aspen & pine

a journey in creativity and mindful living

Category: DIY

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.


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!



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.


salsa verde

salsa verde | home canning

Jordan discovered salsa verde on one of our road trips, but it is $3-4 for a tiny little bottle. So my Mom, along with the habaneros, also grew tomatillos so we could try making our own! I made my salsa verde on the hot side, if you want to reduce the heat, omit or decrease the number of habaneros.

canning salsa verde


Makes: 6 pints or 12 1/2 pints

5 lbs tomatillos, husked, washed, and cored
1 onion, peeled and quartered
4-6 habanero peppers
4 jalapeno peppers
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 bunch cilantro, washed
1/2 cup lime juice
1 Tbsp. cumin
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper

Slice cored tomatillos in half or quarters and blend in a blender until smooth. Pour into a large saucepan. Blend the onion and garlic with a little of the lime juice and add to pan. Next blend the peppers, cilantro (remove roots), and remaining lime juice together. Be careful when adding this mix to the pan as you don’t want to breath in the hot pepper fumes. I kept the lid on the pan after adding the peppers to help keep them contained (remove the lid before cooking). Now add your salt, pepper, and cumin. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes. Process 15 minutes in a water bath.

salsa verde with habaneros | home canning


hot salsa

salsa | home canning

My husband loves hot stuff, and I mean really hot stuff. He’s eaten ghost peppers, which used to be the hottest pepper in the world until the Carolina Reaper came a long. They have such lovely names don’t they? I am not about to touch either of those peppers, which can burn their way through the pickers gloves. No thank you, I think I’ll stick to working with the lowly habanero (whose juice still got under my fingernail and burned all day long when I made my salsa verde).

This year my mom grew some habanero’s for him, and suffice it to say that they really grew. We have so many habaneros I don’t know what to do with them all. One of the plants even bent and broke off from the load! Since I am not a fan of spicy things, I haven’t been very good at keeping Jordan stocked up in things like hot sauce and salsa. I am definitely making up for that now with the multitudes of jars of salsa filling up our pantry. I made this salsa with my mom for the first time, and it turned out great!

Hot Salsa

10 cups tomatoes, chopped (about 6 lb. whole)
5 cups onion, chopped
5 cups green peppers, chopped and seeded
2 1/2 cups hot peppers (I used a mix of jalapenos and habaneros), chopped
1 1/4 cups cider vinegar
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp cilantro, minced
1 Tbsp kosher salt

Place whole tomatoes into a large pot of water and boil 2 minutes to release skins. Place boiled tomatoes in cold water, the peels should come off easily now. Peel, core, and chop tomatoes. We chopped the peppers and onion in a food processor to make things a little quicker, this gives a finer textured salsa. If you want chunky salsa you might want to chop by hand. Mix all ingredients together in a pan and simmer 10 minutes (or more if you want thicker salsa). Ladle into jars, wipe jar rims, and screw on lids. A helpful guide to water bath canning can be found here on the Ball website. Process jars 15 minutes.

habanero salsa | home canning


tomato sauce

Tomato Sauce | home canning

We had lots of tomatoes this year from my parent’s and grandparent’s gardens, so I made some sauce with my Mom. She makes a ton of it every year, and has taught me how. We use this sauce for pizza, spaghetti, and in other dishes.

This post is more of a how to than a recipe since I didn’t include measurements. As a general rule 20 lbs of tomatoes will make 7 pint jars, but it also depends on how thick you like your sauce. For my sauce I don’t remove the tomato seeds or skins, and instead blend them up together in a blender. It’s quite fun and easy, without the mess of pressing them through a sieve or using a food mill.

Tomato Sauce

paste tomatoes
fresh basil
fresh oregano
lemon juice

Wash, cut off ends (and bad spots), and core tomatoes. Place into a large pot with about 1/2 inch of water in the bottom. Cook tomatoes until they are swimming in their own juices. Pour tomatoes into a colander to drain (you can save the nutritious tomato water if you wish). Blend in batches that fit in your blender with garlic and fresh herbs. The amount of seasoning you add is up to your taste buds, but I generally added 2-3 cloves garlic and a small handful of fresh herbs to each blender batch. For a plain sauce just omit the seasonings. Pour the pureed tomatoes into a pot, add salt and pepper to taste, and cook to desired consistency.

While sauce is thickening up (it shouldn’t take too long since we already got lots of the water out), set up your canner, jars, and lids. Put 1 Tbsp. lemon juice in each pint jar, or 2 Tbsp. in each quart jar depending on what you are using. When sauce has reached desired consistency, ladle into jars, wipe jar rims, and screw on lids. A helpful guide to water bath canning can be found here on the Ball website. Process jars 35 minutes.




The Munstead lavender and chamomile I bought at Radical Roots Farm have grown quite a bit since I got them. I am very excited for these to flower. I want to try adding lavender to foods and beverages and make my own chamomile tea!


My seedlings (clockwise) are organic lettuce, aster flowers, basil (in the little purple pot) and organic broccoli raab. I bought all my seeds at Walmart and was surprised to find an organic brand called Home Farmer, they are also the ones that came up and have grown the fastest.


All my pots except the blue and purple ones were second hand from my Grandparent’s which was quite a money saver!


There’s the plentiful mint that comes up every year. My Grandpap planted this originally, but I transplanted some next to my container garden and it has taken off wonderfully. My plan is to eventually turn this area into a raised bed for herbs.


Our strawberry patch has been producing wonderfully for us, my Mom came over and picked with me the other day. We share the work and harvest with my parents and grandparents. Unfortunately it’s also a weed farm, and bermuda grass has become the bane of my existence.


