Blog Anniversary, A Cat-Shaped Crossbody Purse, and Tending the Herbs

Hello lovelies!

It’s been a while since I have posted anything on here, and in my neglect, I failed to realize that yesterday was the one-year anniversary of my dear Consider the Peel. One year! A year ago I was unmarried, living with my grandparents, and experiencing my first real winter in about ten years!

Yesterday was a good first birthday for my blog (even though I didn’t realize that’s what it was at the time). It got up to 60 degrees in Gilbert, and the sun was beating brilliantly down. I went on a 4 and a half mile run, which was absolutely fantastic even though my shoes got soaked through.

When I wasn’t outside, I was spending my time making this cat crossbody purse.

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I will admit it took me forever to figure out how to do, since I made up my own pattern. I have this handicap when it comes to following someone else’s patterns – okay, so it’s less of a handicap and more of an impatient, pig-headed independence and a disposition of boredom while reading instructions. I don’t know how people normally come up with patterns. I am sure there is a science in there somewhere, but I’ve never had the patience to read about it. So I used my own method and fashioned this paper purse instead.

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Then I cut out of paper the same shapes with about a half an inch extra on every side, for seam allowance. I decided to use three layers of fabric (including a lining) to give the purse more structure and durability. After the fabric pieces had been cut out, it was all just a matter of thinking reeeaaaallly hard about which way to sew everything so it came out with all the sides facing the right ways. The lining was particularly difficult for me to figure out, but this informative video really helped me out.

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One of these days, I will figure out how to sew a buttonhole on my sewing machine, but for now it is handsewing for me. I don’t really mind it, of course.

In other news, today I finally decided to be a good plant mother and prune my struggling herbs. This winter has been a tough one on them (the window on who’s sill they sit is constantly frozen over on the inside) resulting in the demise of my basil, and the others worse for wear. I’m not sure my chamomile will survive. :’(  Nevertheless, after pruning, I now have this luminescent plate of fresh parsley and lavender leaves sitting on my window sill and smelling all spring-like. Wonderful.

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I have planted more basil, oregano, mint, rosemary, and dill and they are just now tiny little sprouts. Unfortunately, I do not know which is which anymore, as all my labels washed off.

Other than running, purse-making, herb-tending, and wife-being, I have been keeping busy with my Etsy shop Peels and Posies. Recently, I’ve made a lot of brooches, badges, fridge magnets, and little wall hangings. Now I have a question for you: Are cat purses something you would like to see in my Etsy shop?

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Sherlock Silhouette Brooch, Peels and Posies on Etsy, $11

:)

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5 Signs That May Indicate You Need a Pet

pretty kitty

When I was a little kid, having a pet was always my “thing.” I had so many hermit crabs and beta fish that eventually throwing them down the toilet became a regular activity. No need for tears. But these non-mammalian animals were merely precursors for the real thing. (I’m only a little ashamed that at age six I thought rodents could be considered real pets.)

So my first real pet was a mouse named Peanut. His death must have been extremely traumatizing to me, though, because I actually have no recollection of ever having a pet mouse named Peanut. The rest of my family had to convince me it was true over Christmas holiday. My second and favorite pet was a hamster, and ironically, his name was Goober. In homage to my pet mouse, perhaps?

When Goober died I went through a slew of other hamsters (whose names I no longer remember). One of them had a large litter of babies. I still have nightmares about the time I woke up to find that she had assassinated all but two of them. After this questionable experience, I retired as rodent owner and focused on the family dogs/guinea pigs.

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I won’t even go into the guinea pig story. All I can say is this – they reproduce like a contagious disease and it is a veeery bad idea to leave the lid of their outdoor hutch open.

So basically there were always pets in my life of some kind or another. Since going to college, however, I have been sadly bereft of a pet, and as my apartment does not allow them, it will be a while before I get one. However, I have been noticing a pattern of habits in myself that indicate my petlessness may be a bit of a problem.

They are as follows:

1. Sometimes when I am alone, I find myself talking to things in my apartment. Such as my kitty pillows. “Hi little kitty, would you like some coffee this morning? It’s really good. Oh, maybe you just want me to pet you.” … Yeah. At least if there was an animal – a living, breathing animal – that behavior would be excused. Kind of?

