Deck the Halls


by Valerie | 11.29.09 | Around our home, Holidaze | No Comments »

Shop Local


I’m a big fan of shopping at local/family owned businesses. I find that what these places have to offer is of the highest quality & many of the items are unique, handmade, &/or hard to find elsewhere. In addition, I’ve found that my shopping experience is night & day different than what you usually get at a chain store; locally owned business employees/owners will almost always take the time to get to know you & your tastes (especially if you frequent their shop), greet you with a smile, & personally help you find whatever it is that you’re looking for in their shop.

We did some Christmas shopping yesterday (& squeezed in some things for ourselves too, I must admit) & visited one of my favorite, local shops, Tea Haus. The selection of teas & tea accessories is quite impressive & their tea is high quality & delicious; whatever your tea tastes are, they will definitely have one (or two, or three…) for you. The staff there is friendly, helpful, & very knowledgeable & I urge you to give this place a try if you haven’t been.

There are many local businesses that we love to support here in the Ann Arbor area & I encourage you to seek out local businesses in your area – you won’t regret it!

Here’s a few of our favorite, local businesses:
Acme Mercantile
Ann Arbor Farmers Market
Beezy’s Cafe
Bella Rosie
Cupcake Station
Downtown Home & Garden
Everyday Wines
Grizzly Peak
Herb David Guitar Studio
Middle Earth
The Rocket
Spice Merchants
Tea Haus
Treasure Mart
Vault of Midnight
Washtenaw Dairy

Another great local event that you can check out in the area for some unique gifts is the Shadow Art Fair.

by Valerie | 11.28.09 | Around town, For Funsies, Holidaze | 2 Comments »

Thanksgiving Feast


Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks, spend time with your family, friends, & loved ones, & to fill your bellies with lots of delicious eats of course! Every family has their own special Thanksgiving traditions & foods that they always include on the Thanksgiving table; here are some that Ryan & I include on our Thanksgiving table each year…

Grilled Turkey Tenderloins with Spice Rub
When it’s dinner for two, you just don’t need a whole turkey, & we eat little to no meat anyway so this has been a great option for us at Thanksgiving as several turkey tenderloins do the trick & save us from eating turkey for the next year; this is pretty simple & also takes WAY less time than cooking a whole turkey, so it definitely has it’s advantages!

Boneless Turkey Tenderloins, Extra Lean
Olive oil
Rudy’s BBQ Turkey Spice Rub
Blackening Spice Rub (see recipe below)

Coat turkey tenderloins lightly with olive oil. Rub turkey tenderloins with your spice rub of choice – homemade or store bought will both do the trick (we like Rudy’s BBQ turkey spice rub – their BBQ sauce is excellent as well, I might add, & is also delicious on turkey!) & we usually also make a blackening spice rub; we make half the turkey with the Rudy’s spice rub & use the blackening spice rub on the other half of the turkey. Grill these outside on your charcoal or gas grill or grill them inside in a griddle pan on your stove top.

Blackening Spices
Dried Oregano
Coarse Ground Black Pepper
White Pepper
Cayenne (use lots of Cayenne to make it really spicy!)
Dried Thyme
Kosher Salt


Mama Talbott’s Mashed Potatoes
I LOVE my Mom’s mashed potatoes (the basil & coarse ground black pepper really give these a nice twist) & my Thanksgiving plate usually consists of a HUGE pile of these with a teeny, tiny, miniscule sliver of turkey on the side – I’m really all about the potatoes, people!

Russet Potatoes
Dried Basil
Coarse Ground Black Pepper
Kosher Salt

Clean, peel, & chop LOTS of Russet Potatoes (we REALLY like our potatoes, so we always fill a large spaghetti pot with these!). Boil the potatoes in a large pot of water until they are tender & easy to pick apart with a fork. Drain the water out of the pot. Add a couple sticks of butter (more butter makes it better!), a splash or two of milk (as needed – this helps to make them nice & creamy too), & blend with a hand mixer until smooth. Add in a generous amount of kosher salt, coarse ground black pepper & dried basil flakes (add to taste, I like LOTS of salt, pepper, & basil in mine, but this isn’t for everyone) & then mix again to incorporate.


Sauteed Green Beans with Tomatoes & Basil
This is a recipe I got off, by Giada de Laurentiis, & that we’ve enjoyed making for holidays; they’re really fresh & delicious!

Cranberry Sauce

Homemade Cranberry Sauce with Orange Liquor
If you aren’t a fan of cranberry sauce & you’ve never made it fresh, I urge you to give this a try; this will kick the stuff in the can’s butt any day – enjoy!

1 Bag Fresh Cranberries
1/4 Cup Water
3/4 Cup Fresh Orange Juice
1 Cup Sugar
Zest of 1 Orange
Dash of Cinnamon
Splash of Orange Liquor (i.e. Cointreau, Grand Marnier, or Triple Sec)

Rinse 1 bag of fresh cranberries well. Add water, fresh orange juice, & sugar to a sauce pan & bring to a boil. Add cranberries to the pot & bring back to a boil. Add orange zest & cinnamon. Stir & then simmer until most of the cranberries have popped. Add a splash of orange liquor, stir, & let simmer for about a minute more. Transfer to a serving dish & let cool in the fridge before serving. Garnish with a twist of orange peel on top.


