Talk about having your cake and eating it, too!
What can be more Irish than Guiness beer and Bailey's Irish Cream? And just imagine combining them with chocolate in a deliciously dark cake for a double shot of Irish! The cake recipe comes from Clodaugh's Irish Kitchen: A Fresh Take on Traditional Flavors by popular Irish chef Clodaugh McKenna.
2 1/4 sticks plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup Guinness
1 cup unsweetened, Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 large eggs
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking power
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted Irish butter
2 1/2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups cream cheese (not low fat)
4 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of a 12-inch, round springform pan with parchment paper.
Heat the butter in a a large saucepan over medium heat until melted. Stir in Guinness, then remove from the heat and the stir in cocoa powder.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla extract and buttermilk and then slowly mix in the Guinness mixture.
Sift together the flour, baking soda and baking powder into a separate large bowl. Using a handheld electric mixer, slowly mix the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and keep beating until all is well combined.
Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Test to make sure the cake is ready by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake — if it comes out clean, the cake is finished baking. Let the cake cool in the pan, then transfer from the pan onto a wire rack.
While the cake is cooling, make the frosting: Using a handheld electric mixer, blend all of the ingredients together until light and fluffy.
Place the cooled cake on a plate and generously spread the frosting on top.
The cake will keep up to a week in an airtight container.
Other than Mardi Gras beads, what says New Orleans more than freshly baked, sugar-dusted beignets, and especially when they are made from the timeless recipe from New Orleans' favorite son and chef, John Besh?
Recipe from My New Orleans: The Cookbook - 200 of My Favorite Recipies and Stories From My Hometown — by John Besh
Like many delicious treats, this preparation takes a bit of time and planning. you can speed up the process of proofing the dough if you leave the dough covered at room temperature for an hour or so, instead of letting in rest in the refrigerator overnight.
1 cup lukewarm milk, about 110-degrees
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 package dry yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4-6 cups canola oil
1 cup powdered sugar
Pour the warm milk into a large bowl. Mix 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar, the yeast, and a heaping tablespoon of the flour into the milk, mixing with a whisk until both the sugar and the yeast have dissolved.
Once bubbles have developed on the surface of the milk and it begins to foam, which in the butter, salt, and vanilla. Add the remaining flour and sugar, folding them into the wet ingredients with a large rubber spatula. Knead the dough by hand in the bowl for about 5 minutes, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for 6-8 hours.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out on a floured surface to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Cut into 2-inch squares, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and allow the beignets to rise for about an hour.
Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over high heat until it reaches 350 degrees. Use a candy thermometer to check the temperature. Fry the beignets in small batches in the hot oil, turning the every 30 seconds or so with tongs, until golden brown all over. Use tongs to remove beignets from the oil and drain on paper towels. Put the powdered sugar into a fine-mesh strainer and dust the warm beignets generously with sugar.
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
A rose is a rose is a rose. And what a wonderful cocktail it makes! Especially when combined with the French wine-based aperitif, Lillet Rosé, which is made from Grand Cru Bordeaux grapes and combined with fruit liquers.
This recipe is from the very talented mixology pioneers at New York's highly rated cocktail sanctuary, Death & Co., and it comes from their classic, beautiful, recipe-laden, encyclopedic, must-have book on Everything Cocktails.
4 heaping teaspoons of dried rosebuds (Mountain Rose Herbs is a great source for organic ones!)
1 750-ml bottle of Lillet Rose
In a container, combine the dried rosebuds and the bottle of Lillet Rosé. Stir well. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour and 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a glass of choice.
Yummy, bite-size, gluten-free treats for any day of the year, these cookies are kind of like an almond macaroon because they are mostly made up of egg whites and nuts.
Claire Ptak, noted pastry chef, owner of London's popular Violet Bakery, and author of the go-to cookbook of the same name, said she named these "Barbados biscuits" because of the origin of the brown sugar she used the first time she made them. MAKES ABOUT 36 BISCUITS.
3 1/2 ounces dark chocolate — 70% cocoa solids
1 cup plus 1 Tablespoon ground almonds (you also can use ground hazelnuts)
4 1/2 ounces coarsely chopped pecans.
Plus another 1 1/2 ounces of pecans sliced crosswise for the topping
3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
2 egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 355°F. Line a large baking sheet (or two small baking sheets) with parchment paper.
In a heatproof bowl, melt the chocolate over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally as it melts. Do not let the bottom of the pan touch the water. Leave the mixture to cool slightly.
Put the nuts, sugar and cocoa into a food processor and process until all are reduced to a fine texture. Add the melted chocolate, the eggs whites and the vanilla extract and mix well.
Then, using an ice-cream scoop, or two dessert spoons, scoop up portions of the cookie dough and place on the lined baking sheet, leaving space between. Flatten them slightly with the underside of a glass or measuring cup., then top each cookie with a slice of pecan or hazelnut.
Bake for 15 or 20 minutes, or until the biscuits have set and puffed up but are still chewy on the inside. These will keep up to a week in an air-tight container.
