Cocktail Concocting With: Jayme Henderson

This week I am so excited to introduce a new blogging friend, Jayme Henderson. I discovered her blog a few months ago, and just can’t get enough! She is a gardener and sommelier based in Denver, Colorado. She also happens to write the wine column at the Kitchn. Her love for all-things-paired is quite evident in her own blogging and photography. I can only hope that my photographs look as wonderful as hers some day!

Last Monday, I shared a tour of my and Anne’s bar cart. Now, Jayme is here to show us how it’s done.

Blood Orange Whiskey Cocktail (Recipe below!)

Hello! My name is Jayme Henderson, and I write the blog Holly & Flora. It’s where I post original cocktails, wine-and-recipe pairings, and DIY projects. I am constantly inspired by my home garden, and my projects reflect that love. If I could spend the rest of my days surrounded by tomatoes, herbs, and flowers, trust me, I would. For now, I balance my time in the garden between working as a full-time sommelier here in Denver and writing the wine column at the Kitchn.

I was completely flattered when Victoria asked me to create a cocktail and guest post here at Scissors & Sage. I immediately felt right at home when I discovered her blog. I always look forward to her interesting and well-written tutorials. Many thanks, Victoria!

I eagerly anticipate the onset of citrus season. Not only are the bright, delicious fruits a refreshing respite in the dead of winter, but they also remind me of my grandfather. He was a second-generation citrus grower in Florida, my home state, so the aroma of oranges transports me back home. It was only natural for me to create an orange cocktail.

This particular cocktail’s flavor profile is balanced between being slightly sweet and a little bitter. The finish is refreshing and savory, with notes of baking spices. That’s definitely the somm coming out in me with those descriptors! I chose Tin Cup Whiskey as the base spirit. It’s a Colorado whiskey with a bourbon-style profile, complemented by a spicy, peppery kick. Vodka, gin, and sparkling wine all pair well with blood orange juice, but swapping them out for whiskey provides a richer and more savory flavor.

The other key ingredient I added is Amaro Nonino Quintessentia. What exactly is an amaro? An amaro is a bitter-sweet, herbaceous Italian digestif, a liqueur usually consumed after a meal. Nonino is especially enjoyable. Unlike other styles of amaro, which can be intensely herbaceous and even medicinal, Nonino is balanced and has slightly bitter notes of burnt orange and spices. I like to enjoy a skosh of it after a rich meal. It is one of those sipping spirits that warms the soul and makes you slow down. And it’s a killer addition to a whiskey-based cocktail.

Thanks again, Victoria, for letting me drop in and share a cocktail here! And cheers to enjoying citrus season, surviving the chill, and having the patience for spring’s arrival!

Haven’t gotten enough of Jayme? Find her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!

Blood Orange Whiskey Cocktail (Serves One)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 ounces whiskey or bourbon
  • 1/2 ounce Amaro Nonino Quintessentia
  • 2 1/2 ounces freshly squeezed blood orange juice (about two blood oranges)
  • 1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice (about a quarter of a lemon)
  • 1/2 ounce agave nectar
  • 2-3 dashes orange bitters
  • Sprig of thyme

Juice the citrus and set aside. Then, fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the whiskey, amaro, blood orange juice, lemon juice, agave nectar, and bitters. Shake until nicely chilled. Strain and pour into a cocktail glass filled with fresh ice. Finally, squeeze the thyme sprig a few times to release its aroma and garnish!

Notes:

  • This recipe can be easily doubled, and tastes great served up shaken and strained.
  • If you have trouble finding blood oranges, navels or other types can be substituted.
  • Depending upon the sweetness of the blood oranges, increase or decrease the amount of agave nectar, to taste.

All photos taken by Jayme Henderson

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Floral Arranging 101 With: Elaine Burns

One of my New Year’s resolutions for Scissors & Sage is to invite other people to guest post throughout the year. I so enjoy getting to learn from crafters and bakers and the like, and thought that this would be a nice way to collaborate. The first guest blog post this year is from my friend Elaine.

