower. 

5.  Begin to wrap the pen with the floral tape, working your way down to the tip of the pen.
Once at the tip of the pen, cut the floral tape and press down to secure.

6.  There you have it!  Your finished flower pen!

Free Card at Cardstore.com

Grandparent's Day is just around the corner!  September 9th to be exact!  And in celebration, cardstore.com is running a promotion for a free card.  Use the coupon code CCK2248, from August 23rd through August 26th, at checkout.  Cardstore.com will print the card, seal the envelope, stamp it, and send it for you for free.

This coupon code is not exclusively for Grandparent's Day cards, so use it for any card you desire!  Enjoy!

Grilled Corn Ice Cream

The first and only time I ever had grilled corn ice cream was during my last trip to San Francisco, which was the summer of 2010.  We were at the largest farmer's market I've ever been to: The Marin Civic Center Farmer's Market in San Rafael . 

Since then I've been looking for a good farmer's market, similar to the Marin Civic Center Farmer's Market's enormity, in the Chicagoland area.   Nothing compared to that market I visited years ago, but the best I've found around my area is the Green City Market in Lincoln Park.  And it's a year-round market too, which is unusual for farmer's markets around here.  Anyone in the area should definitely check it out!  

But besides the experience of the farmer's market in San Rafael,  there was one more thing that had stuck with me until this very day.  It was the taste of grilled corn ice cream that I had sampled from one of the many vendors there.  And, trust me, it had to be really good for me to remember it and want to recreate it, all based on one tiny ice cream taster spoon sample!  

Since I received my ice cream maker, this is one of the recipes that I've wanted to try out... so here it is! 

Grilled Corn Ice Cream

yields about 1 quart


2 ears of corn
1 cup of sugar
7 egg yolks
1 & 1/2 cups of half & half
1 cup of heavy cream
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt


1.  Preheat your grill to medium heat. Place both ears of corn, with the husks intact, on the grill.  Grill them for 15 minutes, flipping them once halfway through the cooking time.

2.  Let the ears of corn cool slightly.  Then take the husks and silk off of the corn, and cut the kernels off the cob.  Set aside both the kernels and the cobs.

3.  Place the half & half, corn kernels, and the cobs in a medium sauce pan, and bring it to a simmer.  Make sure to stir occasionally.  While that is coming to a simmer, beat the sugar, salt, and egg yolks in a large bowl, and set it aside.

4.  Once the half & half mixture has simmered, remove it from heat.  Discard of the cobs.  Then place the half & half and kernels in a food processor, and blend until smooth.

5.  Then slowly beat the half & half mixture into the egg mixture that was set aside previously. 

6.  Once beaten, pour the mixture back into the medium sauce pan over low heat.  Stir until the consistency thickens, and make sure to stir constantly so that the eggs do not scramble.  Once this mixture thickens, remove from heat, and pour through a fine strainer into a clean bowl.

7.  Allow the mixture to cool slightly.  Then add the heavy cream and vanilla to the mixture, and stir until combined.

8.  Place the mixture in the refrigerator until cold, and then follow your ice cream maker's instructions for churning your ice cream.

9.  Freeze, eat, and enjoy!

Free 8x10 Photo Collage From Walgreens

Register on Walgreens Photo, upload your photos, and start creating an 8 x 10 photo collage, because Walgreens is offering a free one if you use the promotional code GETONEFREE at checkout!  Just make sure to choose "pick up in-store" to ensure your order is completely free.  Take advantage of this promotion quickly because it expires August 21, 2012.

Three Free Birth Announcements From Cardstore.com

Are you expecting? Do you know someone who is? There are probably a million details floating around your head about everything that needs to be done before he or she arrives. Cardstore knows how stressful this time can be. They also know how important first impressions are, and want to help you announce your new little one to the world in the perfect way.

Cardstore is offering you the chance to sample up to 3 birth announcements for FREE (completely free because there is no cost for shipping within the U.S.)! Just use coupon code CAK2963 before midnight this Monday, 8/20/12. Take some time to peruse their huge selection of boy, girl, twin, or even adoption announcements, and pick a couple that you like best. Then you can customize them to say whatever you'd like (maybe even fill in your own stats from when you were born, for fun), and have the samples sent straight to you. We know you'll love them all!

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Sock Bun Tutorial

Before I ever found out about the miraculous sock bun, I would, on occasion, be tempted to style my hair in a traditional ballerina bun.  You know, the bun where you take your ponytail, twist it, wrap it in a circle, and pin it. Well, mine never came out well.  There would be stray hairs sticking out of it, and I could never get my bobby pins to keep my hair in place.  So, because of the misfortune of my persistent attempts, I never thought I could actually wear a bun like that out and about.  But then I found the sock bun, and my troubles easily retreated!!! Now perfectly messy ballerina buns are easily achieved all with the help of a pair of socks!  