Do you like to bake? I love to! And in the back of my mind, I often ponder about what it would be like to have a cozy little bakery filled with really yummy, handcrafted any-time-of-day sweet and savory treats and memory-making aromas.
Until that day, my kitchen will have to do. I seek inspiration from visiting bakeries — chocolatiers, especially — when we travel, as well as from baking cookbooks, old and new. One of my favorite bakeries is The Violet Bakery in London, owned by American and Chez Panisse alumna Claire Ptak.
I'll let Alice Waters (chef, founder/owner of Chez Panisse and Café, author and activist for healthy food and the environment and a heroine of mine) share her thoughts about Claire Ptak and The Violet Bakery and wonderful cookbook of the same name:
"One of the things I love most about Claire's palate is her unerring sense of balance. When it comes to sugar in her desserts, the sweetness never overwhelms or cloys. She keeps the flavors up there on this incredible tightrope. And she's able to do that because she is always asking herself the questions that matter: What does the new apple harvest taste like? How does spelt flour compare to buckwheat? Is this batch better than the last one I made? She is always searching for how to do it better the next time, never relying on the crutch of the familiar and the predictable. That kind of self-inquiry separates a good cook from a great one...
...This is a lovely book to fall in to...As you thumb through these wonderful images and recipes, you feel welcomed into Claire's kitchen in the most natural of ways. Her nuanced approach to season and place, sweet and savory, flavor and health, is what makes this book so special: it is about food that is lovingly crafted, always mindful of what is delicious, pure, and satisfying in the truest sense."
Ahhh, yes! Perfect! So, to celebrate Easter — and the beginning of Spring — here is the delish recipe for Lemon Drizzle Loaf from The Violet Bakery Cookbook, and yes, of course, you can get our own copy of the entire book here at Pretty Things & Cool Stuff!
Photo: Kristin Peters
One (10 by 4-inch) loaf cake, which cuts into 8 slices
All our lemons at Violet come from the Amalfi coast of Italy. They are large and sweet and have a very thick and pithy peel.
(OUR NOTE: If you don't happen to live near the Amalfi coast or your local market does not have lemons from there, remember to choose a lemon that's heavy for its size and has a pleasant fragrance. The skin should be bright yellow with no wrinkling. A thinner-skinned lemon will yield more juice, while a thicker-skinned one may be better for zest.)
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 1/2 tablespoons milk
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan
1 1/3 cups sugar
Zest of 3 or 4 lemons (save the juice for the lemon drizzle and icing)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Preheat your oven to 355°F . Butter a 10 by 4-inch loaf pan and line the base and sides with parchment paper, extending the paper about 2 inches above the top of the pan.
First make the sponge (cake). In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar well, though you don’t want as fluffy a mixture as you would for a layer cake. Zest the lemons into the butter mixture and mix thoroughly. Beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure each one is thoroughly mixed in before adding the next.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix half of this into the creamed butter mixture, scraping down the sides, until barely combined.
While the mixer is still going, beat in all the milk. Then add the remaining flour and mix until just combined. Scrape the bowl and give it one last mix.
Scoop the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an icing spatula or rubber spatula.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the top of the cake is springy and an inserted skewer comes out clean.
To make the lemon drizzle, combine the sugar, water, and lemon juice in a small pan and heat just until the sugar is melted. Do not let this boil, or the fresh flavor will be lost.
Use a skewer to poke holes evenly throughout the baked loaf. Pour the lemon drizzle over the loaf and let it soak in while you make the icing.
In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice until smooth.
To remove the loaf cake from the pan, run a small paring knife along the inside of the pan, then tilt the pan on its side and coax the loaf out, using the parchment paper as a handle. Peel off the paper and turn the loaf upright on your cooling rack or worktop. Drizzle the icing over the loaf and let it drip down the sides. Use a spatula to lift the loaf onto a serving dish. This keeps well for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
Reprinted with permission from The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak, copyright © 2015, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photograph copyright © 2015 by Kristin Perers.
(Think Earl Grey tea, but with a superior flavor. Yields 100 truffles)
24 ounces bittersweet chocolate — preferably Valrhona Manjari 64% (not too bitter and not too sweet, perfect!) — finely chopped
8 ounces milk chocolate — preferably Valrhona 42% — finely chopped
2 2/3 cups heavy cream (not ultra-pasteurized)
6 ounces of Smith Tea Lord Bergamot Blend 55 Loose Leaf Tea , plus a little extra to decorate truffles. (You can substitute an Earl Grey tea, but the flavor will not match that of the Lord Bergamot!)
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups cocoa powder (not Dutch processed), preferable Valrhona, for rolling truffles in
1. Line a 13-by-9 1/2-inch rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap; set aside
2. In a heatproof bowl, set over simmering water (don't let bowl touch water), melt 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate and milk chocolate together until it reaches 120 degrees.
3. Place cream in a small saucepan over medium heat; heat until cream just comes to a boil. Place loose tea in a medium, stainless steel bowl. Pour cream over tea and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain the cream mixture through 4 layers of cheesecloth.
