Category Archives: Sweetness Sundays

Love At First Bite – Sweetness Sundays

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Pinaloves Organic Bakery, Cookie Varieties

As a newly born vegan for 2013, I can tell you that the transition to vegan cooking has been a purely pleasurable experience for me. I love getting in the kitchen and being creative. Making hot cereal masterpieces with whole grains and fruits, delicious cold grain salads for lunch with decadent avocados and black beans, discovering a million ways to use my newly stocked spice rack while making slow cooker creations for dinner. It takes me back to all the things that landed me in Culinary School at college, that one year of knowledge has never left me, although I did move on to Nursing, my true passion.

Almond Crescents, Gluten Free, $9.00 USD on Etsy.

The only thing I have yet to attempt is vegan baking. Not because I don’t like baking, or because I lack the equipment. Although I must admit that the top of my wish list is a KitchenAid Stand Mixer and a new Cuisinart, as I have neither. What has stopped me is all the ingredients you need to stock up on, many not found in any regular grocery store, in order to make something that is comparable to other home baked fare. I have stocked up on things like Molasses, Organic Cane Sugar, Flax Seeds, Dates, Dried Fruits and Nuts, and Organic All Purpose Flour. I have hunted down Almond Flour, Brown Rice Flour, and Agave Syrup. I have the Maple Syrup and Vegan Margarine in my fridge. I even got the Egg Replacement Mix and a spice grinder in order to make some of the more tricky ingredients. But for the life of me, I have yet to find a recipe to which I can say, “yes, I have all the ingredients I need, let’s bake this baby up!”

Gluten Free – Chocolate and Floral Cookie Collection, $32.00 USD on Etsy.

My brother, being super thoughtful, came for dinner a few weeks back and came in with a few groceries I had needed, surprised me with a box of vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies. They were in a shelf stable box, looked pretty decent on the package, I read the label just to be sure they were vegan, and dove in to try one. Well, they were pretty good, not great, not like my mother’s baking, which is legend – wait for it – dary. But they were certainly the most treat-like thing I had had since going vegan. The problem, the box contained exactly 12 cookies, no bigger than a dollar Loonie coin, and it cost more than six dollars, with tax included. Twelve tiny cookies, average at best, at that price? It seemed insane to me, I knew that I either needed to find a new source of baked goods, or I had better make them myself.

A Platter of Delicious Cookies from Pinaloves Organic Bakery.

So as I have been collecting up vegan cookbooks, and looking at the list of ingredients I need to have on hand, I have also been spending a lot of time searching the web for a recipe to start out with.  I have been grabbing up the ingredients I find when I shop, and have got a good number of things in the pantry now, but not everything, not yet.

Boxed Love from Pinaloves Organic Bakery.

Now, many of you know I spend way more time on Etsy than is healthy for my pocketbook. I am always on the lookout fabulous items that I then must have in my life. After all, what would Foraging For Fab be without Etsy and all the other handmade sellers of wonderful. So every now and again I have a look for vegan goods, particularly from close locations, and when it comes to edibles, Canadian sellers are a must.  So there I was, searching out vegan sources of yummy, and up popped a new seller. The pictures looked A-M-A-Z-I-N-G to me, and gosh, they were from Montreal, Quebec; right here in Canada. And so I discovered Pinaloves Organic Bakery.

Sunflower Oats British Biscuits – Organic, $9.00 USD on Etsy.

These cookies, or little bites of heaven, as I now refer to them come in a variety of amazing flavors and types, and are made to suit many dietary restrictions or needs, not just vegan.  Pina also bakes up batches of Sugar Free, Gluten Free, and Dairy Free treats, in addition to her Vegan offerings.  The cookies are just like the classic home-made versions you love at Holiday Parties or Special Events, but they are something you can enjoy any day of the week with a cup of coffee or a herbal tea.

Vegan – Fruit & Spice Cookie Collection, $42.00 USD on Etsy.

I ordered up a mixed box of cookies, Vegan Fruit and Spice Mix, which held at least 75 biscuits, and a smaller package of 12 Chocolate Pistachio Squares. I quickly got a message back from Pina saying they would be baked up first thing the next morning and then sent out as soon as possible that day.  I have never ordered bakery products through the mail before, so I promptly forgot when to expect them, and went on with my day.

Irish Coffee Whiskey Sandwich Cookie – Vegan, $11.00 USD on Etsy.

When the package arrived before lunch time, just 3 days after my order was placed, I was doing a little happy dance in my apartment. They looked absolutely lovely, just as they were pictured in the Etsy Listings. There was even a little surprise inside the box, a new sandwich cookie recipe a Vegan Irish Coffee Whiskey delight, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. It was all so perfectly packaged, I even took some pictures with my phone to show my friends and family, or make them drool, either way I was too happy to notice.

Vegan – Chocolate Pistachio Squares, $9.00 USD on Etsy.