Elaine and I went to college together. Have you ever had the experience of knowing someone through a friend, but not really knowing them, only to find out later that you two have so many similar interests? That’s me and Elaine. I hope to craft with her in real life someday. She lives in Brooklyn, works for J.Crew, and is an overall lover of crafting. She knits, crochets, bakes, arranges flowers, and embroiders, among other nifty talents. Today she is here to teach us how to make our very own floral arrangements! I can’t wait to give this a try.

From Elaine: It’s the dead of winter and you’re counting down the days until spring — only three more months until warmth! While it may be desolate outside, a perfect (and foolproof) way to bring the promise of springy days ahead into your or a friend’s home is with a unique flower arrangement. You really can’t go wrong with some added pops of color.

Selecting Flowers

For this arrangement, I spent about $50 at my local grocery store and purchased six bouquets of flowers. When selecting, I aim to assort a variety of textures and shapes: long and skinny (like snap dragons) and round and dome-like (like dahlias).  Next, I focus on a color palette.

In addition to selecting the focus-flowers for an arrangement, I am also sure to select some foliage flowers or plants to add needed balance. I used hypericum berries, as well as leaves from carnation stems, in this arrangement.

Preparation

Once you have the flowers back at home, immediately take them out of the cellophane/paper wrapping, cut the stems at an angle (do not trim the stems at this point), and stick the flowers in a bucket of water. Grab a pair of scissors or a knife — it’s now time to process the stems.

When you bring home a bouquet of flowers from the grocery store or farmer’s market, they are typically unprocessed, meaning they still have all of their leaves, nubs, and thorns. Use your hands or a knife/scissors to clean these leaves from the stems. This will make it easier (and less messy) to assemble your arrangement.

 

Assembling the Bouquet

When I make a vase arrangement, I find it easiest to make a traditional bouquet as my skelton and then add embellishments from there.

To start a bouquet, take two flowers and cross them in an “x” shape. Then, rotate both flowers clockwise. The flower that was on top (in this case, the orange carnation) will now be behind the second flower (here, the light purple dahlia). Repeat again with a third flower: add to the “x”, then rotate clockwise. This rotation is important because it creates the spiral shape of a traditional bouquet.

 

 

Keep adding flowers; the more the better! With the first ten or so flowers you add, the spiral bouquet shape won’t be immediately apparent. But, the more you add, the more pronounced the shape will become.

Once you have added all of the flowers to your bouquet, you can trim the stems (cut at an angle) to fit into your vase of choice. I typically go for mason jars. The one I used here is a vintage find!

From here, it’s a matter of finessing your arrangement. Aside from processing the stems, I usually spend the most time on this step. Some flowers probably slipped below others while you were assembling the bouquet, so they will need to be pulled up. If you notice that one side of the bouquet is very heavy in one color, you may need to remove some stems and place them elsewhere.  If that is the case, just be sure to continue following the twisted shape of the bouquet. You really can’t go wrong!

Bonus Bud Vase

When processing and arranging a large display, you will inevitably accumulate a collection of smaller buds, extra foliage, or a flower or two that didn’t make it into my final arrangement. Bonus!!

These smaller flowers can then be used to filled smaller bud vases (of which I now have a growing collection) and used to pepper the rest of your home with some added color and texture. I usually make a loose bouquet shape before sticking these into a vase.

So, happy winter, all! Here’s hoping your home feels a little bit brighter and warmer with the addition of a new floral arrangement.

Flowers Used

Dahlias, Carnations, Snapdragons, Daisies, Hypericum Berry

All Photos taken by Elaine Burns

Container Gardening With: Ellen Drews

Today’s blog post comes from a dear friend, Ellen Drews.  Ellen is a banjo-playing, bug-loving, and plant-praising kind of gal.  She has recently moved to the Boston area, and has hit the ground running managing several community gardens.  From Ellen:

As a resident of densely-populated Somerville, Massachusetts, and a manager of three community gardens in Lowell, I have been putting a lot of brain power towards the challenge of growing delicious, seasonal vegetables in places with contaminated soil—or no soil at all! In my opinion, no one should have to pass up the fun and tasty rewards of vegetable gardening just for lack of workable land. So why not grow food above the land—in containers! Well, that’s what I did in the parking area behind my apartment. And my landlord keeps telling me he can’t wait until “we” are reaping the bounty.   I guess he’s expecting me to share.

farm

Container gardening offers many benefits: soil in containers warms up earlier in the spring, so you can plant those heat-loving tomatoes, peppers, and basil a bit earlier than you could in the ground. Containers can be put in locations with ideal sun exposure. And containers offer less territory for weeds and pests to take up residence—often resulting in healthier plants.