4. Remove chocolate mixture from heat and add 1 1/3 cups cream mixture, reserving remaining cream for another use. Using a heatproof spatula, mix together, starting from the center of the saucepan and working your way to the outer edges until mixture is emulsified.
Add butter and and mix with an immersion blender until well combined. Pour mixture into prepared baking sheet, evenly spreading mixture with an offset spatula; cover with plastic wrap, pressing down gently on chocolate mixture to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, and up to overnight.
5. Line the back of another 13-by-91/2-inch baking sheet with parchment paper. Uncover chocolate and invert onto parchment paper; remove second piece of plastic wrap. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, and a ruler as a guide, cut chocolate into 1-inch squares.
6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Roll each square of chocolate between your hands to form a smooth ball. Transfer chocolate balls to baking sheet; refrigerate for 1 hour.
7. Melt remaining 16 ounces of bittersweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl, set over (but not touching) simmering water. Place cocoa powder in a shallow dish. Place some of the melted chocolate in the palm of your hand and roll a chocolate ball in the melted chocolate to coat, then roll in cocoa powder. Sprinkle some of the extra Lord Bergamot loose tea on top of truffle and press in gently.
Repeat process with remaining chocolate balls. Transfer truffles to an airtight container, stacking truffles no more than 2 to 3 inches high, and refrigerate up to 2 weeks. Bring truffles to room temperature just before serving. ENJOY!
Recipe inspiration from Smith Tea and Charles Chocolates
UPS 3 DAY SELECT - Monday, Dec. 19 is the last day to ship via UPS 3 Day Select® to be delivered before Christmas Day (delivery on Friday, Dec. 23).
UPS SECOND DAY AIR - Wednesday, Dec. 21 is the last day to ship all UPS 2nd Day Air packages to be delivered before Christmas Day (delivery on Friday, Dec. 23).
One can use UPS 2nd Day Air by Thursday, Dec. 22 for Dec. 24 delivery BUT YOU MUST USE THE SATURDAY DELIVERY OPTION)
UPS NEXT DAY AIR - Thursday, Dec. 22 is the last day to ship all UPS Next Day Air packages to be delivered before Christmas Day (delivery on Friday, Dec. 23).
ALSO, AS NOTED ABOVE, this is the last day to ship all UPS 2nd Day Air packages to be delivered before Christmas Day (must use the Saturday Delivery option for delivery on Saturday, Dec. 24).
UPS NEXT DAY AIR - Friday, Dec. 23, is the last day to ship all UPS Next Day Air packages to be delivered before Christmas Day (must use the Saturday Delivery option for delivery on Saturday, Dec. 24).
I've always loved Valentine's Day.
In elementary school, I remember working diligently to compile a list of all of my Valentines. They ranged from my grandparents (who raised me) to good friends, favorite teachers, the postman, and yes, of course, the boy who made my heart flutter.
Once the list was complete, I would set about finding the perfect way to let each person know they were special to me in some way. To me, that was the magic and true joy of Valentine's Day.
Whether it was picking the right Valentine card with the perfect sentiment and complementary image or crafting a meaningful expression of affection and appreciation from a box of embossed candy hearts, or finding that ideal gift that would bring a wide, true smile (and not deplete my piggy bank), I so enjoyed playing Cupid!
And I still find great joy today in working to pair the right gift with the right person to bring that priceless and unmistakeable smile of real delight. Don't you?
But to do so can be hard today, for a variety of reasons.
So, I thought I would strap on my Cupid wings and put together a selection of goodies that I hope will help you bring that special kind of delight to all of your special Valentines. And, we also have Free Standard Shipping in the continental U.S. for orders over $40 through Valentine's Day.
BUT FIRST, we have some Valentine's gifts for YOU!
There are two beautiful Zentangle-style hearts from Bangkok studio Bimbim for you to download, color, keep or share. Just click on the envelope on the left or the right — or both! — below, download, print and let your imagination soar as you color away!
AND, we also have a very yummy recipe for Lord Bergamot Tea-Infused Chocolate Truffles made with tea from Smith Teamakers. Smith's Lord Bergamot Blend 55 tea offers a superior flavor to typical Earl Grey tea (which you can substitute), which makes it the perfect choice for these dare-you-to-eat-just-one truffles.
Love, love, love...love is all we need.
So, here are three charming, keepsake books to help you document, share and learn more about love with that Special Someone:
Playful, tender, and personal, What I Love About You is the perfect gift for the person in your life who makes your pulse race.
This fill-in-the-blank book prompts you to say what is in your heart, but may not always be at the tip of your tongue. You can tell the most important person in your life just how much they mean to you by completing the unique, evocative checklists, short answers, and phrases in this clever book.
So, how would you answer the following with your Valentine?