Deviled Eggs – We Don’t Need No Stinking Mayo!
I HATE mayo & sour cream & I do my best to steer clear of these at all costs; so I’ve adapted & have a special place for these delicious, mustardy Deviled Eggs in my heart – I hope you like them as much as I do!

Dill Pickle Relish
Yellow Mustard
Stone Ground or Spicy Brown Mustard

Boil as many eggs as you’d like to serve in a pan of water; I add them to a pan of cold water, then bring to a boil & let boil for about 10 minutes – keep in mind that 1 egg = 2 Deviled Egg halves. Drain the boiling water & cover them with cold water to help speed up the cooling process. As soon as you’re able to, while they’re still hot/warm is best (doing this while they’re still warm will make it easier to remove the shells, believe me!), crack the eggs & remove the shells. Slice the eggs in half, length wise, & scoop out the cooked yolks, setting them aside in a separate bowl, & place the halved egg whites facing up on a plate or serving platter. Using a fork, mash all the cooked yolks up. Quantities of mustard & relish to add will vary, based on how much cooked egg yolk you have to work with of course, but you’ll then add a combination of yellow mustard, spicy mustard, & dill pickle relish to the cooked yolks & mix all together well. Scoop the yolk, mustard, & relish mixture into the cooked egg white halves & top with a sprinkle of paprika. Salt & pepper to taste.



Bourbon Whipped Cream

Pumpkin Pie with Bourbon Whipped Cream
This is a recipe I found online & we’re making for our Thanksgiving Feast this year – yum!

Our Thanksgiving feast will also include lots of rolls. Happy eating!

by Valerie | 11.26.09 | Holidaze, Recipes | 7 Comments »

Palmer House


I had the pleasure of viewing the Palmer House today. It’s a lovely home, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, that butts right up against the Arboretum here in Ann Arbor. The moment I walked in the front door I felt calmer & peaceful.

The furniture is original to the home & was also designed by Frank Lloyd Wright & the owners took great care to keep the home in it’s original condition. The home has many unique quirks, such as no 90 degree corners, & was a lot of fun to walk through.



The best part for me was getting to visit the tea house, which is located just down a hill behind the house & nestled into large, beautiful trees. Something about this place seemed magical & I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to see it in person.


by Valerie | 11.19.09 | Around town, For Funsies | 1 Comment »

Friday the 13th


Happy Friday the 13th!

Some people, who may suffer from triskaidekaphobia or paraskevidekatriaphobia, may not be such fans of this day as I am. But, the 13th has been a good date for Ryan & I as that’s the day we had our first date (September 13th) & the day we got married (January 13th) & Ryan says that the number13 has always brought him luck. It also just so happens to take 13 letters to spell out my first & last name.

And so I ask you to make your Friday the 13th a fun day – don’t be scared, get out there & have some fun, & should a black cat cross your path…don’t panic, just give the cat a pet & it will be on it’s way!

by Valerie | 11.13.09 | For Funsies | 2 Comments »

These are a few of my favorite things


Pictured above is a lovely bag from 1154 Lill Studio; I think these are just fabulous!

Thanksgiving will be here before we know it, which means that Christmas is right around the corner & so it seems like a great time for me to list a few of my favorite (material) things…

  • 1154 Lill Studio handbags (& I love it when I get to design my own!)
  • Lush bath bombs & bubble bars
  • Cool stuff from Etsy (like these cute, reusable coffee sleeves or these magnetic spice rack jars)
  • Soft scarves & wraps in lots of wonderful colors
  • A Zingerman’s gift card
  • Benziger Pinot Noir (we drank this on our honeymoon – it’s amazing!) or any of their wines, La Dolce Vina from La Vina Winery (we served this at our wedding & it’s bubbly, sweet, & delightful – perfect for celebrating!), & other wines – Everyday Wines is a local shop that I like to visit for wines
  • Good, loose leaf teas & tea accessories (I’m a huge fan of a nice, spicy Chai) – Tea Haus is a local shop that I like to visit for teas & I really love the Crackle Blue teapot from Bee House
  • Photo books are wonderful gifts – you can get them made & shipped from lots of places, such as Kodak Gallery, Flickr, Lulu, etc.

by Valerie | 11.08.09 | For Funsies, Holidaze | 2 Comments »

Mary, Mary, quite contrary…



Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

Since I was a little girl, I have loved flowers, plants, & gardens. Here’s a couple photos of me above in my Mom’s garden, in our backyard in Gatesville, TX (the first one is of me with some gorgeous, lanky zinnias).

Ryan & I have really enjoyed making use of our patio in the summers to plant our own peppers, herbs, strawberries, etc. There’s really something so rewarding about growing your own food – even if we only manage to get one red bell pepper out of it the whole summer.

Something about having plants & fresh flowers around just makes me smile. I make it a point to buy myself some lovely flowers, about once every week or so, & I keep them in the house at all times. They smell nice, they look pretty, & why not treat yourself to something that makes your home & your surroundings a little brighter.

Here are several flower arrangements I’ve treated myself to, for your viewing pleasure…




by Valerie | 11.08.09 | Around our home, For Funsies | No Comments »

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