6:03 ET…12_21_2014

Winter solstice. Dark skies. Cold temps. No wonder bears and other animals decide to hibernate! Some days that indeed feels like the perfect plan. Today is the shortest day of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere, we get only 9 hours and 4 mins of light here. That’s kind of a bummer until you flip it around and realize the positive, that TOMORROW it immediately starts getting better! The days start getting LONGER! Another positive about the long winter nights is, that if there is a clear night, it can be spectacular star gazing.

WInter Stars

Isabella has decided to “accentuate the positive.” She is listening to music (“Baby it’s Cold Outside” just happens to playing as I type this. A fun winter song of dilemmas and choices that often makes both Izzy and I smile!) Izzy (her nick name) knows the importance of attitude as these dark days role thru the winter. Remember, the dark skies make the bright stars appear to shimmer and sparkle!

We (Izzy and I) want to remind you that Isabellas role, in the community of Botaniums, is that she is the driving force behind “The Knowledge Café.”  A place that strives to always offer a warm welcome to all that travel through the doors and to be a gathering place for all. The Knowledge Cafe is a place of wonderment for many and that delights Izzy. The Café not only houses the Joyful Sparkles Bakery of Julia with its delectable goodies and beverages, but also acts as a general store with books, handmade local gifts, fun technology, an art gallery as well as arts center, and sometimes even an art studio. All this helps foster friendships, and connections. Izzy believes in the importance of all these facets of life, especially the friendships and connections part-life is not nearly as much fun or interesting without those!

All this helps reminds her, and by proxy we hope you too, that life is actually pretty darn great….Despite winters cold temps, head colds, slush/mush, dark days, and some of the other less exciting winter attributes, there is still plenty of reason to smile, snuggle, enjoy and be happy.

According to Victor Hugo-Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.” How can we argue with a famous poet, novelist, dramatist?

…One kind word can warm three winter months. – Japanese Proverb…
Make Victor Hugo proud – use kindness and laughter to warm up these long dark winter days and nights!

Farmers Markets

 No farms – No food.Tractor

Although it’s dogmatic I still like this (No farms – No food) bummer sticker/slogan a lot. It’s all to easy to forget WHERE our food comes from. Do our kids know where food comes from other than the grocery store? Some yes, some no.

farmers’ market (also farmers market) is a physical retail market featuring foods sold directly by farmers to consumers. Farmers’ markets typically consist of booths, tables or stands, outdoors or indoors, where farmers sell fruits, vegetables, meats, and sometimes prepared foods and beverages. Farmers’ markets add value to communities.[1]  (Wikipedia) 

There are all kinds of Farmers Markets in the warmer seasons. They exist world-wide, reflecting each areas culture and flavors. When you stop to think about it Farmers Markets are about as old a tradition as they come.  A gathering of a few locals, selling food and wares, pretty much happening since sharing food began!. Time marched on and Trading Post came to be, then The General Store…take a million steps forward and we transferred that into mega grocery stores.  There are now some Markets attempting to bring us back to better health and making the shopping experience more connected-such as Whole Foods Markets.

Local Farmers Markets are a better ‘carbon footprint’ than any grocery store. Here’s why – The items are primarily all from LOCAL people, driving/transport is kept to a minimum due to the local factor. Now days you usually have an ‘organic‘ or ‘natural‘ element you can choose from, thus keeping pesticides and chemicals uses down. With small local markets the refrigeration is often coolers with ice, not those giant walk in cooler (which certainly DO have their place but also do take a LOT of energy to run.) Farmers Market food pretty much has to be fresh, and have had less time in storage. This equals a healthier food. Markets are generally outdoors, no energy needed for that solar lighting! Not to be left out is that the profit go directly to the farmer/grower/vendor. These are ALL bonus points for the individual, the community and the planet. . Recently a more sophisticated consumer is seeking out these factors/qualities more and more. The last really nice part is, if you attend your local Farmers Market regularly you will inevitably start-up a conversation, have fun food shopping, get to know a local farmer, and maybe a new neighbor! A local conversation and communication in-person, face to face. Now there’s a good old fashion true value!