In This Is for You, Rob Ryan takes his unique vision and crafts a book-length Valentine that will move the heart and engage the spirit with its charm and artistry. Each of this charming book's 64 pages features color images of amazingly intricately hand-cut and hand-painted paper cuttings that tell an enchanting tale of yearning and romantic hope. Ripe with evocative imagery and a heartfelt text, This Is for You is a powerful combination of poetry, graphic novel, and museum-quality art, but at its heart, it's a simple yet timeless tale of love. The perfect keepsake, it is magical, both in how it looks and the feeling of hope and wonderment is leaves you with. It is poignant and celebratory — just like real-life love. (Check out Dana's one-of-a-kind, hand-cut, hand-colored paper heartworks featured below for the ideal gift companion for this book!)
And then we have this beauty. Just Imagine how happy your Sweetie will be when you give her or him John Lennon: The Collected Artwork.
Before Lennon was a singer, a Beatle, or a music legend, he was an artist. Professionally trained, he attended the prestigious Liverpool Art Institute form 1957 to 1960.Throughout the course of his career, Lennon’s work as an artist expressed common societal themes from every epoch he witnessed. Until now, little of this work has been seen in one place. For the first time, John Lennon: The Collected Artwork offers a visually captivating history of Lennon’s art, and this captivating collection includes more than 200 images and features 25 never-before-published pieces from the archives of Yoko Ono.
Dana Coody Lucas is one of those rare, hearts-and-flowers, glass-half-full artists who creates objects that manage to be fun and whimsical without a hint of trite or sappy.
The idea for these gorgeous hand-cut Valentines was born when Dana taught high school art and theater on a $900 annual budget. What started out as a cheap student project led to many moments of zen achieved with paper, scissors, vision, patience and a steady hand.
Yes, each of these unique beauties is hand-drawn, intricately hand cut from paper and passionately hand colored. Click on the hearts below to see the entire collection of Dana's Heart Full Hearts, each as special as your Valentine! (Perfect pairing with Rob Ryan's This is For You shown above!)
How about giving flowers that won't wilt or need watering?
Instead, you can give a wonderful A-Z guide for growing all kinds of flowers?And how about a very cool looking pewter watering can to go with The Gardener's A-Z Guide to Growing Flowers From Seeds to Bloom What's in a name? First published in 1958, The Flower Chronicles is a compendium on the history of flowers that has lost none of its bloom. Drawn from folklore, poetry, annals of medicine, and gardening manuals to report essential historical information on the domestication of garden favorites before they were grown as ornamental plants.
Organized by species, Flower Chronicles brims with literary and historical references and anecdotes. It has an antiquarian feel about it, with its line drawings, woodcuts, and translations from the Greek, but the text never feels dated. Though out of print for nearly thirty years, Flower Chronicles has reemerged as a must-have classic for Valentines with green thumbs, or those who want to know more than a rose is a rose is a rose.
The complementary contrast of colors and textures handcrafted together to make these beautiful earrings caught my eye immediately!
The light to dark shades of sparking grey drusy with its surface of tiny natural crystals pairs perfectly with the smooth, light-catching facets of the deep violet-blue iolite gemstones
Oooooh! Wrap yourself in a rich, magical color of the rainbow when you wear this handcrafted and hand-dyed scarf by Earth Stain. That color is indigo, that hypnotic blue that sits between blue and violet. Each long scarf is truly unique!
So pretty, feminine and eye-catchingingly unique This stunning scarf/shawl was handmade by 7 Sisters, a very talented family of sisters from Kygyrsktan who use the traditional, labor-intensive Kyrgyz "ala-kiyiz" technique that combines delicate, airy, handwoven silk with two layers of felted Kyrgyz wool.
I was smitten when I first saw this beautiful handmade silk scarf. And when I met its maker and heard how she partnered with Mother Nature to craft each one, I fell in love! This Earth Stain scarf is made with a hand-dying process called eco-bundling, where flower petals, twigs, roots, etc., are used to create intricate, colorful and unique patterns.
I think Michael Turback, author of Hot Chocolate, sums up best why I LOVE this book, and why I think anyone who loves chocolate and real-deal hot chocolate will, too: So why on earth can't we make as decent a cup of hot chocolate as they do in Europe?
I take my chocolate very seriously, and I love to seek out the best on my travels. With the amazing Katherine Clapner's Dude, Sweet Chocolate! right here in Dallas, I don't have to travel too far for one of the most delicious ways to savor good chocolate — by drinking it!
When you first see one of these charming, handcrafted cup and saucer sets, you immediately want to sit some place cozy and fill each cup to the brim with something very tasty — like Dude, Sweet Chocolate! Drinking Chocolate (see above!) Or what about a perfectly made cup of expresso with just the right crema? (Not sure how to do it right? Then The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee book below is just for you!
If your Valentine adores the best chocolate, loves making divine desserts with chocolate and can't make it to the chocolate master classes that top-tier French chocolatier Valrhona offers at London's Cookery, then this book will be a true treat!
The name says it all — sweet and nutty! Take raw, unfiltered Blackland Prairie honey from the Texas Honeybee Guild and mix with fresh Texas pecans for a very tasty treat! Spoon Sweet Nut Thangs over brie, your favorite ice cream or mix it with yogurt. Spread over pancakes or waffle, or use your sweet imagination!