I decided to try one of the Chocolate Pistachio Squares right away. I am not very good at delaying gratification when it comes to cookies, or most other things to be honest. I was hooked from the very first bite. These cookies are special, they have that perfectly home made love baked in feel to them. They taste delicious, they look so pretty yet in-perfect, the way homemade cookies do, and they just hit the right spot with all that I was looking for in a vegan treat. I had to read the label again to be sure it was in fact a vegan product, it was just too much like a crumbly buttery chocolate refrigerator cookie from my pre-vegan days.

Love Lemon – Gluten Free Sandwich Cookies, $11.00 USD on Etsy.

I quickly headed to my office so that I could leave feedback for Pinaloves Organic Bakery on Etsy, just too happy to wait a minute longer to tell everyone how very special these cookies are. I also checked out the Pinaloves Organic Bakery Website and Shop, where I got even more thrilled to learn about all the other wonderful things going on at Pinaloves, and got a lot of great information from the shop’s FAQ page. There is very specific information about the ingredients and the different dietary specialty cookies that they bake, among other yummy looking cakes and pastries. There are different package sizes, box combinations, and varieties available to suit any need.

Gluten Free – Chocolate and Floral Cookie Collection, $32.00 USD on Etsy.

I then caught a ride over to the shop’s Etsy Page, and left a little thank-you note with Pina and company, just so appreciative of the speed and professionalism ascribed to my order, and the joy these cookies brought me.

Cholesterol Free, Low Fat Vegan Chocolate Loaves with Chocolate Ganache

I think the best thing about these cookies and treats is that they cater to some very specific dietary needs, but they are so delicious that everyone will love them, and no one has to feel left out. The Diabetic can have their Biscotti with morning coffee. The individuals with  wheat allergies or Celiac Disease, can have their pick of amazing cookies and treats. Those who are Lactose Intolerant or have milk allergies can indulge without fear. The Vegan can have her cookies and love every single cruelty-free and nutritious bite!

Spelt Hazelnut Almond Cookies – Gluten Free, $9.00 USD on Etsy.

Now, before you get all suspicious about the excessive compliments I am sending the Pinaloves people, I will balance things out a little by saying that these cookies are not free, they are priced in my mind accordingly for the quality of the ingredients, and the time and love put into every one.  They are likely not the thing you will be able to have on hand just for nibbling on any old day of the week. They would make perfect hostess gifts, and would be an impressive thing to put out at parties. The smaller packages of a dozen or so cookies are more likely to an indulgent weekday treat for you and a friend or two, the boxes are a brilliant luxury for special occasions. If you happen to live in Montreal and can get access to these cookies without having them delivered, I think you will find yourself making frequent trips to get your cookie fix.

Sugar Free Biscotti by Pinaloves, $14.00 USD on Etsy.

The only other issue is that these cookies are just to good to last for long in your home. While my large order of goodies lasted about a week, shared with company and my sweet-tooth aside,  they are hard to resist or put away, they are just too delicious, and my sweet starved inner vegan-child pretty much dictated how many of these delicious bites I dove into at a sitting. It is best I not mention that, it’s embarrassing how little self-control I have most days.

Gluten Free – Pistachio Cookies, $9.00 USD on Etsy.

Don’t let that stop you from ordering them though, and don’t delay in checking out Pinaloves Organic Bakery’s Website, Etsy Shop, or Facebook page to catch even more pictures of the delicious offerings available freshly baked and directly to your home. I can assure you they will be baked and shipped with all the love and care you could hope for, and they will become fast favorites of anyone who is lucky enough to sample them.

Vegan Rosemary Raisin Sables, $9.00 USD on Etsy.

You can either buy through Etsy, or shop the online store, whichever mode you happen to prefer.  I have every reason to believe that the service and kind customer care that you will receive, even if it is just asking a question, will surpass your expectations. If you have a local vegan or specialty bakery, by all means give them a visit, the point is to support the small bakeries that are working very hard to establish themselves and serve quality goods made with care, conscious, and attention to detail, and stop buying shelf stable and overpriced goods where possible. Going local isn’t just about produce at the farmer’s market, it means buying things that are made close to home to avoid all the damage that can be done to the environment by shipping boxes of boxes from country to country over land and sea.

Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Cookies, $9.00 USD on Etsy.

I am now going to resist temptation and skip ordering another batch of Pinaloves goodies, at least for today, no promises about tomorrow though. Maybe one day, when I have been making my own vegan baked-goods, I can hope to be as good as the crew at Pinaloves Organic Bakery. If not, well, I am going to get very friendly with the mail-person bringing me boxes full of love on a regular basis. Hope you enjoyed your own Sweet Sunday!