 Hopkington Farmers MarketWe will be at The Hopkinton Farmers Market this sunday 1-5 pmBUY LOCAL, BUY FRESH!
Open every Sunday, June 16 through October 20 for the 2013 season.
1 pm to 5 pm.
Hopkinton Town Common
Street Parking.
Free Admission

Come get your produce, cheese, honey, meat, bread and wine (wine not every week), and ARTs, and/or some other special visiting vendor each week!!

(across from 11 Ash Street, Hopkinton MA)


Weather may be frightful…We’ll see….

Tomorrow ( Saturday 12/8) – May be a tad soggy in the morning but the afternoon is looking good! Planing on giving it a try if the weather cooperates.  Come down and see us at The Providence Holiday Market  11 (weather permitting) to 4pm.

A great day/place to bring your family Downtown and visit us at the Providence Holiday Market. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be roaming the area beginning at 12:00. The Ladies of the Rolling Pin will be dancing at 12:30. And Princess Rapunzel will be visiting the market all afternoon. Bring the kids and come on out. Bring your Camera and have some fun. If any one takes an amazing photo at the Market/of the Market (ahem, I am the judge) you will get a prize from The Botanical Beauties and Beasties! 

At the Holiday Market this week….Providence Granola, Fraggles and Friggles, Botanical Beauties and Beasties, Reynolds Barn, WIllywaw, Light Forge Studio, Jewelry from the Heart, Robin Hollow Farm, and Accounting for Taste

Bravo Wood Fired pizza will be feeding us this week. The Ladies of the Rolling Pin will be dancing at 12:30. Princess Rapunzel will be visiting the market and Santa and Mrs Claus will be out as well. It’s a great day to bring the family downtown. Hope to see you there.

Carolers and BBB3
Image from last market with The Very Merry Dickens Carolers on November 24. Each week holds NEW fun!!!!    Come on down –  see what we have in store for you THIS WEEK!


Like Pie? Like Art? Like Fairs?… how about gifts?

The weather forecast is glorious and we hope to see you there! This is a 2 part post… check the second half for a preview of our new Holiday Product line! You can click on the images to see them larger.

mug gift sets
This is a preview of our NEW READY TO GO GIFT SETS.
One more theme will be coming…but here is 3 out of 4!It’s a “pick and pay” easy peasy gift solution.There will be 4 themes:
3 are ready and will be available this weekend!

  • Jolie with a “Love to you” mug set.
  • Ron with a Garden mug set.
  • Vaboom with a Desk mug Set.
  • The 4th and final one is a DOG set- stay tuned!

♥ Jolie: Our Herbalist who creates, makes, produces, and shares her products of Herbs and natural oils for both Beauty and medical remedies. Her image is featured on her set, and the mug holds:
Delightful Body products made from all organic materials made by Garden Gate Herbals right here in Franklin MA : Lip Balm to pamper your fall and winter lips- either Lavender or Wintergreen / Comfrey Salve – for reliving minor rashes, insect bites wounds – like those paper cuts from gift wrapping! Rosehip or Lavender Glycerite: Rosehips are high in Vit. C and tasty too! Both are Calming for all ages. (Take a few drops on your tong or right down the hatch!) …Topping off  this set is 3 bookmarks,  a flower and gift box adornment.

♥ Ron: Our Master Garden and Climate change guy: His mug contains 3 packs of Burpee Garden seeds that all have long shelf lives-have fun and plant inside now or you can wait. They all have a small Garden Sick/Marker with a butterfly attached for Garden Dreaming all winter long! They too have a Body product, made by another woman who’s business is called: Aromatherapy for the 2 legged & the 4 legged,  this time so local it’s down the street! Enclosed is a Garden Lavender Salve  for soothing and calming yourself as needed! …Topping off  this set is 3 bookmarks and a gift box adornment.