If your or your Valentine is a flour-dusted soul on a pilgrimage to make the Perfect Pie, then you must get Pie: 300 Tried-and-True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie! by the Dean of Pie-Making, Ken Haedrich!
And if your Valentine's Bucket List includes making the Perfect Pie, then he or she must have the Perfect Pie Pie Plate. The good news is that England's Mason Cash has been been helping home bakers avoid needless culinary catastrophes and graduate with honors for more than 200 years!
How many times have you been in the middle of cooking a meal armed with a variety of measuring tools and still seem to be one measuring cup or teaspoon short of having the right tool to measure exactly what you need? Aside from a knife, The Perfect Beaker is the kitchen's single most important tool!
Me oh my, does your Valentine love pie! (Remember that great scene from the movie
Michael?) Based on recipes and stories from Emily Hilliard's popular Nothing-in-the-House pie blog, PIE — A Hand Drawn Almanac, is a full-color, fully-illustrated partnership between Emily and very talented illustrator Elizabeth Grabber. A unique treat for your One and Only!
Save your Valentine from "The Tyranny of the 750". Wanting a glass of wine but knowing that if you open a new bottle, there would be the pressure to maybe drink more that you wanted or end up throwing good wine down the drain..."the tyranny of the 750". Enter lover of wine and foodie at heart, Scott Tavenner and his mission to create the perfect solution with the Savino Wine Saver Carafe.
"One of the most influential bars in America has come out with a book of cocktails…just as brilliant as the place itself…The recipes are well organized and will appeal to everyone.— Max Watman, The New York Times Book Review
Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails with More Than 500 Recipes is the definitive guide to the contemporary craft cocktail movement, from one of the highest-profile, most critically lauded, and influential bars in the world.
"Once you’ve tried Blue Bottle coffee there is no going back—and thanks to this book, you can now understand exactly why. This be-all book on today’s coffee culture is a how-to and why manual that will thrill coffee geeks, amateurs, and professionals alike. And for those whose experience is that food is an afterthought at a coffee bar, you can now have Blue Bottle’s sumptuous recipes that are like the crema in the cup."
— Danny Meyer, noted restauranteur (think Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Cafe and the Union Square Hospitality Group, and author of Setting the Table. 'Nuf said. The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee book is the Ideal pick for your coffee-loving Sweetheart!
If your Heart Throb is looking for an opportunity to slow down, unplug and relax, there's nothing more satisfying than making the time to enjoy a cup of tea. Price & Kensington's Bright Red Tea for One will make your Special Someone think of you when they sip and say "Ahhhhh..."
If your Valentine is a tea lover, she or he will love you more if you introduce them to Smith Teas. The lexicon of tea is full of exotic terms. Oolong. Pu-erb. Matcha. Mao Feng. To these, we humbly add Smith. This Smith Lord Bergamot Blend 55 Loose Leaf Tea has a flavor superior to the typical Earl Grey. Fragrant Ceylon Dimbulla and Uva are artfully combined with select teas from India's Assam Valley, then scented with the flavor of bergamot fruit from the realm of Reggio Calabria, Italy. Get the recipe for Lord Bergamot Tea-Infused Chocolate Truffles here.
The art of making a 'proper cup of tea' that would make any English afternoon tea aficionado and Valentine proud, possesses two constants. The first is to use water that is boiled only once and, second, use a teapot that allows the tea leaves to swirl freely around the pot, which releases the flavor and, ultimately, provides a rich, full-flavored and less bitter tea.While we can't be there to boil the water for you Lovebirds, we can provide you with the proper pot, the Price & Kensington White Gloss 6-Cup teapot.
I'm so excited because it is FINALLY snowing here in Dallas! I LOVE snow because of its quiet beauty and the incredible magic of each unique flake. (I know my Boston friends are rolling their eyes, but, hey, it's about time Mother Nature shared!)
AND, not only is it snowing, it is Tea Time, but not just any Tea Time — it's SMITH TEAMAKER TEA Time! I am SO excited about offering these thoughtfully crafted and memorably delicious teas created and hand blended in Portland by Stephen Smith, long recognized as one of the world's best tea makers.
One of my New Year resolutions I have actually stayed with — and really benefitted from — is working to become more mindful, more present in the moment right in front of me! And, Smith Teas are so elegantly flavorful that they really do make you stop, take notice, and the world just seems to melt away as you savor each sip. Really!
I thought I would share a bit of my Tea Time with you today — from the brewing to the sipping and savoring along with the ever-so-graceful snowfall.
Always a tough choice, but I chose Big Hibiscus today. I start boiling the water. When you see the size of all of the herbal goodies in the oversize, silky sachet — deep red hibiscus flowers joined with exquisite touches of Indian sarsaparilla, ginger, pink rose petals, and the fresh taste of elderflowers from Europe — you will know why a roiling boil is perfect for this luscious infusion. You then steep the tea for 5 minutes to allow all of the flavors to blossom fully and blend. Hard to wait!