Pinaloves Organic Bakery, Logo & Website Address.
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French Kiss Kiss – Sweetness Sundays

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French Macarons Are A Sweet Trend, 4/6/2010. Photo Credit: Tony Bock/Toronto Star

In recent years, there is one sweet patisserie treat that is not only as beautiful to look at as it is to savor, and is also endlessly suitable to personalization. It synonymous with the luxurious life and real culinary credentials, simultaneously attaining an almost iconic image as well as a modern gustatory revolution. The French Macaron is just such a creation, with a deep rooted history, and a modern enthusiastic following at the same time. As early as 2010, they started popping up in my Toronto area bakeshops as something you could pick up on any given shop day. 

LOVE Ceramic Macaron Sachet – Fragrance Object by Hideminy, Etsy.

Valentine Jewelry Macaron Necklace by Miniature Patisserie, Etsy.

This is no easy feat, particularly for what is, when you come right down to it, a sandwich biscuit.  I somehow can’t imagine an Oreo cookie starting such a revolution on the European Continent as the Macaron has in the United States and Canada both, as of late.

Dreamy Macarons Facial Scrubs [2 Pack] by Mrs. Browns Bath Bakery, Etsy.

French Macaron Hand Soap [2 Pack] by JAKEALA, Etsy.

There is just something so fragile and special about a Macaron that cannot be mass produced. It is this fragility, the candy like colours, and the endless combinations that make up the lure of the Macaron. Movies like Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, starring Kirsten Dunst have given a new spotlight to the over-the-top decadence and girly prettiness of this petite confection.

Blueberry Macarons [Box of 12, Custom Orders Welcome] by Madeline Bake Shop, Etsy.

Parisian Macaron Stand for French Macarons/Cupcakes/Wedding Cake – Peach Cake Stand 16″ by The Roche Studio, Etsy

 
If you look at a well made French Macaron, not to be confused with what North Americans call a Macaroon [a moist coconut based drop cookie], you will see the subtle beauty of the treat.  Put together from two smoothly topped baked round wafers, with a crumbled edge called the foot, these pieces share many of the characteristics of a meringue.  Powdered sugar, egg whites, and ground almonds make up the basic recipe, but endless flavor concentrates and colorings make them absolutely breathtaking to see.

French Macarons – Set Of Three [Felted Merino Wool] by woollyduck, Etsy.

DIY Felt French Macarons [Felt & Instructions For 18 Felt Cookies] by sweet emma jean, Etsy.

 
The exterior wafers of the Macaron have a natural opalescent shimmer over the surface, almost evoking images of fairy wings, and they are soft and moist and melt in the mouth in the most delicate of ways.  I rather predict that the cup-cake craze, while not over, will give way to the pleasures of the Macaron very soon. Similar to cupcakes, the filling, or ‘icing’ between the two wafers can take many forms.  It can be a delicious butter-cream, jam or preserves, or ganache filling.

French Macarons – Pastel Pink 10×10 Size [Home Decor] by Filamento TGS, Etsy.

French Macarons/Macaroons Fine Art Photograph 8×10 Size [Home Decor] by Keri Bevan Photography, Etsy.

While traditional flavors are vanilla, chocolate, and raspberry combinations, cutting edge pastry chefs are busy inventing brilliant alternative flavors from the familiarity of lemons to the sublime Matcha green tea flavorings. Whether flavoring the wafers or the filling, they are served in a sandwich mode, with two rounded smooth ‘caps’ with the foot facing the filling, and a thin but ample layer of filling piped or spread in between. 

Macaroon Cakes Upcycled Tea Towel Cushion/Pillow Cover by Emma Mount, Etsy.

French Macarons – Hemp And Organic Cotton Cushion 12×12 by Sarah Smile Design, Etsy.

The popularity of the French Macaron in North America is blossoming, and confectionery shops have windows full of towers of these jewel like biscuits and special long narrow boxes with ribbons, ready for Valentine’s day sales.  French Macaron are a much sexier and cleaner on the fingers ‘eat’ than an icing covered giant cupcake, with just 88 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, and 11 grams of carbohydrate for each delicate and sweet sandwich.  The average small specialty cupcake has 178 calories, 5.3 grams of fat, and a whopping 32.5 grams of carbohydrate in all that over-sweet sticky goodness.

Raspberry And Pistachio Ganache Macaron – Silver Plated Ring [Polymer Clay] by Pink Island, Etsy.

French Macaron Necklace With Eiffel Tower Charm by Plushable, Etsy.

 Macarons have reached epic popularity in France, being offered on the menu at McDonald’s restaurants in that country.  This new status of the french treat is making waves in the fashion world, as well as art, sculpture, and crafting.  Pastel colours are all over the runways, and the garments seem to look as delicious and light as the cookie itself.  There are heaps of photographs of French Macarons, in wild and enticing colours, as well as ‘fake’ props for your home, soaps, toys, and accessories.

Set of 2 Funny Macarons In A Pretty Box – Tea Party OOAK Art Doll Sculpt by Sandra ArteagaA, Etsy.

Sweet Treats Dessert Hand Embroidery Pattern [PDF] by Wild Olive, Etsy.

