aspen & pine

a journey in creativity and mindful living

Making Mendl’s Courtesan au Chocolat

Making Mendl's Courtesan au Chocolat

Making Mendl's Courtesan au Chocolat

Making Mendl's Courtesan au Chocolat

Making Mendl's Courtesan au Chocolat

Making Mendl's Courtesan au Chocolat

Making Mendl's Courtesan au Chocolat

Making Mendl's Courtesan au Chocolat

Making Mendl's Courtesan au Chocolat

Making Mendl's Courtesan au Chocolat

Making Mendl's Courtesan au Chocolat

Making Mendl's Courtesan au Chocolat

Making Mendl's Courtesan au Chocolate

Get the recipe and watch how Mendl’s Courtesan au Chocolate from The Grand Budapest Hotel is made here.

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I mentioned letter writing in a previous post, and shared some pen pal links with you all. Since then I became a member of the Letter Writers Alliance and started correspondence with someone. I got my first letter a couple weeks ago. It’s such a rewarding experience sharing your life and thoughts on paper with another person far away. I think you should try it!

This week I loved:

25 meaningful things to do now from Courtney Carver.

The Beginner’s Guide to Minimalism on oktiny.

Building a minimalist wardrobe faq.

These portraits of young Native Americans celebrating their culture are beautiful!

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Chamomile infused olive oil

This is a jar of olive oil being infused with chamomile flowers. This particular oil I made to go in a gentle baby soap. I have been making soap lately and loved it so much that I’m excited to announce that I’ve opened an etsy shop! It will probably be awhile before it’s really all up and running, but it’s a start and I’m hoping to get some actual soap on there before too long. I’ve learned it takes a very long time to develop soap recipes because you have to wait 3-4 weeks for handmade soap to cure before it’s ready to be tested. So it will happen slowly but surely. I will also most likely be revamping my blog to go along more with my shop, hopefully getting a new look!

This week I loved:

Your mood vs. your reality on Seth Godin’s blog.

10 lesser known National Parks to visit!

An eye opening article about ADHD, Ritalin vs. Recess.

This story of monks in Iraq striving to save Christian manuscripts on npr.

Can sustainable palm oil help slow deforestation? Unfortunately this is still happening, but there is hope for the situation to improve.


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teddy bear amigurumi

I tried amigurumi for the first time this past week to make a gift for a friend’s baby shower. I used this free pattern, there’s even a great youtube tutorial to go along with it. I think he turned out great, with just enough lopsidedness to prove that he was handmade with love. It was so much fun that I might make some more little creatures for my hope chest.

Honestly I love the concept of a hope chest. While I want to keep my possessions to a minimum, I think there is still a place for special sentimental items. It is a beautiful tradition that helps us to cherish things we love most in our throwaway society. My Grandpap made all of his granddaughters beautiful cedar chests when we graduated college, and right now mine is still at my parents  since we don’t have room for it. (It’s holding items from our wedding and my childhood,  it’s our mini storage unit, that we don’t have to pay for.)

This week I loved:

What minimalism really is.

Sending letters to prisoners in jail for their faith is something I want to start doing.

Quality over quantity in your life.

4,500 year old Pharaoh’s wife’s tomb recently discovered.



blood orange and coconut marshmallows


These marshmallows were pretty and delicious. The recipe I used is from the December issue of Bon Appetit magazine, and can be found here on their website. Next I want to try these rose water marshmallows created by Mimi Thorisson of Manger, my most favorite food blog ever!

It’s amazing to me how easy it was to make marshmallows. It sounds so complicated, but really it’s as simple as making a sugar syrup and mixing it with gelatin. Here are some pictures of how mine turned out:







My coconut layer didn’t turn out quite as fluffy as the orange one. I think this was because I let the sugar syrup go over the temperature it was supposed to be at.


They look oh-so-pretty rolled in powdered sugar and placed in a glass dish!



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I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and I wish you a happy year ahead! I am still evaluating last year, and making goals for this one. So far I am hoping to keep our house more clutter free, continue getting rid of unnecessary stuff, blog more, and exercise/get outside more often.