I love these porcelain cups —originally from Japan — and have had them for years. I am trying to find some for the shop. Perfect for sipping and keeping tea warm, as well as having room for some tasty treats and/or your tea bag. These sweet treats are melt-in-your-mouth King Harold Gingersnaps from the heavenly Chocolate Maven in Santa Fe, NM. Yum!
And then, the finished brew —no wonder why Big Hibiscus is often called the Cabernet of hibiscus tea — is ready for me to sip while watching the snow fall outside my office window. Ahhhhhhhh.........Back to you in a bit, World.
It really does take a village.
Whether it is in our everyday lives — take the time to think about what your life would be like if others didn't do their jobs, and do them well. Really. Think about every, single thing that someone else does that touches and impacts your life. Or at work.
And especially so when individuals work to craft and grow independent, good, socially responsible businesses.
I got this in the mail a couple of days ago from the good ladies at Bee's Wrap. And, I was really touched! How thoughtful and kind!
It's really been the only Thank You I have received from any of the partners I work with to bring you discoveries that we hope will delight other than the words printed on invoices or in emails after I've placed an order.
I love what Bee's Wrap is and what it is about. (Check out its story and our selection in our PEOPLE + PLANET = ONE Collection.) And, I am very happy to partner with them as we both work to bring you items that are good investments — on a daily basis — in you, others and of our course, Our Planet.
So to the innovative, energetic and caring ladies at Bee's Wrap, Thank YOU for being YOU!
I also want to say the same thing to Julie Thibodeaux and all of the folks at Green Source DFW. You can always count on Julie to pull together a very thoughtful roundup of sustainability oriented gifts for all occasions, and we were very excited when she included Pretty Things & Cool Stuff and featured two styles of cards — retro ones and handprinted cards from artist Katharine Watson's hand-carved original designs — in her article about Valentine's Day gifts!
Our heartfelt thanks, Julie!
And, I also must give a big Thank You! to Dave Mullen, editor of the Katy Trail Weekly here in Dallas. He called me a couple of weeks ago, told me that he really liked my concept/vision and what I am working to accomplish, and said he would like to do a story!
Well, here's the front page result: (just use the scroll bar to the right of the paper and scroll down below the Cafe Momentum story, and you will find us!!!)
It really means a lot when someone on the outside recognizes what you are doing and what you are trying to do, and they want to tell others about it!
Thank you so much, Dave, for seeing, caring and sharing!
Gosh, what a village!
I hope 2015 is off to a grand start for you all! And, let me take this opportunity to get a bit ahead of the curve and wish you a happy Ground Hog Day and Valentine's Day!
I had planned to share this on the anniversary of Pretty Things & Cool Stuff, which was Dec. 14 of last year. But, things were crazy busy - thanks to all of you!
Sybil, Sweet Sybil
I want to start with sharing with you some dated news, that still is very hard for me to talk about without tearing up (so glad this is not live, streaming video!). If you had a chance to read Our Story, you will know that Sybil was our very sweet, smart parakeet / office manager / cheerleader / mascot.
The many days that Doubt and Fear would team up to try to get me to give up on creating and launching Pretty Things & Cool Stuff, Sybil would be there with this look she had that seemed to say, "Come on! You really believe in your mission and you have good work to do, so keep going! Keep going! You can do it!"
In late July of last year, Sybil passed away in my hands after suffering a sudden stroke. She was five months shy of her 15th birthday. We were devastated. The pain of losing her and what she selflessly gave to us and how she enriched our lives on a daily basis has not dulled. As I've shared before, Pretty Things & Cool Stuff is a new path and adventure for me, and the time since without cheerleader Sybil encouraging me on from her perch daily have been challenging.
I know she is still with us in a different way. And of course, she still watches over everything from her perch atop the Discovery & DELIGHT street sign in our logo. We will always miss her.
I love all living creatures. We need each other, and always have, for so many reasons. And that is why I selected this book — The Soul of All Living Creatures: What Animals Can Teach Us About Being Human — for the shop. It has helped us, and I hope it will warm your heart and soul, too.
Looking back at our first year, where are we?
More excited and more committed than ever to our Why?, our mission — which has crystallized and become even clearer during the past months:
We want to partner with you to help evolve purchases of wants and needs in your daily life into investments in a better you and a better world - one dedicated to restoration, renewal and balance.
Our internal mantra / guide is: PEOPLE + PLANET = ONE because we believe it sums up everything so nicely. We need each other. Like just about everything else on this fascinating, revolving, evolving jewel we are so fortunate to get to ride along on daily.
So, how are we going to do this?
We are taking things one step at a time, with your help and guidance — listening, observing, learning, tweaking, then we will rinse and repeat.
Here are some of the values, ideas and beliefs we are using to help guide our way:
High quality, value and smart design/functionality through sustainable practices
Our priority is to work to source discoveries that are created with PEOPLE + PLANET = ONE top of mind. This ranges from being as People and Earth-friendly as possible in production, etc. Those who re-think, reuse, recycle, up-cycle, restore and repurpose get an extra nod.
In addition to offering items that are enjoyable and fun, we also want to provide discoveries that are useful, will enhance your life in some meaningful way, will last, and ones that you will want to keep and be proud to give or share.
