Grilled Fairy Tale Eggplant

The Crafty Hostess: MakeLast week, I spent time poking around my local farmers market. If you’ve never been to one, I encourage you to get to one before the summer is over. It’s such a feast for the eyes; vibrant colors and a variety of textures that are not only visually appealing, but pleasing to the palate, too. As I browsed through the weekly selection of fresh fruits and veggies, I gathered inspiration for farm-to-table fare that my family would enjoy. This trip, I found a dainty eggplant called Fairy Tale. This petite vegetable is sweet with tender skin and very few seeds. For a simple side dish or appetizer, just season with salt, pepper and olive oil and grill whole until lightly charred!

fairy tale eggplant 2

fairy tale eggplant

Grilled Fairy Tale Eggplant
  • Fairy Tale eggplants, left whole with stems attached
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • Olive oil
  1. Wash the eggplant under cold water; pat dry.
  2. Leave the stems on; cut the eggplant down the center to butterfly it.
  3. Season with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  4. Grill on both sides, until lightly charred.
  5. Remove from the grill and if desired, drizzle with a little more olive oil and a sprinkling of more salt.


Leave a Comment

Filed under by Danielle, Make

Toilet Tissue Flower Holders

CreateMy friend and neighbor, Allison, shared this adorable craft with me. These sweet little flower holders are a pretty way to embellish something that sits in every bathroom — toilet tissue! In many newer bathrooms, homeowners opt to use a free-standing toilet tissue holder on the floor rather than mounting a holder into the wall.  This simple and affordable craft is a good way to add visual interest to the boring white toilet tissue rolls that are sitting on the holder. And, it’s fun to color code the holders to coordinate with your bathroom color scheme. Read on for more clever ways to display these pretty holders and for the how-to!

toilet paper flowers


Here are some other great ways to put this cute creation to use:

  • Bridal shower bathroom basket
  • New home bathroom basket gift
  • Selling your home? Add a pretty little touch to the bathrooms for potential home buyers to see.
  • Company coming? Set a few of these in the guest bathroom!


Materials needed:

  • Green twine
  • Flowers of your choice, preferably on a clip (Michaels, AC Moore or any craft store carry these)


How to:

  1. Wrap the twine around the toilet tissue roll twice.
  2. Clip the flower in the center of the twine. If the flower does not have a clip, either tie the twine around the flower of very carefully add a drop of hot glue to adhere it to the twine.
  3. Make a tower or stack them!




Leave a Comment

Filed under by Danielle, Crafts, Create, Home Decor

Upcycled DIY Birdhouse

CreateIt’s summer, and that means lots of time spent outside! My three kids just love to be outdoors; running, swinging, playing, jumping in rain puddles on the driveway, even watching the birds, squirrels and chipmunks frolic in our yard. We get such a vibrant assortment of birds in our garden, it’s like a rainbow of color every morning — Blue jay, Cardinal, Hummingbird, American Goldfinch — the kids watch them fly through the yard and land on the birdfeeder hanging in our maple tree. The birds get to enjoy the warm summer weather and I get to enjoy my morning coffee while watching the kids play and listening to the birds chirp!

When International Delight approached me and other bloggers about forming a social collaboration this year, I immediately knew that one of my projects would be to create a birdhouse. I know, you’re probably thinking “what does coffee creamer have to do with birdhouses”? Well, in a previous post, I wrote about the upcycling trend and shared my DIY succulent garden, which I created using an empty International Delight coffee creamer bottle. Now, I’ve used the empty bottle to create a birdhouse to add to my garden of summer delight. Read on to learn how to create one of your own — and don’t forget to follow International Delight on Pinterest to see more summer ID moments!

birdhouse 2

birdhouse 1


Materials needed:

  • Empty International Delight coffee creamer bottle, 32-ounce size
  • 1 8-inch wood dowel, 1/8-inch in diameter
  • Scissors
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Spray paint in three different colors (I used Rustoleum brand for interior/exterior use on wood, metal, plastic)
  • Jute twine
  • Wood letter, 1 1/2-inch size (I used an “A” for our last name; this gives it a personal touch!)
  • Ruler or tape measure
  • Handheld razor saw
  • Hot glue / glue gun


How to:

  1. Remove the blue cap from the empty bottle; set aside.
  2. Remove the colored label/packaging around bottle; discard.
  3. On the flat side of the bottle (the side without the indented ribs), use your ruler to make a straight line across the top of the flat, rounded section.
  4. Using a sharp scissor or, cut along the shape of the flat section. This will be the opening of the birdhouse. Cut away or smooth out any rough pieces of the plastic.
  5. In a well-ventilated area like an open garage, or outside, spray the bottle with the body color that you’ve chosen (I used Fire Orange).
  6. Using the trim color that you’ve chosen, spray paint the blue cap (I used Hunt Club Green). Allow to dry completely.
  7. Next, you’ll need to spray paint the wood letter. I suggest a third color, in this case, I thought white would be a nice contrast to the bright orange and dark green. Allow to dry completely.
  8. Using a sharp knife, very carefully make an “X” in the center of the cap. This will be where you insert the jute twine from which to hang the birdhouse.
  9. Spray paint a wood dowel the same color as the wood initial/letter. About 1-inch to 1 1/2-inches from the bottom of the birdhouse opening, make a hole through both the front and back of the bottle for the dowel to sit. The dowel will be the perch for the bird to sit on. Insert the dowel through the front of the birdhouse, into the opening in the back. Push it through so there’s an even amount of dowel on both sides.
  10. Using a hot glue gun, glue the letter onto the front of the bottle, centered in between the top of the cap and the top of the birdhouse opening. Allow to dry.
  11. Open bottle cap and insert both ends of the twine through the larger pour spout, up through the top of the cap. Needle nose pliers will help you grab the ends of the twine and pull it through. The length of the twine will depend on where you’ll be hanging the birdhouse and how long you want it to be. Working with jute is not easy because it tends to fray easily. To ensure that the ends don’t fray, wet them with water and twist them tightly.
  12. Tie a tight knot under the cap so the twine does not come through the top of the cap. Close the cap. Tie another knot with the two ends of the twine. This will be how you’ll hang your birdhouse. Ensure that the knots are secured tightly so the house won’t fall out of the tree!
  13. Finally, using the hot glue gun, secure a strip of the jute twine around the opening of the birdhouse. This is an optional step, but it gives an extra decorative touch to the project and ties in nicely with the twine used to hang the house.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of International Delight. The opinions and text are all mine.

Leave a Comment

Filed under by Danielle, Crafts, Create, In the Garden

Sweet & Spicy Giardinera

The Crafty Hostess: MakeTake advantage of all that the summer season has to offer by hand-picking the fresh ingredients for this sweet and spicy spin on the classic Italian pickled vegetables, or giardinera. Spend a lazy Saturday morning browsing through your favorite local farmers market for vibrant carrots, cauliflower, celery or peppers, then get your canning tools ready! These colorful jars of veggies are the perfect lunch or snack with a piece of crusty bread and also make a great summer food gift. Now’s the time to pick your veggies and get pickling!

sweet_spicy giardinera

Sweet & Spicy Giardinera
  • 5 cups water
  • 5 cups white vinegar (I like to use a combination of distilled white vinegar and champagne vinegar)
  • 6 Tbsp. sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. salt
  • 7 bay leaves
  • Black peppercorns or a medley of mixed peppercorns
  • Mustard seeds
  • 7 dried red Chile peppers
  • 7 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
  • Slender young carrots, leafy tops removed
  • Cauliflower florets, cut into bite-sized pieces
  1. In a large saucepan, combine water, vinegar, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar and salt dissolves. Remove from heat.
  2. Add one bay leaf, one clove of garlic, one Chile pepper and a sprinkling of peppercorns and mustard seeds to the bottom of each sterilized jar.
  3. Arrange the cauliflower florets in the bottom of the jar, packing them in carefully.
  4. Holding the jar at an angle, add the carrots (left whole) vertically, resting them on top of the cauliflower, so they are standing up.
  5. Add more cauliflower to the top of the jar, leaving about ¾-inch of headspace at the top of the jar. If desired, sprinkle some more peppercorns and mustard seeds on top.
  6. Ladle the hot brine into the jars, leaving about ½-inch gap at the top.
  7. Screw the metal lid with band on tightly (I like to use the Ball band tightening tool to ensure that I have a good seal).
  8. For shelf-stability, process the jars in a water bath for 15 minutes. Then allow to cool to room temperature. As long as the lids are all the way down and on tightly (meaning that no air can get into the jar), you can store in a pantry or other cool, dry place for up to one year.
  9. If using right away, there's no need to process in water bath. However, they will only keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
This brine recipe yielded 7 12-ounce jars (with a little brine leftover).
Recipe modified from Cambria Style magazine, summer 2013.