There are also a couple of limitations that container gardening brings that are important to be aware of:

  1. Vegetables grown in containers cannot spread their roots very far to find the perfect mix of nutrients in the surrounding soil. Everything they need must be present right there in that compact space. Therefore, it’s necessary to fertilize your containers a few times during the growing season with yummy compost or organic fertilizers.
  2. Soil in containers dries out easily, especially if the container has the proper drainage it needs to avoid root fungus. Dry soil is of no use to a growing plant—the plant requires water to exchange nutrients at the roots. What’s more, if a young vegetable seedling goes through the stresses of repeated “droughts” or under-watering, it will never reach its full potential!

But some of us have day jobs—so how can we keep our containers at the perfect, constant moisture level without running outside to water them every few hours? Easy! Build self-watering containers.

Self-watering containers are somewhat misnamed. They don’t water themselves infinitely—you will still have to go out and water your plants every couple days to every day on hot, dry days. However, wicking action will draw water through the soil from a reservoir below and will reduce major moisture fluctuations in the container. Your job is to make sure that the reservoir always has some water in it, and the container will do the rest! You can buy self-watering planters, but DIY containers are easy to make and much cheaper.

Self-Watering Container Garden

Materials:

  • 2 five-gallon food-grade plastic buckets (available at hardware stores, or for free at many restaurants!)
  • 4-6” piece of PVC pipe or PVC fence post
  • Drill and drill bits (1/4” bits work best – anything on the larger side is good for making drainage holes)
  • X-acto knife or sharp clippers
  • Sharpie marker
  • Organic potting soil (if it contains compost, great! If not, get some granular fertilizer like PRO-GRO to mix in for nutrients. I used Coast of Maine organic container soil.)
  • Seeds or seedlings of your favorite veggies (look for varieties like “compact” or “bush”)

What to do:

  1. Start with one bucket—this one will be nested inside the other, and will hold the soil and your plants. Turn it over and use the drill to cut out a big circle in the bottom of the bucket. You may need to use the X-acto knife or clippers to fully punch out this circle.
  2. Then, drill about a dozen “air holes” randomly throughout the bottom of the bucket. These holes will allow air to penetrate the soil and will drain excess water into the reservoir bucket below.

PVC spacer

  1. The piece of PVC pipe or fence post will serve as a “spacer” between the two buckets, holding them apart and also forming the “wick” part of the container where garden soil comes in contact with the water in the reservoir. Drill several holes throughout the PVC spacer, making sure that about 4-5 of the holes are within a 1/4” from the bottom edge of the spacer. This way, it will be able to draw water, even if the reservoir level is fairly low.
  2. Position the spacer in the middle of the second (hole-free) bucket and nest the other bucket on top of the spacer. Mark where the bottom edge of the inner bucket reaches with a Sharpie on the outer bucket. Drill out a hole that meets the edge of the inner bucket about 2” across and 1” tall. This will be your access point for re-filling the reservoir and for checking the water level with a finger!

sharpie mark

  1. Remove the inner bucket and fill the PVC spacer with potting soil. Pack it gently to remove any large air pockets, but don’t compress the soil too tightly. The spaces between the soil particles will allow water to wick through the spacer and up into the soil of the inner container.

inside bucket

  1. Nest the inner bucket over the spacer so that the circular hole in the bottom lines up with the PVC spacer. Fill the inner bucket with potting soil.   The soil inside the bucket should be making direct contact with the soil in the spacer, so that it forms a continuous wick throughout the bucket. Fill to within an inch of the top rim of the bucket—you want your plants to have as much soil as possible in the limited space so don’t skimp out on filling up the bucket.

finsihed containers

  1. Water the soil until it starts to drain into the reservoir below, then fill the reservoir using the side access hole in the bottom bucket. Now you are ready to tuck in some seeds or some seedlings and watch them grow!

kale scallions

I’m growing kale and scallions in one self-watering container, and I’ll put a tomato plant into the other container, now that we’ve passed the last frost date for Boston.   I’ve also got beets, arugula, lettuce, and nasturtiums growing in other found containers like a milk crate and a Coca Cola rack. What else can you turn into a container for gardening?  -Ellen (with a slug)

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Note: All photos were taken by Ellen Drews.