So much of what we eat, and crave, has to do with what it looks like.  Seeing the sheer volume of jewelry, trinkets, dollhouse sized treats, and non-edibles inspired by the lovely French Macaron, you can see that people have fallen in love with this iconic ‘cookie’, and though they may be a bit complicated for the baking novice to master, they are actually not impossible to make right at home. It takes a bit of practice with the piping bag to get the exterior meringues to shape up perfectly and match in size, but then you have the fun of eating all your ‘mistakes’, which may be the best part.

French Macaron Trinket Box – Mint Green/Pistachio Polymer Clay [Limoges Style] by The Mermaid Articles, Etsy.

Macaron Mercerie Sewing Accessories PDF Pattern [Pin Cushion, Needle Case, Scissors Fob] by Quilting Gems, Etsy.

So grab a great recipe for a French Macaron from a cookbook or the internet, flavor it any way you like, be it pomegranate and orange, or espresso and match tea, and whip up a batch of sweet French Kisses for your loved ones this Valentine’s Day. Now if I can just sort out a vegan version of this amazing treat. That would be truly fabulous my darlings!

Vanilla Macaron Perfume AMUSE Perfume Oil [Spray or Roll On] by Theme Fragrance, Etsy.

French Macaron Water Transfer Nail Sticker Set by Js Utopia, Etsy.

Sweet Treats From The Backyard – Sweetness Sundays

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Colourful Carrot Mix Organic Seeds at Cubits on Etsy.

 The message is out there, but are we listening? When you hear the term “buy local” in reference to your food, how local are you thinking? Would you say local is your country? Maybe it is your state or province, or even your town. All better options than buying something shipped in from afar, something sprayed in wax, grown with preservatives, and hauled in from overseas or across borders.  In most places in the world, there are limited local options, but in others, where we have seasonal weather and a variety of soil conditions, we can think about growing much much closer to home. As in at home, as in “our own backyard” or a small planter on our balcony or patio.  Today’s sweet post is about the sweet treats and sweet pleasures of growing your own.

Organic Watermelon Radish Seeds at Cubits on Etsy.
Organic Easter Egg Blend Radishes Heirloom Vegetable Seeds at Nimble NiteCap Seed Co. on Etsy.

I love vegetables, I always have, and if it was up to me, I would be happy to eat salads and baked squash and grilled zucchini and eggplant all day long. For various reasons, that is a dangerous proposition for me, but my love of vegetables, the fresher the better is a reality.  Where did it start? Well, I honestly think this one goes back to my childhood and a lovely cottage in Muskoka, Ontario. I was a very lucky kid to grow up with a place to go to every weekend and all summer long, there were very few rules, lots of things to do, and we had a huge property, even by today’s standards.

Organic Alibi Hybrid Pickling Cucumber 30 Seeds at Black Ridge Trading Post and Gardens on Etsy.
Radicchio Rouge De Verona Organic Seeds – Red Italian Chicory at Florentine Garden Seeds of Quality on Etsy.

While we spent winters buzzing about on our snowmobiles, building giant snow forts and sculptures, and ice skating on that frozen solid lake, summers were another story entirely.  Very early on, my parents squared off two very large garden plots, perhaps 12’x12′ each. Maybe larger, it is hard to remember. My mother planted and tended to cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, pumpkins, sugar snap peas, and other wonderful vegetables.  As kids, we would think we were very sneaky indeed, yanking small sweet carrots from the garden, running for the lake and washing them off, and eating them as we sat on the dock, dangling our feet in the water. If you have never had a carrot fresh from the garden, you are missing out on nature’s candy.

2011 Tomatoes – White Currant Seeds, Naturally Grown, Organic Seeds at Frog Pond Gardens Organic Seeds on Etsy.
Organic Heirloom Peacevine Cherry Tomato Seeds at Kenyon Organics Heirloom Seeds on Etsy.

My mother would carefully collect all those small cucumbers and heaps of green tomatoes, and she would pickle them in huge batches. We would have garlicky dill pickles and green tomatoes, bread and butter pickles in jars by the dozen all set out in the ‘cellar’, a small room in the basement. My mother actually had to find ways to use the tomatoes, there were just too many for one family. Everyone got gifted, and she even tried some very odd culinary experiments. I remember a Green Tomato Pie, sweet, not savory, that she assured us tasted just like apple pie. In retrospect, it is more likely true than not, since Tomatoes are actually a fruit.

Organic Seeds – 3 Packs of Your Choice at Hollis Plus Hunter on Etsy.
Vegetable Garden Organic Seed Pack at Hollis Plus Hunter on Etsy.

At the end of the season, we would decorate the exterior of the house with the pumpkins and squash we had grown. My mother had a great sense of humor, and always kept aside any vegetables that looked ‘odd’, often resembling faces or other body parts.  I remember a huge carrot that looked like a woman’s legs crossed at the knees, it sat on the ledge above the kitchen sink.

