i am creating the life i love.

how to: dandelion syrup May 13, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandy @ 2:32 am

Oh, dandelions. Long branded as a useless weed. I remember in second grade during a recess I picked a bouquet of them for my teacher, Mrs. Bugno. When I proudly presented the gift to her she scowled (as she did most of the time) and threw them on the ground. “These are weeds. Stupid weeds. Don’t pick these anymore, it’s a waste of time.” Mrs. Bugno made me cry on many occasions but this just broke my little 7-year old heart. I was trying to be generous!

Many years later I found a use for all of those “stupid weeds.” Actually, dandelions have many uses, including being put in salads, wines, teas, and also are sometimes used for medicinal purposes. But I’m not here to talk about those. I’m here to talk about SYRUP. Delicious, amazing dandelion syrup.

Last year I had a wonderful time picking dandelions with my friend Channa and her three adorable boys. This year I was helped by the kids I nanny for. They were enthusiastic about the idea, which was great because a lot of people make a yuck face when I tell them about it. They picked quite a few for me and then I went out by myself later when I got home and picked the rest. That batch disappeared very quickly so I went out last night to pick more for two more batches. I’m glad I went when I did because while I walked the dog this morning I noticed that most of the dandelions had closed up on their way to becoming the lovely, fluffy things that I used to make wishes on. Anyway, here is a step-by-step guide to making your own delicious syrup. It takes time but it’s totally worth it:

Go out and pick (or get someone else to pick) 250 dandelion tops, give or take a few.

I’m glad I went when I did–a lot of them were starting to look like this:

Some people end up cutting off the green part because it’s bitter but I left them on because I’m lazy. Really all you want to avoid is the stems. Just take the tops. It doesn’t make much of a difference taste-wise. To me it’s not worth the extra work!

Put your tops in a pot and cover them with 4 cups of water. Press down on the tops so that they are all somewhat submerged. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat. Cover and simmer for 1 hour.

After you’re done simmering, let the tops cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for 12 hours.
The next day, using cheesecloth or a mesh strainer, strain the water from the tops back into your pot. Squeeze or push down on the tops to get all of the water out that you can. Mix in 2 pounds of sugar and the juice of 1 lemon. (NOTE: I bought a pack of sugar that was labeled 4 pounds but I used a kitchen scale to measure the exact amount I needed and it ended up being closer to three quarters of the package. I would recommend actually measuring the sugar. Also, if you have no lemons on hand but you do have lemon juice, use about 3 or 4 tablespoons.)
This is what it looks like once you mix the water, lemon and sugar:

Simmer the mixture for 2 hours, until the sugar is all dissolved and the consistency is syrupy. When it is close to being done it will develop a foam on top like this:

Let it cool (it will thicken as it cools) and enjoy!! You can put it on pancakes or waffles, in your oatmeal, or (my favorite) mix a couple of tablespoons with a cup of club soda and a couple of ice cubes for the perfect summertime drink! I preserved some to give to friends and family. This was how much I got from one batch. I also printed out some cute labels for the tops (thanks to Merriment Design for the label template!!).

I love the dark amber color. I can already taste it.

If you end up making any, leave me a comment and let me know how you liked it!!


ice cream. April 21, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandy @ 2:23 am

It’s getting warmer in Cleveland. I sort of hate the winter. It’s long and cold and seemingly never ending. But at least it’s pretty at times:

But warm(er) temperatures have been sneaking in so a couple of weeks ago Andy and I got out of the house.

We started out at the Higbee Building on Public Square for the Pecha Kucha event. Higbee’s (known for being the set for the Santa scene from the movie “A Christmas Story”) is generally off-limits to the public since it closed in 2002 but every once in a while people are let in. We went up to the 10th floor where I was drawn to the windows to see the view of Public Square from above.

Key Bank tower, across the way.

An awkward photo of the Terminal Tower. We were technically in it, but off to the side.

Public Square.

Andy in the old, fancy elevator that was also quite terrifying.

The next day we started out with Chinese food…
A mysterious fortune:

…and ended up at a few thrift stores and eventually headed to the Gordon Square Arts District for some delicious goodness.

One of my favorite reasons for heading to Gordon Square.

We wanted to check out Sweet Moses, the new Soda Fountain that opened last month. It’s named after Moses Cleaveland, the founder of our great town.

I smiled immediately after we walked in. It’s so cute inside!!


Andy ordered a peanut butter and fudge sandwich with potato chips on it and a root beer float. THEY MAKE THEIR OWN ROOT BEER. I am kind of a root beer junkie and I was absolutely in love.

This was my treat. It was enormous and I have to admit that I felt intimidated by its size. I was unsure why exactly pretzels were served with my ice cream but it soon became clear. After the sweetness of the ice cream, the salty crunch of the pretzels was pretty much the most perfect thing ever. I even ended up stealing Andy’s and dipping them in the ice cream. Watching them make it was pretty interesting, too. It was a very involved process.

