Tuesday, September 30, 2014


We almost didn't make it to the Apple Festival over the weekend... 
I was busy doing a little bit of everything, 
except getting my apple dumplings made for the bake-off.
As it turned out... we did go to the Apple Festival,
it was loads of fun and the apple dumplings 
won first place!

Below is THE winning recipe... AND a mini photo tutorial to walk you through the basic steps.

A printable recipe is here: APPLE DUMPLING PRINTABLE RECIPE
If the apple dumplings look like too much trouble, I can assure you they are not. These apple dumplings are worth every moment you spend making them...

The pastry dough is similar (this one is more buttery) to my usual recipe,...
I'm including a link from an earlier pie dough tutorial, if you need a point in the right direction regarding pie dough; it's a great place to start.  It's OK to use store bought if you want...I won't tell, if you don't tell! 
Click for tutorial: Perfect Pie Crust


Karri Perry| Blue Ribbon Kitchen | BlueRibbonKitchen.blogspot.com

Pie Dough
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter flavored Crisco-chilled
1 cup unsalted butter-chilled
1/4 cup ice water + 1/4 cup vodka

Cut butter and Crisco into the flour/sugar/salt mixture with a pastry blender.  Once butter and Crisco is in tiny pieces and the mixture is uniform, begin slowly adding the liquid.

Add just enough ice cold water/vodka mixed 50/50- to bring dough together.

Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill dough for at least 1 hour before using.

Egg wash
1 egg – beaten
1 Tablespoon water

Crumb Topping
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter - softened
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
 1/2 tsp nutmeg
Combine using a fork, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Honey Caramel Sauce
In a saucepan over medium heat:
1 stick of butter
1 cup of packed brown sugar
1/3 cup of honey
½ cup heavy cream
(¼ cup of warm water to thin if needed)
Melt butter; add sugar, honey and cream.  Heat until bubbly and all sugar is dissolved.  Turn off heat.  Let honey caramel sauce rest on stove top until needed.  Thin with the water if the sauce is too thick to pour easily.

4-5 small to medium Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored

Filling for apples
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbs.butter divided for the 5 apples
Mix spices and sugar together in a small bowl.

Prepare pie dough, let chill for at least 1 hour or overnight before rolling out.
Combine sugar and spices for filling apples, set aside.  
Make crumb topping, set aside. 
Make honey caramel sauce, set aside. 
Peel and core apples.  Cover apples in lemon water and set aside. 
Roll out dough into a rectangle ¼ inch thick. Cut into fourths.  Place a prepared apple in center of dough square.  
Place a slice of butter (approx. 1 tsp) inside apple.  Fill apple center with 1-2 Tbs. of the cinnamon sugar filling mixture.  Top each apple with a handful of crumb topping gently molding it on top of the apple.  
Fold dough up and around apple, covering the crumb topping and pinching sides to seal at the edges.  Repeat for each apple. Place dough covered apples into a buttered baking dish.  
Roll out chilled reserved dough. Use decorative cutters to make leaf shapes for top of apples if desired.  Use egg wash to attach cut-out shapes to apples, lightly brush apples with egg wash.  
Chill prepared apples for 10 minutes in the freezer. 
Pour honey-caramel sauce around apples.  
Bake on middle rack, in preheated 400-degree oven for 50-60 minutes, or until filling is bubbly and crust is golden brown.  Lightly cover apples with foil after 20 minutes or half way through baking if crust is becoming too brown. Allow to cool. 

Start Here:

Now it's time to make the apple dumplings!!

1. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface.  I love using waxed paper underneath, it makes clean-up a snap.  Use a sturdy apple corer like the one in photo 1.  Make sure all the seeds and hard membranes are removed.  Feel the inside of the apple to make sure it is smooth and seed-free.  Let peeled and cored apples rest in lemon water so they don't turn brown, as you prepare the rest of the apples.

2.  I like to slice the very bottom and very top of the apples to give the apple a nice base to sit on and a flat surface on which to mound the crumb topping. 

3.  Fill the apple with a pat of butter and 1-2 Tbs of spiced filling mixture.  If the spiced mixture gets on the outside of the apple--even better...it just adds more flavor.