♥ Vaboom: She is the Keeper of New Words, kindness and Eco words are her thing and she is champion of the Desk Set Gift. Her mug holds: 3 Bic Pens, 3 fun Pencils, 1 Ruler, 1 fun chunky roundish Pretty Pen, and a bottle of Mental Clarity  Spray. This spray helps keep the “muddle” at bay! This one is also by Aromatherapy for the 2 legged and 4 legged and is essential oils – you spray this very yummy warm and comforting spray in your “personal area” and you indeed feel better and “clearer in the head!” Amazing!! ..Topping off  this set is 3 bookmarks and a gift box adornment.

All are wrapped and ready to go! All include a small according folded pamphlet with a story about Collaboration, Community, woman helping woman in business and in life, and why that Botanical is champion of that gift set. Each package has a cushion on the base of eco friendly shredded paper, a clear bag, a ribbon and even a GIFT TAG… but you may still want to purchase a special Botanical Beauty Card as well!






Only 2 more left!

TWO more chances for this one! Local artisans, farmers and even free Reiki and Massage! Music plays and you can get “backyard dinner” for Whole Foods brings out the grill! Oh, and naturally, you can say hi to us and purchase some Mini Art, or more!

Alas, Never Fear, Whole Foods Market Bellingham has an October Festwhich we rare delighted to be part of!

October 28- so mark your calendars for a fantastic event!

Happy Birthday Julia Child!

100 years – Happy Birthday to a remarkable woman!

OH, and by the way…don’t forget
4:00 ON TO DUSK (7ish  or there about)

Happy Birthday Julia Child

Fun Food Friday- The end of an Arty week!

Carl Warners Book
Carl Warners Book - order link

I often watch a Sunday Morning TV on CBS show called “Sunday Morning”. It is a 90 minute show focused often on the arts “featuring videos, extended interviews, photo galleries and much more.” One Sunday morning a few months ago they (Sunday Morning) did a piece on Carl Warner, it made me smile and so I filed away the name away to share with you all, my readers, on a Fun Food Friday! Today, here it is: Art and Food- two of my favorites! By the way, videos showing Carl’s can be found on You Tube.

All this info is per www.carlwarner.com

“Born in Liverpool, England in 1963, he moved to Kent at the age of seven where as an only child he spent hours in his room drawing and creating worlds from his imagination having been inspired by artists such as Salvador Dali, Patrick Woodroofe and record sleeve artists such as Roger Dean and the work of Hipgnosis. Carl began his career by going to art college with a view to becoming an illustrator as he had a talent for drawing yet quickly discovered that his ideas and creative eye was better suited to photography as a faster and more exciting medium in which to work. After a year’s foundation course at Maidstone Art College he moved to the London College of Printing in 1982 to do a three year  degree course in photography, film and television. In 1985 he left to assist various photographers in the world of advertising for a year, after which he became one himself.

Although a very keen landscape photographer he initially established himself as a successful still life photographer, and then began to branch out into other areas of photography in the advertising world, shooting people and landscapes for a wide variety of products and brands. Over the past ten years he has been developing a body of work making landscapes out of food, and has been commissioned by many advertising agencies throughout the world to produce these for clients in the food industry.  ….

The Work

The ‘Foodscapes’ are created in Carl’s London studio where they are built on top of a large purpose built triangular table top. The scenes are photographed in layers from foreground to background and sky as the process is very time consuming and so the food quickly wilts under the lights. Each element is then put together in post production to achieve the final image.”

Please check out Carl’s work. I can pretty much guarantee you will smile, be a bit amazed and glad you did! Again, here is the website. http://www.carlwarner.com/

How could I resist? Gingerbread Folks. Fun Food Friday.

A quick reminder we will be at Whole Foods, Cranston RI today from 4-6 pm! It’s a Holiday Happening! 