Sweet Moses was wonderful. It smelled amazing and was very aesthetically pleasing. Everyone was super friendly and it’s so laid back and cozy and welcoming. Not to mention tasty!! I want to go back again and again and again.

After all of that ice cream settled in our bellies we headed down the street to one of my other favorite places, Gypsy Beans coffee. It’s well known that Gypsy serves amazing coffee, but the food there is excellent as well. We stayed for a bit, reading the newspaper and talking. What a wonderful way to unwind and wait for evening to set in.

I’m really looking forward to more beautiful weather. The outdoors is calling!!


feast your eyes. March 9, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandy @ 12:37 am
Tags: ,

I know it is almost mid-March but I still wanted to share these because they were DELICIOUS. I baked them for Andy for Valentine’s Day and I had a few extra so I froze them and whenever I want to enjoy a yummy treat I just pull one out of the freezer and wait a few minutes for it to thaw. No frosting required! They’re all vanilla cupcakes with homemade vanilla creme inside. After filling the cupcakes with creme I topped them off with some strawberry preserves my mom canned this summer. Mmm!!

After the pictures I’ve included the recipe for my vanilla filling so you can enjoy it, too!!

Vanilla Creme Filling

*2 tbsp flour
*1/2 cup milk
*1/2 c butter
*1/2 c sugar
*1 tsp vanilla extract (it doesn’t even have to be vanilla–do almond or mint or whatever!)

~Whisk together the flour and milk and cook it in a small saucepan over medium heat until thick. This will only take a couple of minutes but stir it continuously to prevent clumping and do not bring it all the way to a boil. This is very important!! It will burn easily and clump beyond repair so watch carefully! When it has thickened to the consistency of a thin pudding, strain with a mesh strainer into a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let it cool completely to room temperature.
~When the milk mixture is cool, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add in the milk mixture and vanilla extract. Beat at high speed with a mixer for 7 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Scrape into a pasty bag or ziploc bag with one corner cut off. Set aside.
~I filled my cupcakes by cooling after baking and then cutting a cone out of the top with a small knife. The cone should be about 1″ across and 1″ deep. Cut the tip off of the cone. Squeeze about a tablespoon of the filling into the cupcake. Replace the top and frost. Now eat and enjoy!!


Etsy is my Pocketbook’s Enemy. March 2, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandy @ 2:45 pm
Tags: ,

I made almost everyone’s Christmas gifts this year. I got totally burned out. I thought it would be fun but instead it was a chore and left me tired and sick of sewing. So instead of creating handmade things, I’ve been buying them. Here is a sample of what I’ve bought recently (if I posted everything you’d be scrolling for days).

Mustachio’ed robot t-shirt by Il Corvo.

Lilac rose on an antique locket from Hot Pink Chick.

Yellow rose earrings from Hot Pink Chick.

Sloth print by Berkley Illustration.

Cream rose earrings by Barberry and Lace.

Peach flower ring by Barberry and Lace.

Eucalyptus and tea tree oil soap from Belle Terre.

Day of the Dead print by Kiri Moth Designs.

Whew!! I am working on some creative projects. I will write about those soon.


new huggable horribles. June 23, 2010

Filed under: creations,huggable horribles — mandy @ 1:00 am
Tags: ,

I recently finished a custom order for two Huggable Horribles creatures for a friend of my mom’s. She gave them to her grandchildren :)

I like them. They’re cute.


roses. May 28, 2010

Filed under: photos — mandy @ 1:32 am

My yard is full of roses.

I love them. They’re beautiful and I can smell them when I open my bedroom windows.
Andy and I visited the Cleveland Asian Festival last weekend. We only spent a brief amount of time there because a storm rolled in and I didn’t want to get caught in the downpour. We did get to watch the dragon dance, though.

I love Cleveland in the summertime.


post-Giveaway day. May 24, 2010

Filed under: giveaways — mandy @ 11:32 pm

May Giveaway Day was a hit! I was surprised by the amount of feedback I received–I thought I’d get 5 comments, 10 tops. I asked everyone to share a not-so-great sewing moment. I got a lot of entries about things I can relate to–trouble with interfacing, sewing things together with the wrong sides facing together, having to rip out zillions of stitches, making patterns too small, ruining expensive fabrics, and problems with those dreaded zippers. The worst by far were the stories of people accidentally running their fingers through machines and under needles–something I’ve (fortunately) never had to experience. But it’s only a matter of time, right?

I definitely want to participate in giveaway day next year. I signed up for a few giveaways myself! I also found a lot of new blogs to read. I might do more giveaways in the meantime, if anyone is interested.

So thanks to everyone who commented on my blog post and offered giveaways of their own to help make giveaway day such a success!