Organic Garden Seeds, 6 Organic Heirloom Seed Packs Of Your Choice at Hollis Plus Hunter on Etsy.
Organic Heirloom Purple of Sicily Cauliflower Seeds RARE at Kenyon Organics Heirloom Seeds on Etsy.

If you have access to a backyard, hopefully you have a compost container out there, if you do, you are likely brewing up some of the best natural fertilizer than can be had.  If you have a small patch of land, even just a few square feet, you can create a little patch of heaven in your own backyard. Some neighborhoods offer community gardens, places where you can sign up for a plot of land, often at no cost, to grow some fresh food for your family. 

Organic Heirloom Broccoli Romanesco Seed RARE Gourmet at Kenyon Organics Heirloom Seeds on Etsy.
Organic Heirloom Blue Pumpkin Jarrahdale Seeds RARE at Kenyon Organics Heirloom Seeds on Etsy.

My point is, there is no reason to buy heaps of ‘long distance’ semi-fresh foods when you can grown at least a few of them in your own backyard.  Have a picky eater in your house, a child that claims to ‘hate’ vegetables? School programs that have children participating in a vegetable garden project often find that kids are far more likely to try foods they have grown themselves.  The faster you can get a food from garden to table, the higher it is in nutrients, and the better the flavor. Refrigeration is death to the flavor of the tomato, mushrooms that are washed are tragically ruined, and carrots are meant to be heavy and juicy, not dry looking and frail.

Organic Heirloom Onion Red of Florence Seed RARE at Kenyon Organics Heirloom Seeds on Etsy.
Organic Heirloom Sugar Snap Pea Seeds at Kenyon Organics Heirloom Seeds on Etsy.

So let’s see, you can save money, grow without pesticides and herbicides, you can have vegetables and herbs literally at your fingertips, your kids are more likely to eat the veggies you grow yourselves, and you can reduce the carbon footprint caused by the long-distance shipping of perishable goods. WIN – WIN! Not  only that, but you can grow the things you like best, the varieties you treasure, and you can go organic in the true sense of the term. There are a handful of Etsy sellers that have the most magical and lovely Organic Seeds for stunning varieties of veggies available for purchase, and now is the time to start thinking about your spring garden.

Organic Heirloom Eggplant Diamond Seed at Kenyon Organics Heirloom Seeds on Etsy.
Organic Heirloom 3 Beet Variety Seed Blend – BEST SELLER at Kenyon Organics Heirloom Seeds on Etsy.

First things first, know your zone.  Find out what will grow in your area of the country, and what is less likely to thrive. Second, plan your garden size, and where you will put it, then watch to determine the sun exposure vs. shade in the average day.  Find a local garden supply store that supports home gardeners.  Plan for the supplies and tools you will need for your garden. Don’t think you have to buy everything, up-cycle is the key to making this a great project.  Use an old cake sever as a trowel,  if you need to grow some seedlings before directly planting in the garden, find  a series of small cups or glasses that can be used, or even use a cardboard egg crate as a perfect seed starter. Reclaimed boards or wood scraps can make great stakes for your plants or can make the perfect box frame for your garden, helping keep weeds out without chemicals.

Organic Parsnips Harris Model Heirloom Vegetable Seeds at Nimble NiteCap Seed Co. on Etsy.
Organic Victoria Rhubarb Heirloom Vegetable Seeds at Nimble NiteCap Seed Co. on Etsy.

After you determine how much space you have and what you are planning to grow, get the best seeds you can find. Order yourself some of these non-biologically engineered hearty organic seeds, all found on Etsy.  These pictures are positively mouth watering, and I just can’t wait for spring so I can set up a planter and grow some carrots on my balcony.  I am not good with flowers, but something tells me a few chives and carrots will look great in a long trough planter on my balcony. 

Organic Spring Lettuce Mix Heirloom Vegetable Seeds at Nimble NiteCap Seed Co. on Etsy.
Organic Carrot Cosmic Purple Heirloom Vegetable Seeds at Nimble NiteCap Seed Co. on Etsy.

Some of these seed types are rare heirloom seeds, and they are only available in small amounts, but they will give you an idea of what is out there.  It is truly remarkable to see the sheer range of colours and shapes in a single vegetable family, and each colour had it’s own unique nutritional benefits.  Some seeds cannot be shipped by mail across certain borders, so make sure you can get the product you want shipped to you before you make the purchase. The friendly vendors at Etsy are almost universally thrilled to answer any questions you may have, and when it comes to those who sell seeds, they have often grown the varieties they sell personally, so they are the best people to ask.  Bet you can’t get that at the local Walmart

Organic White Pumpkin Seeds Casper White Pumpkins at Cubits on Etsy.
Organic Long Island Improved Brussels Sprouts Heirloom Vegetable Seeds at Nimble NiteCap Seed Co. on Etsy.