Over the past year, we have visited with many different partners and potential partners — large companies, start-up entrepreneurs and home-based artisans and craftspeople —who are working hard to do what they can move what they produce and how they do it closer to the PEOPLE + PLANET = ONE mark —if they aren't already there.
We also hold a deep affinity with artisans, craftspeople and independent innovators and entrepreneurs and small, locally based businesses — from across the country and the world. We love handmade, handcrafted, original design and original art. And we will look to those who do such first and frequently for new discoveries for our shelves.
Spend a few minutes with our PEOPLE + PLANET = ONE Collection, and you will find examples such as Bee's Wrap, Texas Honeybee Guild, Esperos, Dude, Sweet Chocolate!, Katharine Watson, Stay Gold, Mary Rose, Audra Azoura, Martha McQuade, Cuppow and more. And this is just a beginning.
We're close to Valentine's Day, so check out Dana's lovely, original, hand-cut, hand-colored Heart Full Hearts.
In a world hard-wired for PEOPLE vs. PEOPLE vs. PLANET for decades, it is challenging and difficult to help blaze and build a new, better path. But there is tremendous progress being made that is very, very encouraging and oh so exciting! And, more and more people each day are seeking out, embracing and living this new path!
We know things aren't perfect, and in some areas, there is a long way to go, but we are committed to seeking out and working with those who are striving daily to move us closer to PEOPLE + PLANET = ONE. The Movement is here, it's very real and person by person, action by action, it is changing things for the better — every day!
Books are essential. We love books! REAL BOOKS! We know you do, too!
I've realized throughout the years that the more I learned, the less I really knew. I think Greek philosopher Socrates really said it best, "The only true wisdom is knowing that you know nothing."
Funny, but is was so liberating for me when I finally realized that is was totally okay and so right to acknowledge and accept such. And, how wonderful it is to be a lifelong student with unbridled, childlike curiosity that encourages "What if?" and "Why not?", especially in today's ever-changing world!
We believe books can start an amazing, ongoing chain reaction of reading, thinking, learning, enlightenment, sharing, conversations, understanding brainstorming, trial, error and action that are the stepping stones to the thoughtful, reasoned, real and positive progress we need toward a restored, renewed and balanced world.
We're still working on some of the final details, but I wanted to give you a heads-up that Pretty Things & Cool Stuff, to date, has relationships with 18 publishers —major and independent — representing hundreds of imprints covering every nonfiction and fiction topic you can imagine. We also love looking for the many gems that can be found in not-so-recent and vintage books.
Nope. We're not trying to be that corporation named after a warrior woman or parrot or region or rainforest or river or whatever. If you really understand it, its mission, and the real, true impact it has had, you will know it's a capital P Predator.
It crawls Pretty Things & Cool Stuff on a frequent basis and has the ability to do some things with its technology and real-time pricing capabilities that probably wouldn't hold up to fair and unpaid-for-by-same-company scrutiny. Yep, we know it's there lurking, but we have much more important things to do!
Right now, we are trying to offer you a curated selection of high quality books by thoughtfully selected authors that you can learn from, think about, follow a passion with or warm a heart — yours or someone else's. And, with your participation and feedback, we will work to make that selection more personal, meaningful and useful in the months ahead.
By the way, we have made the decision not to return books that don't find homes to their publishers, which would save us and you a few coins. Instead, we will donate them to libraries, schools, community centers and places where they will fit the best and do the most good.
How we work each day
As a start-up, there is little waste, and we're really not interested in changing that as we grow. In addition to taking care about the partners we select to provide discoveries for you, we take the same care in finding sources for our packaging and supplies.
We do care a great deal about how we package items for delivery to you, so you will find more than just your item sliding around in a box. Most of the packing materials we use have been recycled - and can be recycled. You might even find a good use for them! And of course, we always are looking for ways to do things better for you and Mother Earth at the same time.
We also want to let you know that we are not going to participate in that fast-race-to-the-bottom-for everybody that is constant discounting and endless free shipping. It just doesn't serve ANYBODY well in the long run. We are committed to and driven by our mission, we are working hard to stay in it for the long run.
We do not believe in artificially marking prices way up to turn around every five minutes and mark them down. Yes, I know that the brain likes the dopamine fix it gets from the perception of getting a "deal". But it truly is a false, damaging, delusional buzz, and we just don't roll that way. Also, we want to work to have items in our shop that you would like without us having to resort to deceptive practices to get you to buy them.
We also believe in living wages, and strong and thriving locally based independent artists, craftsmen and businesses, who can thoughtfully create and produce quality items that last, as well as true selection that provides real, PEOPLE + PLANET = ONE-oriented choice and delights.
We understand the importance of Value and Values, and we are working to help ensure that what we do provides such for everyone.
Planting seeds. Building community that drives positive impact every day
We don't think of it as giving back. We view it as planting seeds for renewal and restoration and balance. Investing each and every day in some way for a better tomorrow for all. That is how we were raised, and we believe it's sage, timeless guidance that we're sticking to!