Leave a Comment

Filed under by Danielle, Make

Easy Macaroni Salad

The Crafty Hostess: MakeWhen I think of homemade macaroni salad, it always reminds me of my grandmother. She would make it countless times during the summer for our family to enjoy, whether for lunch alongside a “cold cut” sandwich or for a family cookout. My version is reminiscent of hers and that first forkful takes me right back to summertime as a kid. Give this one a try for the upcoming 4th of July weekend; it’s a true crowd pleaser! Make extra, because the longer this sits in the fridge, the better it tastes; it’s great for lunch during the week!

macaroni salad

Easy Macaroni Salad
  • 1 lb. box of Barilla Celentanni pasta (or other spiral shaped pasta, like fusilli)
  • About 1 cup of Hellmann's mayonnaise
  • About 2 heaping Tbsps. Grey Poupon dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped into small pieces
  • A handful of shredded carrots, chopped
  • A handful of raw broccoli florets, roughly chopped into pieces
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper, until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Boil the pasta and drain off the water completely.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta and all of the raw veggies.
  4. Pour the dressing mixture over the pasta and toss well so that all of the pasta and veggies are coated with the dressing.
  5. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
I like to make this dish at least a couple of hours to one day before I'm serving, as it allows the dressing to really soak into the pasta and veggies.




Leave a Comment

Filed under by Danielle, Holidays, Make

Moist, Golden Ricotta Cake

BakeA friend of mine came across this recipe on facebook a couple of months ago. It was absolutely delicious and so easy to make. And since it’s made with ricotta cheese, it really should be kept in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Now that the summer is in full swing and the temperatures are hovering around the 90-degree mark, it’s actually nice and refreshing to have a cool dessert. This recipe is made in a large, 9 x 13 pan, so it’s perfect to feed a crowd. I like to slice it into squares that way everyone can have a taste. The ricotta mixture becomes the bottom layer of this cake, keeping it light and refreshing!


Moist, Golden Ricotta Cake
  • 1 box of yellow cake mix
  • 2 lbs. ricotta cheese, drained of any liquid
  • 4 eggs
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp. anise or almond extract (I used the almond extract)
  1. Prepare the cake mix according to the directions on the box. Set aside.
  2. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 baking pan. I prefer to use metal when baking a cake like this, as it cooks more evenly.
  3. In a separate bowl, using a hand mixer, beat together the ricotta cheese, eggs, sugar and extracts until smooth.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Pour the cake mix into the bottom of the baking pan in an even layer.
  6. Next, pour the ricotta mixture over the cake batter. Do NOT stir into the batter. Smooth out the layer of ricotta with a spatula.
  7. Bake for about one hour or until the top is golden brown and the batter/ricotta is set.
  8. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.
  9. I like to make it the day before and keep in the refrigerator so it sets really well. To serve, slice into squares. Dust with confectioners' sugar if desired.



Leave a Comment

Filed under Bake, by Danielle

‘She Sells Seashells’ Hostess Gift

CreateLooking for a stylish, seasonally-appropriate and above all, useful, hostess gift? Staying as an overnight guest and want to bring a little something along to say ‘thank you’? Put together this pretty, seashell-themed gift and impress someone special with a grouping of items that they can use for summertime, outdoor entertaining! I made three of these for my son’s teachers as an end-of-the-year present, but they are also lovely to give to a hostess.

summer hostess gift

summer hostess gift 2

Usually, when I’m putting together a themed gift like this one, something will catch my eye and at that point, I’m able to visualize the gift and all of its elements in my mind. For this beachy, ocean-inspired grouping, I found the melamine seashell platter at my local Christmas Tree Shop and that became the foundation; the spark for the idea. Once you have the basic grouping of items, it’s easy to add elements in that fit with the theme and color palette. I added the paper plates and napkins, nested on top of the platter. The teal citronella candle, I found at my local grocery store in the seasonal aisle. Fun, festive beverage straws were hiding in the dollar bins at my neighborhood CVS Pharmacy, also in the seasonal aisle.