Even if it is just something you jot down on your ‘something to do someday‘ list, having a look at these pictures will help to inspire you to try your hand at home gardening.  If you are a seasoned gardener, or ready to give it a good shot, then it won’t be long before spring arrives and you will have a chance to tastes these sweet treats from your garden, and savor the flavor that can only come with knowing you grew something with a little elbow grease, a lot of love, a the sun, soil, and seeds that are the recipe for fabulous garden fun.

Organic Round Zucchini Squash Heirloom Vegetable Seeds at Nimble NiteCap Seed Co. on Etsy.
Organic Jalapeno Pepper Heirloom Vegetable Seeds at Nimble NiteCap Seed Co. on Etsy.


Note: All images in this post and products mentioned are copyright/intellectual property of the respective Etsy vendor indicated under the image. Please contact vendors for more information about specific products and prices.  No infringement is intended.

Organic Perfection Savoy Cabbage Heirloom Vegetable Seeds at Nimble NiteCap Seed Co. on Etsy.
LiMa beAn Heirloom Seeds From Our Organic Garden at Pailanita on Etsy.

Sweetness That Lingers On Your Fingers – Sweetness Sundays

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Vanilla Mint Mousse All Natural Handmade Soap by Milk And Honey Naturals on Etsy.

  Today’s sweet post is achingly tempting to look at, these images look good enough to eat. If I told you I had a big thick bar of wonderful handmade chocolate – you’d be drooling – if I added the word “soap“, you would look at me as if I was insane. Maybe I am a little insane, but luckily that is not the topic of this blog post, today it all about the amazingly beautiful art of handmade soap.  Often made with the most pure and natural of ingredients and scented in any number of combination, these stunning blocks of bliss are all about getting hands on. 

Chocolate Coconut Cream Pie Handmade Vegan Artisan Soap by SV Soaps on Etsy.
Sweet Vanilla Soap Vegan Cold Processed Butter Blend Handmade Olive Oil Shea Butter Romantic Cottage Style by A Breath Of French Air on Etsy.
Gardenia and Fresh Honey Handmade Soap UK by Soap Dragon on Etsy.
1 Bar of All Natural Blushing Jasmine Handmade Vegan Artisan Soap by Ocracoke Soap Company on Etsy.
Anise (Licorice) Soap – Cold Process Soap by Joan’s Gardens on Etsy.
Maple Pecan Streusel Soap – Sweet Vanilla, Warm Syrup, Southern Pecan by Symbolic Imports on Etsy.

We live in a suddenly germ phobic society. We have managed to add “antibacterial” ingredients to just about every home product, from dish soap to all purpose cleaners. Do you actually know what constitutes that “antibacterial” property? You guessed it, it a bunch of harsh chemicals kids! As a nurse, I actually had to study how to properly and safely wash my hands, and I can tell you, the most important part of hand washing is not the chemicals in the soap, it is the length of time you spend lathering and the friction of rubbing the bacteria and dirt from your hands.

Lemongrass Mint Essential Oil Soap / Cold Process Handmade Soap Bar / Chunky by barebare all natural on Etsy.
Sweet Red Clover Soap – Cold Process Soap by Joan’s Gardens on Etsy.
Sweet Grapefruit Vegan Soap by Gold Creek Soap on Etsy.
Japanese Peppermint Soap – Handmade Shea Butter Vegan – Perfectly Pink for Valentine’s Day by Kreated by Karina on Etsy.
Sweet Summer Rose Soap Bar – 5 oz. by Gourmet Soaps on Etsy.
Handmade Soap – Brown Sugar & Fig – Wild Figs, Maple Sugar, Musk (Cold Process Soap) by Petals Bath Boutique on Etsy.

It doesn’t matter how much antibacterial soap you use, if you have handled the taps and and door knobs with dirty hands, and you don’t spend enough time scrubbing your hands, drying them, and touch only ‘clean’ surfaces after washing, you are just wasting your money and throwing a pile of chemicals down the pipes into our water system.

Green Apple Handmade Soap by Pink Parchment Soaps on Etsy.
GINGER SOUFFLE Scented, Natural Vegan and Handmade Glycerine Soap with ALOE Vera by Olivia Morgana on Etsy.
Goat Milk Soap, Sweet Almond Cookie, 5 oz. Scrub Bar with Rolled Oats and Almond Oil, Handmade Herbal Soap by Hammer and Coil on Etsy.
Sweet Oranges and Cinnamon Spice Handmade Cold Process Soap by Dogwood Rose Studio on Etsy.
Pomegranate Soap – Handmade Cold Process by Inner Earth Soaps on Etsy.
Groovy Garden Cold Process Soap – Palmarosa, Patchouli, & Sweet Orange Soap – Handmade Vegan Soap by Pigeon River Soaps on Etsy.