4.  A crumb topping, lightly mounded on top of the apple.
The top photo shows covering and pinching the dough edges closed around the apple and crumb topping.
Followed by cutting out decorative shapes.  These shapes are super cute.  I found these at Williams~Sonoma... piecrust cutters are also available at other kitchen and cookware stores.  E-bay is a great resource to find older/retired cutters too.  If you don't have piecrust cutters, use any cookie cutter shape that you like, even letters, or hand cut dough leaves would be cute.
Place dough covered apples into a buttered baking dish.
CHILL for 10 MINUTES  in the freezer BEFORE baking.  When cold dough hits the heat from a hot oven, great...amazing... things happen to pie dough.  It becomes light and flaky and keeps it's shape.  If you put soft or warm dough into a hot oven, it falls flat, melts and will not lift and it becomes oily.  As a general rule of thumb, try to keep your dough cool to cold while working with it.  It is even a good idea to pop each completed apple dumpling into the freezer as you finish each one, so the dough stays nice and chilled.

Remove baking dish of apple dumplings from the freezer after 10 minutes...
pour the waiting honey-caramel sauce AROUND the apples.
Bake apples in a 400 degree oven for 50 minutes or until browned and bubbling. Check apple dumplings after the first 20 minutes, if they are getting too brown on top, place a sheet of aluminum foil gently on top to protect the crust.

Let cool slightly before serving.  If making ahead,  let cooled apple dumplings warm in a 300 degree oven for 7 minutes.  This will soften the caramel sauce and allow easier serving.  These apple dumplings are even better with a little vanilla ice cream.... ENJOY!


Thursday, September 25, 2014


My favorite kinds of craft projects are those that are relatively easy, require minimal effort (not too many complicated steps or directions) and the project should have a big payoff...
Is that asking too much?? 
If I'm being really honest, the craft/project can't take too long either... I lose interest too quickly and patience has never been my strong suit!  This might explain my dismal attempts at knitting...

If quick crafts are your thing too... this is a great one...it only took 30 minutes, start to finish! Really!

I worked on this project, while our dinner was in the oven... by the time we were ready to eat...I was finished with the framed monogram!  I can't vouch for the paint being 100% dry... but it was very close.
Using an old frame from the local thrift store...
I followed these steps:

1.  Paint the frame with craft  paint.

2.  Cut out burlap fabric, using the glass from the frame as a template.

3.  Covering the glass with the burlap, (you can use a few dots of hot glue to secure it) return the covered glass into the newly painted frame.
All that was left to do was adhere my craft store monogram... (I picked the letter "P" up at Hobby Lobby) I used a few dabs of hot glue to set it in place.  
I had originally intended to hang it...but in my haste to get dinner onto the table I set it on our dining room hutch...Not too shabby for a 30 minute craft!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Oh, the parade of costumes over the years....
Halloween costumes...each one, better than the next.  Sometimes our costumes were homemade...sewn together with felt, leftover fabric and bits of yarn, with truly ingenious uses of everyday household objects...garbage can lids were magically transformed into superhero shields, cardboard boxes were fashioned into shiny silver robot bodies...you know how it works...you were there, you lived it.  It was so much fun, emerging from our homes dressed in our best Halloween apparel, precisely at the strike of 6 PM (at least that's when Halloween began on our street)!

Growing up, we had our share of homemade disguises...We still talk about some of the crazy get-ups we had and laugh each year as Halloween rolls around.

My mom fashioned E.T. fingers for my brother out of aluminum foil, of course she did... she was brilliant when it came to making costumes!  ... one year my brother and I went as scarecrows... we wore itchy burlap sack masks... (burlap was probably not the best fabric choice... although my mom was way ahead of the burlap fashion craze by almost 20 years...hindsight is always 20/20...right?).  I don't think I have any photos from those funny Halloween nights, because if I did, they would be front and center on this Halloween Tree project!... I have to give my mom an "A" for effort and and "A+" for giving us a reason to smile every Halloween.

My kiddos l-o-v-e Halloween just as much as my brother and I did.  They love choosing what they'll go as on Halloween night.... they of course, love the candy part of the whole thing too... What's not to love?!

 These are two of my very favorite memories of my children at Halloween....
What sweet little faces... 
To keep the Halloween memories alive...each year I do a Halloween Family Photo Tree.