There is so much work that needs to be done. When my head starts spinning when I try to figure out what one can do to help realize real, lasting positive impact, I recall the Starfish Story:
A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.
She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”
The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one!”
The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.
— Adapted from The Star Thrower
by Loren C. Eiseley
While we're still figuring out the starfish, we are very proud to have partnered during the holidays with Leanne Brown to help donate — with your help — hard copies of her wonderful book, Good and Cheap: Eat Well $4/Day to a local,community-based farmers market to give to their customers who shop with SNAP benefits. We hope the books will help them prepare affordable meals that are healthier and more nutritious. We are going to do it again for Valentine's Day, so we hope you will join in!
To us, Pretty Things & Cool Stuff is much more than a shop. In our mind's eye, we envision building and enabling a community of people energized and engaged to seek ways every day they can do something that will have a positive impact and move us closer to PEOPLE + PLANET = ONE.
MOST IMPORTANT — Partners with YOU!
We can't very well craft and become a trusted source that you will enjoy coming to time and time again for something with a strong PEOPLE + PLANET = ONE orientation that will enhance your life or someone else's in a delightful way if you aren't in the kitchen with us guiding us on what and how much to put in and what to take out.
We very much appreciate and value the feedback many of you have offered over the past year, and we are working to put such to good use. And we are going to come back — often — to ask for more, pretty please!
We really do want to do what we can to provide you with discoveries and service that delight.
But please do not wait for us to ask. If you have something on your mind — a suggestion, idea, comment, concern, whatever, please contact us and let us know!
If you haven't already, please join our email list. We think this is the best vehicle for news, new items, promotions and to get your feedback and suggestions. And trust me, we are very appreciative of your invitation to visit your Inbox from time to time, and we are intent on not wearing out that welcome mat!
Between now and Valentine's Day, if you sign up for our email list, we will show our appreciation by giving you a 10% discount on your next purchase. Sign up, and we will send you the information you need to get your savings. Just scroll down to the bottom of this page to the Email Signup box.
There really are not enough hours in the days and arms and legs on this side of the counter to feed all of the social media channels we have on a daily basis (see all at bottom of this page). We will be working harder this year to converse with you more on this blog and on facebook, with twitter and Instagram right behind. We love Pinterest, too. Arrrgh! Hmmm...if I don't sleep.....
Tomorrow brings new lessons to learn and opportunities to improve and grow. It also brings our next step in this journey and our mission. With your continued encouragement, support and partnership, we promise we will work hard to make it and the next and the next and the next and the next...really good ones! Onward!
Thank you so very much!
Kim and Bill and yes, Sybil
I really do!
It's about new beginnings —and growing. And discovery — always about discovery!
And that's what we are doing at Pretty Things & Cool Stuff!
We're taking the great input and feedback from you and using it to help guide us as we discover new goodies. We also will be listening to you as we work to craft a new service that we hope will bring delight!
If you haven't signed up for our emails yet, why don't you take just a minute to do so now while you're visiting the shop. Also, we could love to have you as part of our growing community on facebook, Pinterest, twitter and Instagram. Just scroll down to the bottom of the home page, and you will find the sign-up box for email, as well as links to all things social.
Sybil and I also want to thank all of our customers again, and we also want to express our deep gratitude for the wonderful reviews. You can check out some of them by looking for the blue "REVIEWS" tab on the right-hand side of the shop pages.
We also are getting some very nice kudos coming in via email that really warm our hearts:
I wish you the best in this exciting new endeavor too! Great items, a great site, plus great customer service and an all around really GREAT IDEA!!! I am sure it will be a success too - I can tell you are very passionate about it all too - and that's what it takes to make a dream come true!! — Vicki W.
I love the jewelry. Mom is very happy with the rose necklace. And I love the one I got, too. They came in perfect condition. :-) — Pam T.
AND, we are so excited about the great media coverage we have gotten!
We are especially delighted that it came from Green Source DFW because sustainability and caring for our planet and all of the life on it is very near and dear to us. And, we also are very proud that the Lakewood / East Dallas ADVOCATE discovered us because they also are all about something that is very important to us — community!
"I can tell you are very passionate about it all too - and that's what it takes to make a dream come true!!" I started crying when I read that.
Yep. I am very passionate about Pretty Things & Cool Stuff, what it's about, what I envision about its possibilities and what it can evolve to be — with you coming along every step of the way!
So, here's to Spring — I hope you will take the time to watch and enjoy its unfolding beauty...simply stunning and truly awe-inspiring. That's why we chose the selections in our Flowers, Plants & Gardening Collection (and more are on their way!).
And here's to new beginnings and ongoing discovery. We hope you will find something inspiring in our Do Something Meaningful! Learn Something New! Collection (more to come, too!)
I think it's time to cue up a little Blossom Dearie and "They Say It's Spring".
If you Instagram, follow us from your phone app and share how Spring is unfolding in your world. Be sure to add this tag: #theysayitsspring.
Don't you just love Spring!
(ALSO, for those of you who live in Dallas, be sure to contact us to find out more about our local delivery options!)