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2. I dream about animals on a nightly basis. Most recent one: a horde of ducklings was following me around, quacking “Mother.”

3. Occasionally, my procrastination leads me to the animal section of Pinterest. And doesn’t let me leave until I’m lying prostrate in the middle of my fluffy rug, rueing my lack of cute baby creatures to squeeze.

4. On the rather rare occasions that I do encounter an animal, I use a pet voice that has become dramatically higher and squeakier than the one I used when I was around animals on a daily basis. I think it has alarmed my husband multiple times.

5. Essentially everything I have created in the last few weeks has had to do with animals. Like these bunny pillows. Or this deer wall hanging. I’m even writing a story about a bunny. The madness never stops.

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If something similar is happening to you, you might think of investing in a furry little creature for yourself. I recommend a rabbit. That’s what is first on my list. Needless to say, I don’t think this petlessness is good for my health.

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Hello 2014!

Well, I’ve had a crazy, competitive, diverting, pleasurable, spirited, family-filled holiday reprieve, and now it is sadly coming to an end. Tomorrow my husband and I make our long trek back to Iowa, where the icicles are sure to skewer my heart after soaking in this warm Texas winter for the last two weeks.

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Some highlights of my Christmas vacation are as follows:

  • Rediscovering the game Killer Bunnies,  which is probably the most creative game I’ve ever played. From deadly lawn darts to killer whisks to carrot chefs and fountains of youth, this game is sure to entertain (if not completely and utterly confuse you). It is quite fun.
  • Finding the most beautiful fabrics at A Nimble Thimble in Tyler with my mom and sister. Literally, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a magnificent assortment of fabric anywhere, not even (gasp) Hobby Lobby.
  • Getting hours of Boggle under my belt with my siblings. Always a treasure.
  • Sorting through all my mom’s old patterns and fabric scraps.
  • Playing with my sister’s pet bunny, Watson, which consequently inspired a parody of Royals by Lorde, King Bunny style.
  • Doing 1000 pushups yesterday with my dad and husband. In case you didn’t know, doing 1000 pushups in one day is hard. And my body feels like it is on fire today.

I am definitely sad to be leaving my family tomorrow, and for more reasons than that it’s darn cold in Iowa. I’ll miss them a ton. However, I realize it’s time to get back to the real world; a new year, which means new responsibilities and new goals.

This year, my goals are as follows:

  • Grow my Etsy business, Peels and Posies, and try to make at least 100 sales.
  • Write and illustrate a children’s book.
  • Read through the whole Bible.
  • Get a bunny (okay, so maybe this isn’t a goal, but it is a dream I have…)

I am excited for 2014 and the opportunity it offers. My husband and I will be moving somewhere this year (we don’t know where yet), so it’s already destined to be a year of change, excitement, and adventures.

Hopefully, your year will hold good things as well. And for good luck, a video of Watson the bunny playing with yarn. :)

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DIY Christmas Gift Tags

Growing up, I remember my mom always used to buy an assortment of those stock Christmas gift tags for wrapped presents, the kind with grinning snowmen or cheesy holiday salutations (which I absolutely love). Honestly, though, it seemed like about half the time she’d forget to actually put the name of the recipient on the gift. I remember one year my brother Andrew opened three seasons of the TV show The Office and he was sooo excited. But my mom squealed, grabbed the package, and said, “Oh, I’m sorry!” We all looked at her in puzzlement. “That’s for Haleigh.” Boo-yah, best Christmas present ever, stolen from the very fingers of my good ole bro.

This little anecdote is all to say how important gift tags are, and they really don’t have to be the store bought kind. I personally enjoy painting my own gift tags. If you are not artistically gifted, however, there are still options for you.

  1. Glue vintage buttons and ribbon on square cardstock and write or type the to and from.
  2. Cut out scrapbook paper and layer it in interesting ways onto cardstock.
  3. Cut Christmas shapes (like gingerbread men, evergreens, snowmen) out of felt and embroider or draw the names on with felt marker.

However, if you’re really feeling the look of hand-painted Christmas tags this year, you are in luck! My hand-painted posie tags are available at my Etsy shop, Peels and Posies, and are downloadable. That means you can have them the day you buy them! Perfect if you’re in a wrapping bind. Otherwise, have a great time DIYing! <3

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All the Firsts I’m Thankful For

Somehow Thanksgiving snuck up behind me and clobbered me this year. Don’t ask me how it came so swiftly, because, honestly, I can’t believe a year has already passed since the last one.