Imagination, willingness to shop and budget are really your only limitations. There are some many things that could be added to this grouping, like a box of good quality salt water taffy, if you’re able to find some. The next time you’re in need of a gift for the host of a summer soiree, backyard BBQ or beach house owner, think beyond a bottle of wine and put your creativity to the test!

Leave a Comment

Filed under by Danielle, Create, Entertaining

Roasted Pepper, Mozzarella & Spinach Oven-Baked Sandwich

The Crafty Hostess: MakeIf you think a sandwich is just for lunch, think again!  This sandwich, made with layers of homemade roasted peppers, thick slices of fresh mozzarella and tender leaves of baby spinach, becomes warm, gooey and toasty in the oven. Yep, it’s the perfect lunch, but… I served this deliciousness as an appetizer for Father’s Day and it was gone in the blink of an eye. Just slice the oven-toasted sandwich into two-bite slices and pile high on a platter. I like to serve my homemade Garlic-Herb Infused olive oil on the side for dipping. So yummy!

roasted pepper sandwich

roasted pepper sandwich 2

Roasted Pepper, Mozzarella & Spinach Oven Sandwich
  • Homemade (or store-bought) roasted peppers
  • Garlic-Herb Infused olive oil (or plain extra virgin olive oil)
  • Fresh baby spinach leaves
  • Fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • Loaf of baguette or ciabatta bread
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Slice the loaf of bread in half lengthwise. (If the bread is very doughy, you might want to remove some of the white part.)
  3. Drizzle a good amount of olive oil onto each half of the bread, ensuring that it soaks into the bread.
  4. Layer the roasted peppers on the bottom half of the bread.
  5. Next, top with a layer of the sliced mozzarella.
  6. Finally, add a layer of baby spinach.
  7. Place the top half of the bread on top and press down firmly. Place the sandwich on an ungreased baking sheet. (If making ahead of time, wrap the sandwich and let sit in refrigerator until ready to bake in the oven; remove foil before baking.)
  8. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or just until the mozzarella begins to melt and the top of the bread is toasty and lightly golden.
  9. Allow to cool slightly before slicing. Slice into two/three-bite pieces on the diagonal. Arrange on a platter and enjoy warm!



Leave a Comment

Filed under by Danielle, Make

Baked Falafel Bites

The Crafty Hostess: MakeThe perfect accompaniment to my Cucumber-Dill Yogurt Dip, these tasty little bites, made from ground chick peas, are the ideal summer snack or appetizer. I baked them until lightly golden, making them not only vegetarian-friendly, but healthier, too. Try making into patties and layer in a pita bread pocket, slather with the yogurt dip and a tasty, Greek-style lunch is served!


Baked Falafel Bites
  • 2 15-ounce cans chick peas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small red onion
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup Italian parsley
  • ¼ cup fresh dill
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ⅓ cup flour
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a food processor, blend the chick peas, garlic, parsley and dill until it forms a thick mixture. Do not add any liquid, or the balls will not stay together.
  2. Once everything is blended well, spoon the mixture into a medium-size bowl.
  3. Add the salt, pepper, baking powder and flour.
  4. With a wooden or silicone spoon, mix by hand until all of the ingredients are incorporated.
  5. Form into a large ball and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least two hours or overnight.
  6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  7. Roll the mixture into tablespoon-size balls. Place on a baking sheet.
  8. Bake about 20 minutes or until the tops crack and turn a light golden brown.
  9. Serve warm with Cucumber-Dill Yogurt Dip.


Leave a Comment

Filed under by Danielle, Make

Cool, Refreshing Cucumber-Dill Yogurt Dip

The Crafty Hostess: MakeSummer is the ideal time for no fuss, easy food. This creamy, flavorful dip is a busy mom’s best friend; it comes together in just a couple of minutes and uses very few ingredients. It pairs perfectly with things like raw veggies, pita chips and falafel. Inspired by the Greek tzatziki, it can also be spread on a sandwich or slathered on grilled meats for a cool, refreshing twist on your favorite dishes.

yogurt dip

Cool, Refreshing Cucumber-Dill Yogurt Dip
  • 1 container (17.6 ounce) Fage plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ of a seedless, English cucumber
  • Fresh dill, finely minced (a good amount, to taste_
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Peel the cucumber and remove the inside of the cucumber; chop into small pieces.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, dill, and cucumber. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Keep chilled in the refrigerator until ready to serve.




Leave a Comment

Filed under by Danielle, Make