This week I loved:

This new take on being unprepared by Seth Godin.

A view of Christmas around the world.

I am doing 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene. As a beginner I have loved it so far and am super excited for the rest of the month!

Redefining New Years Resolutions with Courtney Carver.

AP Cookies


These cookies were passed down from my Grandma to my Mom. I loved helping Mom make them as a girl, especially decorating them with colored sugar! The past two years I’ve gotten to make them with my Grandma who told me about the Pennsylvania Dutch cookie making tradition. Her and my Grandpap moved to Pennsylvania when they were young, where they picked up lots of yummy Christmas cookie recipes!




Makes: a lot! You can halve or quarter this recipe if you like.

1 lb butter (4 sticks or 2 cups)
4 eggs
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking powder
2 lb powdered sugar (~7 1/2 cups)
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. vanilla
8 cups flour

Combine all ingredients, adding the flour in last. Divide dough into 4 sections, wrap each ball in plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Roll out dough to about 1/8″ for nice crispy cookies. (This is how we like it, with a cup of tea or coffee.) You may have to let dough sit out at room temperature several minutes if it is too hard to roll out. Cut out desired shapes and sprinkle with colored sugar. Bake for 6-11 minutes depending on your oven and the thickness of your cookies, so keep an eye on them! Let cool a little on the cookie sheet to harden before removing to a cooling rack or wax paper.



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apple pie

I may sound cliche, but I can’t help myself: this is my favorite time of the year! There are just so many warm feelings (and food) being passed around. This is usually also the time of year when I am most productive. It makes me wonder why we don’t just keep that festive spirit around all the time, think of all the stuff that would get done! Of course, I understand that there are also those people out there that wish the festivities would stick to one day, NOT the whole month of December (my husband is one of them). While I respect that, it’s not going to keep me from stringing lights, making origami trees and stars, planning a cookie baking session with my sisters and making gifts. On second thought, it’s probably a good thing we don’t stretch the holidays year round considering all those cookies.

This week I loved:

How to Control Clutter Creep and Gratitude by Courtney Carver.

Seth Godin says don’t be afraid to start something new because “it’s been done before”

Take this global poverty quiz. For me it put this coming holiday season, and my spending in general into perspective. Part of living a simple life is to give more, and I think I really need to re-evaluate my spending priorities!

A study on lasting relationships, which just confirms what we all already know, kindness is the key.

This beautiful hiking journal makes me want to hike, backpack, and journal more!

I am doing The Road to Christmas Bible study by Love God Greatly. To get the materials just sign up for their emails.



grape juice

grape juice | home canning

This post is a little late, since the grapes are all gone here, but I still wanted to share my grape juice with you. It is the easiest thing I’ve ever canned, and tastes delicious (although nothing like the store bought kind)! We always drink this mixed with seltzer to make sparkling grape juice on the holidays with my family.

Directions: Wash and preheat jars. Place 1 cup washed and stemmed grapes into each clean, hot jar. Add 1/4 – 3/4 cup sugar, and fill each jar the rest of the way with boiling water. Stir a couple of times, wipe rims, and screw on clean lids. Process in a hot water bath for 20 minutes. This juice gets better with time. To use just strain the grapes out and serve.


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homemade bread

I made bread today since we ran out yesterday. Fresh bread is the best thing, right out of the oven with butter melting into it. I used Pennies & Pancakes oatmeal bread recipe, only I reduced the sugar to 2 tsp. It turned out great. (Except for the spot that burned in the top. It rose so high it touched the heating element in my little oven!) I have been sick for a couple days and my Mother-in-law sent some delicious homemade chicken noodle soup home for me. I finished it up today with a slice of this bread, and it was so good!

This week I loved:

A simple place to live by Courtney Carver is about what the meaning of home really is.

A really neat pen pal story between a ten-year old american girl and an enemy of the United States, the dictator of Panama.

I would love to try this new drink.

This is a post from last year, but I thought it was lovely, and found it when looking up information about Keen’s bern baby bern boots.