I hope you enjoyed this tour of my tiny garden, and are inspired to start you’re own (even if you are convinced you don’t have a green thumb and hate weeding).

mini folio

scraps from the darkroom

I am currently learning how to make folio’s that hold two matted prints. This is a practice one, so I used some scraps from Jordan’s darkroom. These little prints are actually pieces of images Jordan has produced in the darkroom (aka our tiny bathroom).


I am also working on what the closure should be. I used this lace because it was what I had on hand, however a ribbon may look more simple. This lace was a little wide for my mini folio I think.




Have a wonderful day!

wheat paste


Wheat paste is used in bookbinding to glue the end-pages to the inside of the cover. This process is called casing in. To make wheat paste all you need are wheat starch and water. I bought my wheat starch from Talas, but you can get it from specialty food stores as well.  The first time I ever made wheat paste I actually used regular flour. This works, but you do end up with a better product if you use refined wheat starch.

To make the paste you mix 1 part wheat starch with 4 parts water. Here I used 1 Tbsp wheat starch and 4 Tbsp’s water. I find it is better to make small batches when I need it because it does go bad after a while. Whisk to remove lumps and let sit 1 hour.


Now it is ready to cook! I placed this bowl over a pan of boiling water to make a double boiler. This helps prevent it from burning and forming lumps. The package from Talas says to cook it for 15-25 minutes until it turns thick and translucent. However, mine usually turns thick and translucent after only about 5-7 minutes. Make sure to stir constantly because when it starts to thicken it is fast, and lumps can easily form.


Let the paste cool, then strain into an airtight container. To use, mix with a little water to achieve a creamy paste. Store in the fridge if you have extra leftover.

journal no. 1


This is my first hand sewn, hardback journal. I came across a few problems to say the least, and it took me several days to finish! Overall I am excited to make more and improve my technique (and speed).

microspatula, X-acto knife, fabric and paper scissors, tapestry needle, bristle paste brush, foam glue brush, plastic folder, light duty snap-off blade knife, metal ruler, pen, awl

Above are the assortment of tools I gathered for this project. I purchased some specifically for bookbinding and others I already had in the house: microspatula, X-acto knife, fabric and paper scissors, tapestry needle, bristle paste brush, foam glue brush, plastic folder, light duty snap-off blade knife, metal ruler, pen, and awl. (note: I purchased a microspatula because I saw it on a list of tools needed for bookbinding. However, I have not yet needed to use it.)

Some other tools I used that are not included in the image are a cutting mat, a metal yard stick I used as a straight edge to cut with, and a Kutrimmer for trimming bookboard. These trimmers are pretty expensive, so if you don’t want to invest in one you can use a straight edge with a heavy duty utility knife. I did this at first when I was making boxes. However, I do find the Kutrimmer to be much more convenient and accurate. That’s my experience though, you may find that the utility knife works just fine for you.

My materials for this book were linen thread, beeswax to coat thread, linen tape, hemp cord to make headbands, mull (also called super), book board, regular cream colored printer paper for pages, decorative scrapbook paper for endpapers, and this book cloth.


I didn’t have any bookbinders linen cord, so I improvised by twisting and glueing three strands of hemp together for the headband.

Making headbands out of twine and bookcloth to match the journals

Above: headbands made out of twine and book cloth to match the journals. They did turn out a little lumpy, so next time I’ll get some thicker cord.

For glue I used standard PVA glue from Hollanders, and made wheat starch glue which I’ll do a post on next. I bought my wheat starch from Talas. Hollanders was the first bookbinders supplier that I came across, but have since found that some items are cheaper at Talas.

Just to outline the process of making a book for you, here are the steps I took:

  1. Made signatures by folding four pieces of paper in half and tucking them inside each other to make a little booklet. I did this fifteen times so that my book-block would have fifteen signatures. I also trimmed my signatures here so my pages would be more even.
  2. Marked and pierced spines of each signature for sewing using an awl.
  3. Coated thread with beeswax, threaded needle, and sewed the book-block together using linen tapes. I used two pieces of linen tape spaced out evenly on the spine for my book.
  4. Glued spine with PVA. Once the spine was dry I reinforced it by glueing on a piece of mull, and then glued on the headbands. Reinforced again with paper, and tipped on end pages. The book-block is finished!
  5. Measured and cut out book board for cover, glued on book cloth. For this I used a mixture of half PVA and half wheat paste because this is supposed to slow the drying time to give you more time to work.
  6. Cased in, which means glueing the end pages to the inside of the cover on each side of the book. Lastly, let dry under weights. I just stacked some heavy books on top of mine.


Taking the advice of Badger and Chirp in their post on paper, I decided to use the cheaper 20 lb paper from staples to start with before ordering nicer stuff. I am glad I did, because this journal did not exactly turn out perfectly.


Below you can see how much of a bump the tapes made on the spine. I am not sure if it is supposed to be this way or not, but you can see them on the finished journal as well.



Again, the bumpy spine. . .not too pretty.


You can’t really tell from these images, but when I glued the endpapers on to attach the case to the book-block I must have used too much wheat paste. The endpaper and pages underneath turned wavy. Badger and Chirp recommends using wax paper underneath to protect pages when glueing down the endpapers. You can read about that here. I’ll be sure to do that next time!

Lastly, I made my case for the book a bit too small and glued it on a bit unevenly with more cover hanging over the head of the book than at the tail. Unfortunately this was my fault for not centering the book good enough before glueing down the endpapers. Ahhh, how could I be so careless?

Anyway, I learned a lot, especially how much care and skill goes into making a book by hand. I’m hoping my next one turns out better! Check back to see how the next one turns out and for my post on mixing up wheat paste.