Have you ever been to Longwood Gardens?  It is in Kennett Square, PA. and well worth the trip if you love gardens. In my garden days I got to go a few times… so glad I did.

Details: In 1906, industrialist Pierre du Pont purchased a small farm near Kennett Square, PA, to save a collection of historic trees. Throughout his life, Mr. du Pont indulged his passion for gardening, turning his small farm into a magnificent horticultural showplace. Today, Longwood Gardens is among the finest gardens in the world, promoting innovation in horticulture through world class display and research, and contributing to society through robust education programs, environmental stewardship and community engagement”

Now I subscribe to the blog and get these lovely reminders and notices of all things Longwood Gardens. When this crossed my screen on Wednesday, I just knew it had to be Fridays Fun Food Post.

” How to Make Gingerbread Ornaments at Home
December 14, 2011 by longwoodgardens

We are thrilled to welcome Liz Marden & her daughter Kat Marden from Liz Marden Bakery & Cafe in Kennett Square, PA as guest bloggers for Behind-the-Plants! Liz and Kat created more than 8,000 gingerbread cookies, as well as two stunning gingerbread models of the Conservatory and the Peirce-du Pont House that are used throughout this year’s Christmas display. They share their “construction grade” gingerbread recipe below! {Check out Liz Mardens Website. An award-winning European-style patisserie and bakery.}

Construction Gingerbread recipe Yield: 1 Gingerbread House or a lot of ornaments!

All Purpose Flour          6 ¾ cups
Ground Cinnamon        1 Tablespoon
Ground Ginger              1 ½ teaspoons
Salt                                ½ teaspoon
Light Corn Syrup           1 ½ cups
Light Brown Sugar        1 ¼ cups firmly packed
Butter                               1 cup

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 F. Get all of your ingredients and measuring cups together. Choose cookie cutters!
Step 2: Sift flour, cinnamon, ginger, and salt and place in large bowl.
Step 3: In a saucepan over medium heat, combine light corn syrup, brown sugar, and butter, stir. Do not boil – heat only until butter is melted.
Step 4: Pour butter mixture into the bowl with the flour mixture and stir until well mixed and dough is formed.
Step 5: Roll out gingerbread dough with a rolling pin on a piece of parchment paper* while the dough is still warm – if dough cools put in microwave for 45 to 60 seconds to reheat. This makes rolling much easier.
*Parchment paper is available at quality kitchen supply stores.
Step 6: Using your chosen cookie cutter, cut out the cookies, peel away excess gingerbread from parchment paper and save to re-roll. If you are going to hang the ornaments, poke the holes now with a straw, taking away the excess gingerbread.
Step 7: Bake until golden brown and firm to the touch approximately 15 to 25 minutes.

To Decorate: We like to make royal icing the easy way – with meringue powder. Mix it up, make it any color then pipe away! We used a pastry bag with a #4 round tip. You can also use a plastic bag that zips with the corner snipped off.

Royal Icing Recipe

Meringue Powder         3 Tablespoons
Confectioners’ Sugar    1 lb.
Water, lukewarm          7 Tablespoons

Combine meringue powder and confectioners’ sugar in bowl. Whip with electric hand mixer on low speed, adding water one tablespoon at a time. Then continue to whip on medium speed for 8 minutes until icing becomes stiff, but not too stiff to pipe. Keep royal icing bowl covered at all times with a damp towel to keep it from drying out!

Voila! Easy, homemade ornaments beautiful enough to decorate any tree!

Note: to see images/photos of these steps check out the article itself from Longwood Gardens.

~ See you on Monday — Cheers to the weekend!

Peppermint Hot Chocolate, 2 takes. Fun Food Friday!

Julia and 2 mugs of Hot Chocolate
One for you and one for me! Yummy.

Peppermint Hot Chocolate seems to be all the rage this year, from DD and McDonals to gourmet coffee shops! Julia jumps in and offers 2 varieties.