I don’t use antibacterials in my home, it is a conscious decision. I am not interested in adding any more chemicals to my life or the ecosystem.  Not only that, but I have done my own research into the issue, and even the FDA has acknowledged that the use of antibacterial soap and hand sanitizers has not been linked to any sign of a decline in infection rates among it’s users, not any statistically significant shift in all the years since it’s proliferation. Not one bit of evidence suggests that using an antibacterial soap will make you any less likely to become ill or shorten an illness period. In fact, many anecdotal studies suggest that the perceived benefits of antibacterials and hand sanitizers actual has led to less effective hand washing.

Sticky Sweet Caramel Soap – Caramel Apple Scent by AJSweetSoap on Etsy.
Sweet Orange and Vanilla Soap by Annie and Elmo on Etsy.
Apple Cider Soap – Eden’s Allure Handmade Soap – Juicy Apples and Sweet Spices Scented Soap by Body Language Soaps on Etsy.
Lime and Herb Handmade Soap with Shea Butter by Hidden Blessings on Etsy.
Satsuma – Japanese Mandarin Handmade Goat’s Milk And Shea Butter Soap by Soothing Suds on Etsy.
Rhiannon, Handmade Soap – Lavender, Bergamot, & Lemon – Cold Process, Essential Oil Bar (Natural, Vegan) by Sacred Suds on Etsy.

If you wash your hands before meals and as needed, and you do it properly, you will have an edge over any anti-bacterial or anti-microbial soap sold in the grocery store.  We are more likely to pass on infections if we put our faith in a bottle of soap as opposed to the common sense that says to slow down, do the job right and well the first time. Our grandparents used the most basic of soaps, many times simple glycerin soaps, and they were often much healthier than we are. We seem a society intent on creating super-bugs, germs that can foil our most basic cleansers and bacteria that make antibiotics useless for those who desperately need them to work.

Soap – Sweet Orange Salt Bar Circle Bar – All Natural Glycerin Soap by Sunbasilgarden Soaps on Etsy.
Chocolate Indulgence Soap – Made With Shea Butter and Sweet Natural Chocolate Valentines Day Gift by Symbolic Imports on Etsy.
Cranberry Orange – Handmade Goat Milk and Cocoa Butter Soap by Soothing Suds on Etsy.
Sweet Lemon Cream Soap Handmade Cold Process, Vegan Friendly by Blushie on Etsy.
Sea Salt Caramels Handmade Cold Process Soap – Soap Bar by Lippincott Soap Co. on Etsy.
Sweet Lemongrass Soap Handmade Soap by Comfort and Joy Soap Co. on Etsy.

So back to these beautiful bars of soap, and a simple question, why buy the bottled soaps that all contain chemicals for fragrance, bacteria reduction, and color, when you can  buy a gorgeous bar of Eco-friendly soap in a color or fragrance that is naturally lovely, and does the job just as well, if not better.  Washing your hands becomes a pleasurable experience when you slow down, roll the bar in your hands, develop a bit of a lather and that lovely scent begins to build.

Sweet Orange Patchouli Soap by Body Luminosity on Etsy.
Green Tea Citrus – Handmade Soap by Dirty Deeds Soaps on Etsy.
Chocolate Dream Handmade Soap with Chocolate, Cocoa Butter, and Goats Milk by EcoSations on Etsy.
Fresh Orange and Papaya Clear Glycerine Soap, Luxury, Delicate Feminine Fruity Sweet Fresh – Yellow Perfect Gift by Cat’s Little Corner on Etsy.
All Natural And Vegan Sweet Orange Clove Soap, Two 5oz. Bars by Bellissima Minerals on Etsy.

Whether it is the lightest of vanillas, or a rich patchouli, a citrus twist or a floral bouquet, you can find a handcrafted bar of soap to match your personal tastes. Perfume does go “off”, the alcohol it it turns, and you may be wasting your money by spending a fortune on a scent you rarely wear. Using a naturally scented soap will leave a lovely scent on your skin or body, and it will linger in that gentle way that good fragrance should. People that get close may notice it, they may wonder what smells so wonderful and can’t pin it down, and they may begin to associate that scent with you and you alone. Not a scent lover? There are also plenty of unscented all natural bars available too.

Almond Marzipan Poppy Seeds Goats Milk Glycerin Soap, Scrub Peeling Moisture – For Him or Her by Cat’s Little Corner on Etsy.
Creamy Pear Handmade Vegan Soap Large Bar by Crown of Rue on Etsy.
Goat’s Milk Oatmeal and Honey Cold Process Soap with Shea Butter – Sale Benefits the SweetBea Fund by Lake House Soapworks on Etsy.
100& Natural Orange Honey Blossom Soap Bar – 5oz. Organic & Fair Trade by ZABANA ESSENTIALS on Etsy.
Sweet Honeysuckle – Shea Butter Handmade Soap by Loves Lather on Etsy.
Hot Process Apple Sauce Soap – Old Fashioned Sweet Apple Cinnamon Hot Process Soap Super Sudsy by Soap For Your Soul on Etsy.

