October 29th, 2013
Every fall I make this spiced cider. It’s sweet but not too sweet, slightly citrusy and perfectly spiced. Somehow it’s like squeezing everything I love about fall into one steaming mug. Make some to sip on while you carve your pumpkin this week. You have to try it!
1 gallon apple cider
2/3 cup real maple syrup
5 cinnamon sticks
16 whole cloves
16 whole allspice berries
1 orange peel, torn into pieces
1 lemon peel, torn into pieces
Pour the apple cider and maple syrup into a large slow cooker. Pile the cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice berries, orange peel and lemon peel on a square of cheesecloth. Fold the sides up to enclose the bundle, and tie it up with kitchen twine.
Drop the spice bundle into the cider mixture. Put the lid on the slow cooker. Leave the end of the twine sticking out of the pot so you can move the spices without opening the lid completely.
Cook on high for 4(ish) hours. Periodically reposition the spice packet to allow the flavor to disperse. If the cider begins to boil, turn the slow cooker down to low.
Drink up! Garnish with a cinnamon stick or orange slice. For an extra kick add a splash of spiced rum or honey whisky.
(My awesome grey plate was made by Lindsay of Suite One Studio!)
October 24th, 2013
Last weekend Daniel and I took a couple extra days off and headed to the North Carolina mountains for a mini-vacation. We rented a little cabin on Lake Lure, which is definitely the most beautiful North Carolina lake I’ve ever seen. Our cabin was built for two, welcomed dogs, and had a hot tub on the deck overlooking the lake. You can’t beat that! We managed to squeeze a lot into our short trip. We canoed on Lake Lure, hiked up Frying Pan Mountain on the Blue Ridge Parkway to see the fall leaves from the lookout tower, fished for our dinner, stopped in Bat Cave, NC to stock up on fresh apple cider and apple butter,
skinny-dipped relaxed in the hot tub, practiced our ukuleles, and hiked to Catawba Falls. Autumn is definitely the best time of year to visit the mountains!
I’m still catching up on e-mail, so if I owe you one thanks for your patience!
October 22nd, 2013
The most wonderful bunch of fresh herbs was tucked into last week’s produce delivery—six hibiscus pods, three sprigs of spearmint, and three sprigs of lemon verbena. The included instructions said to strip the leaves and pods from the branches, pour 6 cups of boiling water over top, and steep for 5–10 minutes. I couldn’t believe the bright pink, citrusy mint tea I ended up with! I downed the whole pot within an hour. So good! I think beautiful + tasty is one of my favorite combinations.
October 17th, 2013
I’ve been self-employed and working from home for the past 4 years, so I’ve gotten pretty good at motivating myself. I still fail sometimes, like on dim rainy days when my dogs coax me over to the couch for a nap, when I feel like I’ve run out of ideas, or when I’m discouraged because things aren’t working out the way I planned. But, overall I think I’m pretty darn productive. Here are my tricks for productive self-employment, and I’d love to hear yours!
Embrace Routine: Every morning after breakfast I make tea and go down to my studio to ship orders, restock, and do other necessary stuff like that. I reserve my afternoons for creative pursuits like sketching, photography, blogging, and such. Having a general idea of how my work days are going to be spent helps me stay on track.
Make Daily Lists: I get an incredible amount of satisfaction from crossing items off a list. I’ve found that weekly to do lists don’t work for me because I can easily put off the crappy tasks. It’s no fun when the weekend rolls around, and I have a whole list of awful chores left to do. I need short to do lists with 4–6 things I can reasonably accomplish in a day.
Self-Reward: All I really want to do is work in my sketchbook all day, but there are plenty of other things to do around here to keep Wit & Whistle running. I reward myself in small ways when I complete (or while I’m completing) an important, but not-so-fun task. I might binge watch a guilty pleasure TV series on Netflix while packaging a large wholesale order. Or, during busy seasons shipping orders can be quite a time consuming chore, so I’ll get a bag of Jelly Bellies and eat one delicious bean for every few orders I ship. When I finish my taxes each quarter I buy myself a little something I’ve been pining for on Etsy. Self-rewarding keeps the procrastinator inside me in check by making less desirable duties more enjoyable. (I said “duties”… haha!)
Track Time: Keeping track of what I spend my time doing (usually) prevents me from accidentally browsing Pinterest for an hour in the middle of a work day. I use Yast to track what I do all day. Knowing that I’m being held accountable for my time helps me stay on task (even if no one ever looks at my time sheets but me).
Be grateful: Whenever I stop to think about how blessed I am to have the opportunity to pursue my dreams, my productivity levels spike. I don’t want to look back later in life and wonder what might have happened if I had been more motivated. I want to know that I used my time well and reached my full potential!
October 15th, 2013
When most people read “flourless chocolate cookies” they probably think “gluten-free” but I think “extra fudgey deliciousness”, and these cookies didn’t disappoint. They have tender crispy shells on the outside and rich gooey chocolate inside. Biting into one is a little bit like munching on a not-so-pretentious French macaron. As an added bonus, this recipe only requires a handful of ingredients that you probably already have in your cupboard. Simple, easy, and delicious—this is my kind of baking!
(The original recipe is from recipegirl.com, was edited by wellsphere.com, and then tweaked and paraphrased by me.)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt
1–2 egg whites
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Preheat your oven to 350 F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Sift the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt into a bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract and 1 egg white until well combined. If your dough seems too dry, stir in half of the second egg white. The goal is to achieve a somewhat stiff dough—not too runny but not too dry either. It should hold its shape pretty well. If your dough is too runny, add a little more powdered sugar until it reaches more of a cookie dough consistency. When your dough seems just right, stir in the chocolate chips. Use a cookie scoop to plop the dough onto your lined cookie sheet. Bake for 12–14 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies start to crack. Let the cookies cool before removing them from the pan (if you can wait that long).
Makes 16 cookies.