The smells of turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes and pie have got me to thinking a lot about last Thanksgiving and all the events that have occurred between this one and that one. My life is quite a bit different now. For one, I’m celebrating the holiday in below-freezing weather, where as last year I’m pretty sure I was in shorts. But that’s just a minor thing.

There have been a lot of firsts for me this year, and I’m thankful for every one. Let me just name a few for you:

  1. Last Thanksgiving was the first time I ever made a stuffing-filled pumpkin. It was delicious.
  2. In December I got engaged. On a lovely sunny picnic. :)
  3. I moved to Iowa. The last time I lived in Iowa I was an infant. It’s dang cold up here and I have not gotten used to it
  4. Spring semester was the first time I’d attended a school in Iowa. Now I’ve been to schools in Kansas, Ohio, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Canada.
  5. I got stuck in a snow drift. While I cannot be directly thankful for this regrettable experience, it is a good story to tell. And I am sooooo grateful that it happened right next to my grandparents’ house.
  6. I got stuck in ditch. Another awful snow occurrence, but this one happened basically in the same place. And it makes the first story even funnier.
  7. I started a blog. Okay, so Consider the Peel technically isn’t my first blog, but it’s my first blog that counts.
  8. I bottle-fed a baby calf. :) DSCN0912
  9. Kitten in a flower pot. Enough said. DSCN0866
  10. Spring semester was the first time I skipped more classes than I attended while still managing to receive an A in the class. That was Geology 100, or Rocks for Jocks as it is popularly known.
  11. I nannied three small children full time.
  12. I graduated college. YAY.
  13. I got married. YAAAAY. ceremony kiss!
  14. I went to Nashville then North Carolina for the first time. Both beautiful places.
  15. I stole apples off an apple tree.
  16. I went to an NFL game. That means football. I went. To a football game. That’s big stuff.
  17. I got to see the place where F. Scott Fitzgerald was born (in St. Paul).
  18. I went to the American Girl Doll Store.
  19. I bottle fed then hung out with the coolest baby deer on the planet. DSCN1998
  20. I opened a business – Peels and Posies on Etsy.

I’m sure there are a thousand more awesome firsts I experienced this year, but these 20 are good for now. I really am grateful for all of the new things that happen in my life. I used to be afraid of change, but recently I’ve realized that change is absolutely imperative for growth – not only in yourself and your character, but in Christ.

This Thanksgiving (even though it is my first one ever not with the Robbins’ family, and not as a Robbins anymore) I want to give thanks for my amazing family who shaped me into the woman I am today. Without all the grueling hours of family meals, weird conversations, arguments about clothes with my sister, long car rides, and years of being stuck under the same roof with them, I would not be me. Mom, Dad, Andrew, and Mickey, I miss you guys so much!

Happy happy happy Thanksgiving, everyone. <3

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Give Thanks Wreath by Peels and Posies on Etsy

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Candy for Christmas Part 2: Lavender Truffles, Almond Truffles, and Almond Roca

As noted in my previous post ( My Adventures in Nougat Making…) I have been on approximately a week long quest to make candy for Thanksgiving/Christmas. I’ll tell you this much – I have consumed more sugar in this past week than I care to admit. It’s just impossible to make truffles and nougat and chocolate covered pretzels without ingesting some of it. Impossible, I tell you!

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I made plain truffles last year for Christmas, so I decided to get a little crazy with them this year, as you can tell. But not only are they decorated and fancy, they also are interestingly flavored – lavender and almond.

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As for the Almond Roca, this was the first time I’d ever made anything resembling toffee, which is basically what Almond Roca is. Actually, it is defined on Wikipedia as chocolate covered hard toffee with almonds, so there ya go. This process also involves a candy thermometer, so if you don’t have one of those and this confection sounds delicious, you better march yourself over to walmart and get one.

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Marbled Almond Roca (from Taste of Home Cookies & Candies)

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp boiling water
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

METHOD:

1. Sprinkle almonds on a greased 9 x 13″ baking pan. Bake at 300F for 15 or until toasted and golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.