I took old and new photos of costume-clad kiddos from over the years.  Photos from visits to the pumpkin patch, football games and other fall activities would work great too.
I mounted photos on scrapbook card stock.
Added a black and white gingham ribbon and ...Taa Daa...  Halloween Tree.
This year I found cute miniature ornaments from Target... 
About the tree... It's from the thrift store, so I don't know where it originally came from.  In the past, I used willow branches inside an antique crock... and my Halloween display turned out just as cute... 
I love looking back at all the sweet costumes from years gone by...
Happy Halloween from 1978! (That's me and my younger brother as clowns)
Happy Halloween from 1980... I was a nurse, my brother was a train engineer....
 The glittered spiders, bats, and pumpkins all came from Wal-Mart this year.
Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, September 22, 2014


Chocolate Chip Cookies are a perfect all-American comfort food.  They are so versatile, they really can go just about anywhere-- so portable, perfect for potlucks, birthday parties, or just filling up cookie jars...you can't go wrong with a good, old fashioned chocolate chip cookie.

I don't know too many people who would turn down a well made chocolate chip cookie.  The real trick to a great chocolate chip cookie starts with using a great recipe...When you are tasting a top-notch chocolate chip cookie, you just know it.  The perfect cookie hits all the right notes, the cookie has a little crunch on the outside and is soft and gooey (yet fully cooked) on the inside...full of melted chocolate morsels... and for me, toasted pecans...  Oh, chocolate chip cookie bliss...   It's the exact opposite when you are tasting a dud...a chocolate chip cookie that somehow lost it's way... the flavor is off, it's too crispy or too wet.  A batch of poorly made chocolate chip cookies is a sad, sad thing...   All joking aside, no one wants to waste their time, or ingredients on homemade cookies that are not awesome.  So, in the spirit of making awesome cookies, give these chocolate chip cookies a try; and you too, can enjoy some chocolate chip cookie bliss!


From: Blue Ribbon Kitchen Blog


3 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup butter (2 sticks) (softened)
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2  large eggs + 1 yolk
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup mini semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped toasted nuts (optional)

** Using two kinds of chips is the key to full flavor... 
Yes, of course you can change it up and use bittersweet and milk chocolate chips or try butterscotch and white chocolate chips... change the nuts or add dried cherries... but the above recipe is what I use for traditional flavor.
1 cup toasted pecans (toast pecans in a 350 degree oven for 7 minutes or until lightly toasted, let cool and coarsely chop)


Combine the baking soda and cornstarch, and flour, mix well.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl cream together butter, and sugars until light and fluffy. (This usually takes about 2 minutes)

Add eggs one at a time, mixing well between each.  Add the vanilla, corn syrup, and salt and mix until combined.

Gradually pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.
Gently fold in chocolate chips and toasted pecans--if using.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Drop spoonfuls or scoops* of dough onto parchment lined cookie sheets –use parchment paper for best results.

*Using a small ice cream scoop yields uniform thick cookies. My scoop measure 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

Bake for about 13 minutes for medium sized cookies.  Bake longer for large cookies and bake less for smaller cookies.

Remove from the oven when the edges are lightly golden and the centers look just done.

After 2 minutes, move cookies from baking sheets and place onto cooling racks.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.


Friday, September 19, 2014


Did you ever wonder if your were doing it right?  Did you ever mull over paint chips for a few weeks, and still wonder if you had picked the right color as you were rolling paint onto the wall??  Did you ever feel overwhelmed by all the amazing choices that are available for furniture and lighting??

If you have ever feathered or attempted to feather your proverbial nest, you have most likely felt unsure about if your were doing "it" right.  Designing your home can be a complicated process...even knowing where to start can feel overwhelming.  Paint colors and large purchases are a big commitment in time, effort and money, so getting it right can require thinking outside the box and breaking a few rules along the way.

Here are a few design rules I like to break.  


Sometimes I buy things because I think that I am supposed to, but not because it's the best choice for the space.  Curtains and window treatments are one of those "somethings" we think we should do automatically.  This gorgeous window is the prime example of a space  that needed to break the rule. The window looks amazing with no window treatments, no drapes,....nothing at all.  To cover that crown molding would be a crime... and all that beautiful natural light just pours into the room.

Another example is from our kitchen, it's is a large space with one small window above the sink.  I try to get as much natural light into the kitchen as possible from this one window... and it isn't much.  When we first moved in I tried all different sized valances... until I decided that putting curtains up was the wrong "something" for my window.