Thrifting With: Anne Kenealy

Victoria and I spend a lot of time in thrift stores. There’s nothing quite like that rare delight of finding the perfect kitchen chair or end table for only a few dollars. Far more often, though, I find myself wading through piles of legless tabletops and stained armchairs, wondering if I have the time, elbow grease, and expertise needed to transform a long-unloved piece of furniture into something beautiful and useful.

A few summers ago, I was wandering through a thrift shop in Platteville, Wisconsin, where my family keeps a hobby farm. In the rural Midwest, folks tend to hang on to their belongings for a long time, resulting in a local thrift shop filled with decades-old treasures. I happened upon this desk:

It was covered in chipped faux-bois veneer and the drawers didn’t close just right. However, I had borrowed the pickup truck, I had a spot to stow the desk until I could get around to working on it, and it was only $3. Perhaps most importantly, it was summer, so I had time to kill and an apartment to fill when Victoria and I moved to Philadelphia a few months later.

With my wise father and Google as dual advisors, Victoria and I set to work painting and restoring The Desk. Because its veneer is plastic, getting a few even, thorough coats of paint took some ingenuity, but a project similar to this one is easily doable in a few hours over a couple of days.

Materials:

If you’re a furniture-refurbishing wizard, you already know: clean, sand, clean, prime, clean, paint. However, if, like me, you run with the Design*Sponge-ogling common folk and the list of materials above was enough to make you decide against this project, don’t turn away just yet. This project is simple and yields great results.

  1. You’ll first want to clean the piece thoroughly with TSP. Because TSP is such a powerful cleaning agent, it is recommended that you wear rubber gloves and work in a well-ventilated space. We used the great outdoors. (It is also recommended that you don’t walk into a home improvement store asking for “trisodium phosphate” like we did. No one seems to refer to TSP by its full chemical name, and our clerk looked at us like we were Walter and Jesse back for a re-up.)
  2. Using fine sandpaper, rough up every surface you intend to paint. With a plastic veneer, this step might be the most painstaking of the entire project, but it pays to sand well. The better you sand a surface, the more likely the spray paint is to stick.
  3. After sanding, clean the piece once more with TSP, then run a tack cloth over the whole thing to remove any grit or dust. If you intend to prime later, wipe the piece down with a tack cloth once more just prior to priming. It really pays off.
  4. If you want the legs or drawer pulls of your piece to remain untouched by spray paint, remove them or cover with painter’s tape. Then spray an even coat of primer over every surface you intend to paint. Attaining the “even coat” was a process, so it helped me to practice on a sheet of newspaper first. Let dry for a few hours or overnight.
  5. Once the primer has dried, run a tack cloth over the piece again. Spray a thin, even coat of paint, taking care not to linger too long in any given spot. With each coat, it is better to apply too little paint than too much. Let dry for a few hours or overnight.
  6. If you have overapplied paint anywhere, you can sand down the pools or bubbles that may have formed and then clean any dust away with a tack cloth. Then apply a second coat of paint, attending to the bottom of any overhangs and the edges of drawers.
  7. Once dry, make sure the richness of the color is consistent and that the satin shine is even across the piece. If you feel you need a third coat of paint, feel free to apply. (This may require a second can of paint, depending on the size of your piece.)

Ta-da!

To add a nice finishing touch to this desk, we asked my dad to polish the tips of the legs with Brasso and some fancy buffer tool that I don’t pretend to know how to use. The most exciting part of this project was finding drawer pulls that suited the style of the desk; we discovered  Menards had a nice selection.

The chair isn’t a perfect fit for the desk, but it was $5 at Uhuru, a thrift shop around the corner from our apartment. Victoria and I found the birch tree needlepoint at the Platteville Thrift Shop on a later trip, and spray painted the frame a glossy black. The antique desk lamp has a cast iron base and is on loan from my dear old ma.