#1 Peppermint White Hot Chocolate

Prep Time: 8 mins  Cook Time: 8 mins  Total Time: 16 mins


  • 4 cup(s) milk, lowfat (1%)
  • 7 piece(s) peppermint candies
  • 1/2 cup(s) chocolate chips, white (We image dark would be fine too)
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 4 piece(s) peppermint candies
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup, light-colored (or Agave syrup?)
  • 6 tablespoon whipped dessert topping, fat-free (or not)


1. Cook milk in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until warm (do not boil). Add 7 crushed peppermint candies, stirring until candies dissolve. Add white chocolate, stirring with a whisk until chocolate melts. Cook until tiny bubbles form around edge of pan (do not boil), stirring constantly with a whisk. Remove from heat; stir in extract.

2. Coarsely crush 2 peppermint candies; set aside. Finely crush remaining 2 peppermint candies. Coat rims of 6 mugs with corn syrup. Place 2 finely crushed peppermint candies in a saucer; dip rim of each mug in candies to coat. 3. Pour 2/3 cup hot chocolate into each mug; top each serving with 1 tablespoon whipped topping. Sprinkle 2 coarsely crushed candies evenly over topping.

Yield: 6 servings.Nutritional Info (Per serving):  Calories: 199, Saturated Fat: 4g, Sodium: 105mg, Dietary Fiber: 0g, Total Fat: 6.5g, Carbs: 29.5g, Cholesterol: 7mg, Protein: 6g   Carb Choices: 2   Thanks to EveryDay Health for that one.

Now we’re talking holiday Cheer!

#2 Hot Chocolate with Peppermint Schnapps 
Recipe courtesy Michael Chiarello @ Foodnetwork.com
Prep Time: 5 min    Cook Time:5 mi     Serves: 6 servings

1 quart milk (skim, 2 percent or whole) or half-and-half
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (recommended: Scharffenberger)
9 ounces peppermint schnapps
Whipped cream, for serving
6 peppermint sticks, for serving

  • Directions
  • Heat 1 cup of the milk in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add chocolate, stirring constantly, until melted. When the chocolate has melted, increase heat to medium and add the remainder of the milk while whisking rapidly. Do not allow to boil.
  • Serve in small cups fortified with a jigger (1 1/2 ounces) of peppermint schnapps and a dollop of whipped cream. Add a peppermint stick to stir.  If transporting in a thermos, heat thermos up with hot water to get it warm for 1 minute. Pour water out and fill with hot chocolate.


OH – We almost forgot….WEDDING BELLS!  A Huge Congratulations to Mark and Margaret today! The whole gang wishes you guys ALL the best and all the beauties possible! ♥♥♥♥♥♥ (FYI, Mark,the orange is for you!)

Figgy Pudding: Two Ways – Old and New?

Wednesday Julia was holding the Figgy Pudding – so, as promised….
a Figgy Pudding sing a-long fa la la  (and recipes)

…Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer

We won’t go until we get some;We won’t go until we get some;
We won’t go until we get some, so bring some out here…

Since Figgy Pudding is traditional an English sustenance… I went to the source, the BCC!

Figgy pudding

  • 175g/6oz dried figs
  • 100ml/3½fl oz brandy
  • 50g/2oz self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 175g/6oz breadcrumbs
  • 100g/3½oz shredded vegetarian suet
  • 225g/8oz chopped dates
  • 90g/3¼oz golden raisins
  • 1 orange, zest and juice only
  • 5cm/2in piece fresh root ginger, grated or juiced to retain only the juice
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • butter, for greasing
  • custard, to serve