I used a small faux boxwood wreath from Ballard Designs.  A dot of hot glue holds it in place with a burlap wired ribbon.  My hanging window wreath treatment lets light in, without looking like a forgotten space.  


OK, I know that I was probably the only young co-ed at my alma mater that spent time stenciling her room... (It was in the 90's) I was busy channeling my inner Martha, when I should have been putting more effort into studying... Anyway, stencils may have gotten a bad wrap in the 80's and 90's... as poorly done boarders of sheep and milk jugs.  Don't shy away from past fashion trends (they weren't all bad), even if it seems "out of date" or a little "old-fashioned".  The county sheep wall boarders may be out of fashion, but new graphic patterns and subtle designs are available and can really add charm to your home.  A little splash of retro fashion, helps build character.

Here are three example of stencils used in my home, and I think I pull it off quite nicely.  If done well, there is a timeless quality to it, rather than a 1980's vibe.

A stenciled monogram on a reclaimed hutch.  
Click here it visit the Vintage Hutch Makeover post
 A stenciled stairway...

A stenciled side table.

P.S. you can add a stenciled monogram to new furniture too, or onto mirrors or even onto walls... 


Not everything has to be used for what it was originally intended for...what a liberating concept.  Use furniture, artwork and home decor items in unexpected ways and breathe new life into your home. Below, is an example of  how a dresser can stand in as a swanky buffet in a dining room.

Here a cake stand with cover holds stacked Halloween decorations...no cake here, just spooky spiders.

 A set of 1950's flash cards turn into a charming personal touch atop a dining room sideboard.
 Adding personal touches to your home, make the space feel warm and inviting and most of all interesting...


We used to have a cherry kitchen.  I painted our cabinets white.  I did.  Even though countless people weighed in on my project... "How could you paint cherry cabinets... ?! They are so gorgeous... " Well, I didn't think they were gorgeous.  I wanted a light, bright kitchen and those dark wood cabinets were bringing me down.  Listen to you instincts.  After all the designing and planning and agonizing over every detail is said and done, you are the one that has to live with it.  I could still be living with dark (albeit cherry) wood cabinets, but instead I am happily enjoying the light, bright and airy kitchen I always knew I wanted.  
There are two very distinct camps when it comes to painting wood; those who love wood in all it's natural beauty and those that are perfectly fine with painting over it... For the record, neither camp is "right".  When it comes to design, what matters most is loving what you live with and living with what you love.  If you love painted cabinets, at the end of the day, it's your kitchen, make it how you want it.

I have painted a fair amount of damaged furniture to give it a second life.  The pieces I paint are certainly not Smithsonian quality... but after they are gussied up, they look great and become usable, unlike how they originally began.  In my world, a little wood goes a long way.  I have no trouble fixing up a thrift store cast off, and turning it into a one-of-a-kind treasure.  Be fearless, and if you want something in a different color, you are allowed to paint it, it's OK, it's only paint!


To This.... Taaa Daaa.


Many homes from the 80's have oak or natural woodwork throughout the entire house.  I think it was put in as a builder's upgrade way back when....  Painted millwork, seamlessly blends into the design, whereas natural or stained wood trims and moldings create lines and stark separations.  Sometimes the dark or natural wood trims can make a space feel small, by drawing the eye to the rooms edges, rather than having all the parts blend into one another.  It's really a style preference, so do what you like.  For me, unless I'm at the lodge in the mountains, I prefer painted mill work and crown molding. It's OK to paint your moldings and trim.  It will be beautiful!!

MY LAST TWO RULES to follow and possibly the MOST important:

Great design doesn't have to cost a fortune. Collecting pieces over time and shopping tag sales, auctions and thrift stores is a great way to save money and find unique one-of-a kind pieces to add to your home.  When you do buy retail, the most expensive pieces don't always mean the best made or the highest quality; it's sometimes just simply high priced.  Do your homework and make sure that your money is well spent.

Only buy and surround yourself with what you love.  This is probably a good rule for life too... but as far as home decor and design go, just stick with what you love and it will become part of the charm and personality that makes your home uniquely you and an extension of yourself.   A beautiful place to live starts with having pieces that work for you and your family.  From furnishings to color palettes, if you love it, spending time in that space will feel good and isn't that what being home is all about?