Take a look at how to assemble your socks and wrap it in your hair. Give it a few tries and experiment with it! Have fun!

P.S.  Keep your bun in overnight, and treat your hair well with a no-heat method to get light curls.

What You'll Need

  • A pair of socks (preferably socks that are similar to your hair color)
  • One hair elastic
  • Scissors 
Making Your Sock Doughnut
1.  Cut the toes off of both of your socks.

2.  Take one sock and begin rolling it into itself to create a doughnut (you can stop at one sock, but I like to use two in order to create a thicker and sturdier bun).

3.  Then take the rolled sock, place it in the end of the other sock, and begin rolling it into itself again until you have a thicker doughnut.

4.  Voila! You've created your sock doughnut... now to do your hair!

Making Your Sock Bun
1.  Put your hair up in a ponytail at the crown of your head.  Use a brush to  create a smooth bun, or put your hair up using your fingers to create a messy, textured bun.

2.  Pull your ponytail through the sock doughnut.

3.  Place the sock doughnut at the end of your ponytail so that you can at least tuck the ends under the doughnut. 

4.  Roll you sock doughnut, with the ends of your hair tucked under it,towards your scalp.  With every roll, continue to keep tucking the hair under the doughnut until you reach your scalp.  It may take a couple of tries to get the hang of it, so just keep trying because the results are gorgeous! 

5.  There you have it, your sock bun!  Tuck any loose or stray hairs under the sock doughnut, and, if you see the sock peeping through, just tuck  your hair accordingly.

* A special thanks to my sister for finally agreeing to being my hair model for Sock Bun Tutorial.  Bugging her lots   and a promised frozen custard paid off !!!

Free Apparel at Sears Outlet

Get one piece of free apparel, today only, at  Sears Outlet!  Go to their Facebook page here, and print your coupon.  You must be a Shop Your Way Rewards Member, so, if you are not, sign up today in-store or online.

Free Card at Cardstore.com

Get your free card, for any occasion and any price, at cardstore.com by using the code FRIEND12 at checkout.  Shipping is free, whether you have your card shipped to you or the recipient.  Use this code fast though, because it is valid until August 5!  

Blueberry Ice Cream

So this past Christmas I received a Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Maker attachment, from my brother, in order to make some homemade ice cream.  For all of the seven months I had this product chilling in my freezer, I've only made ice cream three times.  That changed today; I'm up to four ice creams now!  But not only did I have an unused ice cream maker laying around, I had tons of blueberries, hand picked by my mom, that I needed to start making use of.  So I put these two things, that needed to be used, together to make Blueberry Ice Cream!

Unlike the other ice creams I had made, this recipe uses sour cream, which gives the ice cream the slightest tang or tartness and makes the ice cream taste lighter than a traditional ice cream base.  Overall, I loved how this ice cream came out; from it's taste and bright, dazzling shade of purple, it was perfect! 

Blueberry Ice Cream
    yields about 1.25 pints

1 & 1/2 cup of fresh blueberries
1/3 cup of sugar
pinch of salt
lemon zest and juice of one lemon
3/4 cup of heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup of sour cream

1.  Add the blueberries, sugar, salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice into a medium sauce pan.  Stir occasionally, and bring to a boil until the blueberries begin to burst.  Then remove from heat.

2.  In a food processor or blender, combine the blueberry mixture, heavy whipping cream, and sour cream. Blend until well combined, then pour the mixture in a stainless steel bowl, and allow to chill completelyin the refrigerator. 

3.  Once completely chilled, pour the mixture into your ice cream maker, and follow the manufacturer's directions for churning ice cream.

4.  Freeze, eat, and enjoy!

Free Apparel at Sears Outlet

Get one piece of free apparel, today only, at  Sears Outlet!  Go to their Facebook page here, and print your coupon.  You must be a Shop Your Way Rewards Member, so, if you are not, sign up today in-store or online.

Free $2 Credit at Amazon MP3

If you don't have a Twitter account already, sign up today to get this deal, and if you already have one                            follow this to get your $2 credit at Amazon MP3!  

You will be prompted to connect your Amazon account with your Twitter account by following a link.  After you do that, @amazonmp3 and @imdb will tweet a message for you proclaiming that you just got a $2 credit, and then your credit will go directly to your  Amazon account. Pick a song, download, and enjoy! But hurry because the code expires July 28, 2012.


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