Preparation method

  1. Place the figs into a bowl and pour over the brandy. Leave to soak overnight, then drain (reserving the brandy) and roughly chop the figs.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the flour, nutmeg, breadcrumbs, suet, dates and raisins.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the reserved brandy, orange zest and juice, ginger juice and eggs until well combined.
  4. Add the brandy mixture into the flour mixture and mix well to combine, until smooth and free of lumps. Stir in the figs, then spoon the mixture into a 1 litre/2 pint pudding dish and cover with buttered greaseproof paper followed by cloth or kitchen foil. Secure well with kitchen string.
  5. Steam in a large pan of water for four hours, topping up the water as necessary throughout, or until the pudding is cooked through and springy to the touch.
  6. Unwrap the pudding basin and serve the pudding in slices with custard.
Figgy Pudding #2__________________________________________________

The above seems a bit time consuming – so here is the faster easier, less demanding of you, Figgy Pudding (a simplified version) -It is from the December 2004 issue of Good Housekeeping, and author Laura Kalpakian. Read more: Figgy Pudding Recipe – Laura Kalpakian What Is Figgy Pudding – Good Housekeeping

One package of dried figs (10 to 12 ounces). Put them in a saucepan with enough hot water to cover, at least 2 cups. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Let sit until soft (a few hours).

Once soft, remove figs from the water and place in a bowl. Save the water, which will already be fragrant, and add a cup of sugar (optional). Bring to a boil and let reduce slightly. Remove from heat. Add a bit, perhaps 1 tablespoon, maybe more, of orange-flower water. Cool.

Chop up your figs. Chop them fine, but do not pulverize. Do this by hand.
Using a boxed cake mix for carrot cake, follow the directions, but instead of the water they request, use the fragrant sugary water from the figs. (Save the remainder of this water.) Then add oil and eggs as recommended on the carrot cake mix. Add some cinnamon (about 1/2 teaspoon) and a lot of fresh-grated nutmeg (about 1/4 teaspoon). Mix in a food processor. At the end, toss in the fig pieces and beat in a bit. Turn into a bowl and add a bunch of sliced almonds (about 1/2 cup) and some raisins (about 1/3 cup) that have been softened in brandy if you like. Add the grated peel of one orange and a big dollop (1 tablespoon) of marmalade.

Line a big metal bowl (about 4 quarts) with foil. Use enough foil that you will have a big collar around the top of the bowl. Spray the foil with nonstick spray. Pour your cake batter into the foil-lined bowl. Set into preheated 350° oven for 30 minutes, then bring the collar gently over top of cake. Continue for another hour and half. Use a skewer to test (it will come out clean when pudding is done). It will take a while because it is dense.
Remove from oven and cool overnight.  Uncover and overturn onto a big serving platter. Carefully remove foil. The cake will be a mound, its size depending on the depth of your bowl.

To serve, take the reserved fig-and-sugar syrup and add to this maybe 1/4 to 1/2 cup of brandy or rum. Heat. You can, if you wish, ignite as you would for plum pudding, but it tastes just fine with the sauce poured over it just before serving. Use whipped cream or crème fraîche with each serving. (If your cake is less than perfect to the eye, you can instead quickly frost the cold cake with whipped cream, covering any imperfections, and serve the warm sauce on the side.)

Read more: Figgy Pudding Recipe – Laura Kalpakian What Is Figgy Pudding – Good Housekeeping

Julia figgy pudding

Holiday sing along..

What we expect, and at this point even want…
“Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we’ve no place to go,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! ”
…but it’s not-it was a record-breaking 67˚ in Boston on Tuesday, can you say ODD? Do you think cyclical weird? Climate issues? Hard not to.

~ regardless ~

Julia is getting ready, baking and cooking up a storm. (pun intended – ha ha, fa la)
She has her magic elf boots and Xmas cactus cap on, there’s nothing she can’t do now!
Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa or whatever your winter celebration may be, they are all right in front of us now. One more day and it is December. That too is amazing.

Julia in a Holiday mode
Julia in Holiday mode… magic hat and boots, she’s ready to go!

That’s Figgie pudding she is holding… more about that on Fun Food Friday!