A refurbishing project like this one may seem labor-intensive, but the payoff is great. Here’s to more lonely thrift store cast-offs receiving similar treatment!

-Anne

On The Farm With: Janet Kenealy

From Janet:  An article in the travel section of the Sunday Chicago Tribune piqued our interest in Southwest Wisconsin.  It touted rolling hills dotted with cows and sheep, charming towns filled with antiques and artisans, and–of course–cheese!  Dave and I planned a weekend in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, and we were quickly smitten with the area.  Soon afterward, we were working with a realtor to find a little place in the country for weekend getaways for ourselves and our family.  A check list was created (our family is famous for its list-making), noting all of the features we would like in a second home: a bit of green space in a quiet spot, a simple house with a screened porch, and a location not too far away from civilization and our year round home in Oak Park, Illinois.  We saw plenty of houses during our search but most weren’t quite what we were looking for.

After a full day of house hunting, our realtor showed us one final listing that she said met most of our parameters but was a bit farther away and slightly larger than what we were looking for.  She also warned us it had been on the market awhile and was “a little dated.”  She also called it a hobby farm.  We were intrigued.  Hidden behind a white picket fence and a tall stand of Arborvitaes stood a charming little red brick home built in 1858 with several farm buildings, including an old wire corn crib, and the loveliest assortment of trees – including a little apple orchard!  The property was now 3 ½ acres but had been part of a larger farm years ago.We were immediately enamored with the expanse of grass, the assortment of trees – several varieties of pine, maple, and a mighty oak just outside the front door. But what really struck us was the silence except for the birds and rustling tree leaves.  We could hear cows mooing on the neighbor’s farm and birds were darting through the trees to the feeders by the kitchen window.  The interior of the home was indeed dated – yellow shag carpeting, indoor/outdoor carpeting in the kitchen (!), and 1970s wallpaper on every wall.  The rooms weren’t large but they were light-filled.  There was a good feeling in that house.  So we bought the farm!We set out on a major renovation to make it safe (updated electrical/plumbing) and to make it our own (new kitchen/bath).  We also took a strange little room off the back of the house and added windows to create a lovely little porch which looks out onto the garden.  New windows were installed, the carpeting was removed and the original oak floors were revealed.  Wallpaper was taken down and fresh paint rolled on all the walls.Once the work on the inside was completed it was time to turn our attention to the garden.  The previous owner had an expansive garden.  Starting small, we rototilled a 30 by 60 plot and set out planting.  We learned rather quickly we should never have rototilled the soil, as it churned up centuries of dormant weed seeds the likes of which we had never seen before!  We learn something about our garden (and ourselves) every year.  Lavender, zinnias, pumpkins, black-eyed susans, sunflowers and cat mint all grow very well without needing too much help from us.  We’ve planted hydrangeas around the foundation of the house and have added to our little arboretum by planting a few small trees. In the spring, we plan to add two Asian pear trees and a row of raspberry bushes to our little garden plot.Our next project is to turn a small parcel of our property back to its origins as a prairie.  We took a class on prairie restoration at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and have read books and blogs on the subject.  We’ve also consulted with experts and learned that we have some very stubborn invasive species that have taken over much of the space.  Some of these plants have been on the property for years and will require heavy machinery to uproot them.  It will take tremendous sweat equity and an investment of funds to make it happen, but we hope to someday return the land to its original beauty.When I’m not busy on the farm, the area has some nice little antique shops and thrift stores in which to poke around. I also enjoy browsing the aisles of the local Farm and Fleet.  A neighboring town has an emerging artisan community with galleries, shops, and a few nice restaurants. There’s even a brewery nearby. I continue to learn lessons from our little farm – lessons of patience, mostly.  I am learning to be patient with the land and with the rhythms of the seasons.  The biggest adjustment I must learn to make is to balance the hard work of the farm with its many joys and pleasures.  Now if I would only park the wheel barrel for a moment I will experience them!

What an inspiring story, Janet!  Thank you for sharing your exciting journey.

Note: all photos were taken by Janet Kenealy.