Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

May Day basket - repurposed ice cream container

Yay for May!  May Day was always one of my favorite spring days.  We came home from school and quickly created baskets using paper cups and pipe cleaners, filled them with candy and snuck over to leave them for our neighbor friends.  I woke up this morning and made a ‘basket’ for my nephew, complete with two of his favorite things – dandelions and fruit snacks.  Too bad this only occurs once a year, or I might have hope for ridding my yard of the weeds.


Speaking of dandelions… have you ever tried dandelion wine?  About ten years ago, after reading a newspaper article, I decided to make some.  I let the weeds blossom until the yard was thick with them (my landlord at the time, not so thrilled), then picked hundreds and meticulously cut off the yellow petals (the green parts are too bitter to include) while my roommates teased me.  I added honey and some other fruits and let it hang out in a dark spot for a long while.  After bottling, it looked beautiful – crystal clear with a slight golden hue.  Then came tasting time… it smelled like bananas covered in brown sugar.  Yum, right?  Well, smell can be deceiving.  My wine tasted something akin to ‘band-aid smell’.  Something somewhere didn’t go quite right, but it packed a punch and my friends were more than happy to chug it down.  I’m happy to say that my subsequent attempt at wine (apple) went much better.

Back from that tangent…. all it takes to make this kid smile is handful of dandelions!

May Day basket - repurposed ice cream container

What are some of your favorite spring childhood memories?  
Happy May Day!

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Grandma's Carrot Cake Bars - made with baby food!  (Easily made lactose or dairy free). These cake bars are another family favorite from Grandma Marie’s recipe box!  These were the bars we always had at potlucks and holidays – loved by all.  Not your typical carrot cake, these get their flavor from jars of….. baby food!  In fact, we all call them baby food bars, but I renamed them so as not to scare off anyone.  Sounds strange, but don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.  Soooo good, cuts down on prep time and jars of organic baby food are easy to find.  Best of all, they’re easily adapted to be lactose or dairy free  if you choose! A baking note:  Batter will be light in color – it’ll darken a lot by the time it’s finished baking so don’t worry! Grandma's Carrot Cake Bars - made with baby food!  (Easily made lactose or dairy free).

Click on the recipe image below if you want it to enlarge and open in a new tab to print!

Grandma's Carrot Cake Bars… made with baby food! (recipe easily made lactose or dairy free)

Grandma's Carrot Cake Bars - made with baby food!  (Easily made lactose or dairy free).

Merry Christmas, enjoy the holidays!

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Highway 55, 11x14 oil painting by Heather M. Roberts

First – there’s a SALE going on in my Etsy Shop!  All mini-ornaments/gift wrap accessories and cards are 10% off if you use coupon code HAPPY at checkout.  I also have a few corn heating bags all made up and ready to go – just need to sew the outer cases for them (I have a ton of flannel choices) – if that’s something you’re looking for, drop me a note on Etsy to light a fire under my bum.


Next, this new painting.  My mom asked me to do a painting based on a photo I took in Montana.  The goal for this one was a cool-toned vintage feel.  I officially dislike painting clouds, and am therefore making it my mission to improve in this area.  Staring at clouds seems like the best place to start.  Other suggestions, anyone?  This was painted in water-miscible oils, and the jury is still out about whether or not I like them.  They dried faster than expected, halting my ability to blend.  Despite the annoying stench and my lack of patience when it comes to dry time, I think I just might be a traditional oil paint kind of girl.  Now, if only I could afford some Williamsburg paints…

Highway 55 Painting by Heather M. Roberts

Happy Wednesday!

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Grandma's Ginger Crinkles Recipe! A family favorite, these perfectly spiced ginger crinkles are incredibly easy to make – great for the holiday season!  They also have molasses in them, but we’ve always called them ginger crinkles.  Years ago, after my mom inherited grandma’s recipe collection, I spent hours hunting for this one.  She had at least five ginger/molasses cookie recipes in her box.  I knew it was this one when I saw the recipe card, complete with molasses drippings and doughy finger smudges! This is a great recipe to try with the littles – my nearly 3-yo nephew rolled all the balls in sugar himself!  I wasn’t sure if he’d like the taste of a cookie with so many spices – but he loved them – great flavor that’s not overpowering. Soft and chewy, old-fashioned crinkles, and dusted with sugar – yum!  They can also be made thinner/crunchier if that’s your thing – simply flatten the dough balls a little with the palm of your hand and bake a few minutes longer.  Since they use shortening, they are also lactose-free (assuming you use Crisco, which qualified at last check).  Here we go!

Grandma Marie's Ginger/Molasses Crinkles Cookie Recipe | happyandsimple.wordpress.com

-click on above image to save or print recipe-

Grandma's Ginger Crinkles Recipe!

Thinking ahead tip:  freeze some dough balls after you’ve rolled them in sugar – then bake later!

Happy Weekend!

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Happy Halloween! ...painted metallic sugar skull pumpkin

Painted pumpkins last longer! Shimmery sugar skull.

Happy Halloween!!

After wrapping up work for the summer, I ventured out west nearly a month ago for foot surgery (yes, I know… traveling for surgery sounds odd) and was so looking forward to taking a barrage of autumn photos to post here. Nothing much seems to go as planned lately – what was supposed to be 2 weeks of crutches and leg elevation, now looks to be 4+ weeks of the same.  Since I couldn’t make any trips to the store, the highlight of the month was convincing my mom to buy a skateboard (it took me a week to convince her – apparently it’s odd for a 30-something to want a skateboard, ha).  I’ve been shoving food across the room on my lovely new turquoise platform using a crutch tip and am looking forward to learning how to skateboard with my nephew next spring. :)

The following are a few shots I managed to get from the car —

montana black and white mountains

montana fall colors - ninemile

montana autumn - ninemile, alberton

Eventually I’ll be back with new DIY projects and recipes!  In the meantime, Happy Autumn!

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Dark Chocolate Mint Cake (recipe with lactose-free option)

Holiday baking is in full-gear and almost everybody in my family seems to enjoy mint and chocolate, so I’m making the best of my bottle of peppermint extract this year! (If you’re not a mint lover, simply exchange the mint extract for vanilla in the buttercream filling or just omit it from the mousse filling).  This recipe has two versions – the one shown, and one for super chocolate enthusiasts, that swaps the filling shown for a chocolate mint mousse filling (the latter being a bit more time consuming, as the mousse will need to chill for a bit).  These cakes are simple to make lactose-free if needed.  Both are well-suited to being frozen (and eaten straight from the freezer if desired, though keep in mind that the non-dairy ganache will be more desirable – less hard – when frozen).

The chocolate cake is very slightly modified from the ‘Celebrate with Chocolate’ cookbook and is also used in my Chocolate Raspberry Lemon Cake recipe.  The chocolate mousse recipe is delicious on its own (minus mint) can be found here.  I forgot to include this in the printable recipes – but if desired, use a vegetable peeler to shave chocolate mint candies on top of ganache before refrigerating (shaved dark chocolate mint Dove bites are shown in the photo).

Click photo below for printable image of recipe (buttercream mint filling version).

dark chocolate peppermint buttercream cake.

Click photo below for printable image of recipe (chocolate mint mousse version).

dark chocolate mint mousse cake.



Feel free to ask questions or let me know what you think if you try it!  Enjoy!

dark chocolate mint cake (lactose-free option)

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