2. In a large saucepan over low heat, cook butter and sugar for 5 minutes. Add water and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until your candy thermometer reaches 300 degrees (hard crack stage). Quickly pour over the almonds in prepared baking pan.

3. Sprinkle chocolate chips and white chocolate chips on top and let stand for a couple minutes, or until they are soft enough to spread. Commence to swirl.

4. Cool completely then break in pieces.

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Lavender Truffles

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp dried lavender buds
1 cup dark or white chocolate chips (or both!) for chocolate coating

METHOD:

1. Start melting chocolate chips on a double broiler. Meanwhile, place heavy whipping cream and lavender buds in a pan and bring to a simmer on medium low heat. Once chocolate is melted, pour heavy whipping cream through a strainer (so no lavender gets in the chocolate) and stir until smooth.

2. Place in fridge or freezer until hardened. Use a teaspoon to measure out balls – you may have to round them a little with your hands (this is where it gets messy). Place back in fridge or freezer until chocolate coating is ready.

3. Melt chocolate for chocolate coating in double broiler. Dip the ganache balls into the chocolate so they are completely coated. Roll in sprinkles, nuts, or coco powder for some fun.

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Almond Truffles

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup chocolate (white or dark) for chocolate coating.

METHOD:

1. Follow the same method as in the Lavender Truffles except replace lavender buds for almond extract while simmering the heavy whipping cream. No straining is necessary.

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My Adventures in Nougat Making, and Candy for Christmas

So a couple weeks ago I found this recipe for Crispy Candy Bars and I thought to myself, My husband would absolutely love this! I decided to make the interesting confection that appears to be a combination of Milky Ways and Little Debbie Star Crunches, both of which Grant deeply enjoys. Unfortunately, the whole affair was a complete disaster.

I had never made nougat before, but this recipe seemed simple enough. Heat the sugar and butter, add the peanut butter and marshmallow cream – ends up in a fantastically fluffy inner layer, right? No. I followed the directions exactly and ended up with a sticky, gooey, sloppy, runny mess. It was not pretty. (Grant still enjoyed the dessert, though, so not all my efforts were futile.)

From that moment, I made it my goal to master the art of nougat making. I did some research, bought a candy-making recipe book and a candy thermometer, and headed for the kitchen.

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It was still a sticky, gooey mess, but it actually turned out this time! Real nougat (not the “quick” kind from the recipe I found) is essentially just a mixture of cooked sugar and corn syrup and whipped egg whites. While it is a simple mixture, the tricky part is getting the sugar up to the right temperature so the nougat will have that traditional chewiness we all know and love. If the sugar is not cooked long enough, you will end up with a runny mess like I did the first time.

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I used the simple recipe for my nougat and added salted almonds, white chocolate chips, and dried cranberries. This candy is ultra sweet but is a great idea for Christmas gifts. Along with the nougat, I made Lavender Chocolate Truffles, Almond Chocolate Truffles, Almond Roca, and Chocolate Covered Pretzels to be shared with my extended family for our Thanksgiving/Christmas celebrations being celebrated in the upcoming week.

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Everyone loves candy, so it makes for the perfect gift! Not to mention I got the Christmas themed tins from Goodwill for super cheap.

Simple Nougat Recipe (from Making Sweets at Home by Claire Ptak)

INGREDIENTS:

Oil for greasing
2 scant cups caster sugar
1 tbsp corn syrup
1/2 scant cup water
1/2 cup honey
2 egg whites

METHOD:

1. Grease 9 x 9 cake pan liberally. Whip egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Leave to rest.

2. Combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in a pan. Cook until the mixture reaches 280 F. Warm the honey in a separate pan until just boiling and add it to the sugar syrup. Bring the mixture up to 290 F.  This process will take around 20 to 30 minutes, so be patient!

3. Turn the electric mixer on and drizzle sugar mixture into the whipped egg whites in a steady stream. Keep mixing until the nougat thickens (around 2 to 3 minutes). Pour mixture into greased pan and press down. It will be sticky, so I recommend greasing your fingers as well. Cover and leave to set for a couple of hours in the fridge.

4. For add-ins (like my salted almonds, white chocolate chips, and dried cranberries), either fold in before adding to the pan or add half the mixture, smooth down, add layer of add-ins, and pour the rest of nougat on top. I folded in the almonds and added the rest to the middle layer.

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