If you have been scrolling through these amazingly gorgeous photos of some of the most appetizingly sweet bars of soap, you might like to know that not only are these soaps gentle to the environment, but gentle to your body. Some are organic, others are vegan friendly, but whatever your reasons for buying handmade soap might be, never allow the perceived cost to hold you back. Most of these bars are priced around the $5 USD per/bar range, depending on the ingredients and the size of the bar.  It works out to about $1 per oz. of handcrafted soap, there are few artisan goods that are this affordable in price. You can sometimes get bars for much less if you purchase a sampler or multiple bars at a time.  Find a vendor that is located close to you, in the geographic sense, and you will not only save on shipping, but also leave a smaller carbon footprint.

Sandalwood Vanilla Soap – Handmade Cold Process by Inner Earth Soaps on Etsy.
Sweet Papaya Handmade Shampoo Bar, Vegan by Sweets N Things on Etsy.
Sweet Pea Goats Milk Soap by Country Soaps By Marlene on Etsy.
Lavender Oat Face & Body Bar (100% Organic Oils.Butters) by StoLat Organics on Etsy
Coffee Soap – Kitchen Soap – Exfoliation Soap – Cold Process by Joan’s Gardens on Etsy.
Canela & Vanilla Cream – Cinnamon – Goat’s Milk Soap by Five Sisters Soap Company on Etsy.

These soaps would make the most welcome of home-warming gifts, and there is nothing better to give a new parent who has their hands on the delicate skin of a new baby all day and night, or to a friend who is under the weather.  These soaps are great gifts for teachers, friends, and the people you love. Everybody needs to wash their hands, this is not just a ‘girl’ thing, men deserve fresh smelling natural soaps too.

Mango Shea Butter Soap by So Stinking Sweet on Etsy.
Orange Cream Cold Press Soap – Warm & Sweet – 100% Natural by Get Clean on Etsy.
Honey Almond (EO) Handmade Soap 4oz. Bar by FB Essentials on Etsy.
Peach – Handmade Cold Process Soap by DECA Candle and Bath on Etsy.
Sweet Lemongrass Scented Organic Cold Process All Natural Soap by Rustico Natural on Etsy.

If you have a fragrance free workplace, and can’t wear perfume, it can be hard to find unscented soaps and shampoo. Many of these artisans offer unscented natural bars that are lovely to look at and use, but so very gentle to the skin with only the scent of the body friendly ingredients left behind. If you knit, sew, or crochet, thing of how often your hands touch those delicate wools and fabrics, wouldn’t you rather have a mild and natural scent on your fingers when you work on something so precious for someone equally precious?

Grapefruit & Marzipan Handmade Soap (One Bar) by Chemical Teatime on Etsy.
Goat Milk Soap “Monkey Bars” Handmade Cold Process (Banana, Strawberry, Kiwi, & More!) by Moeggenborg Sugar Bush on Etsy.
Sugared Almond Exfoliating Handmade Soap by Silver Maple Soaps on Etsy.
Miss Maple – Organic Maple Syrup / Soft Golden Sugar Soap Handmade, Natural – Plus Beautiful Postcard by Soapstar Canada on Etsy.

Sweet Cherry Almond Oatmeal Handmade Soap by Pegasus Soaps on Etsy.

 Treat yourself to a bar of handmade soap today, there is no reason to wait. Pick one that is appealing to the eye as well as the nose, and don’t be afraid to give up the “anti-bacterial” chemical soap.  The only people who need to use harsh chemicals to clean their hands are surgeons and other healthcare workers when they are AT WORK.  Even this nurse will tell you that once I walk into my home after work, the last thing I want to see is yet another bottle of harsh soap.  Give me a bar of gentle soft butter smooth soap that makes me remember I am a person whose hands do more than perform various procedures, give me a scent that makes me smile with pleasure, the simple pleasure that we all deserve to enjoy. Grab yourself a bar or two of lovely handmade soap and be sweet to yourself, your family, and mother earth.

NY Black and White Snickerdoodle All Natural Handmade Soap by Milk And Honey Naturals on Etsy.

All-Natural Sweet Tea And Honey Soap, Two 5 oz. Bars by Bellissima Minerals on Etsy.
Spice Cake – Clove, Cassia & Sweet Orange Cold Process Soap – Handmade Vegan Soap Bar – Spice Soap by Pigeon River Soaps on Etsy.
Sweet Pea Cold Process Soap – One 4-5 Ounce Body Bar by Long Leaf Soaps on Etsy.
Yellow Mandarin, Sweet Orange Peel and White Peach – All Natural Handmade Soap by Milk And Honey Naturals on Etsy.

Best Friends Forever – Sweetness Sundays

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We have all, at some time or other, been grateful for our true friends. Not just our acquaintances, but the people who know us sometimes even better than our own families do.  If you have a best friend, or several, you know that these relationships are very special. Sometimes these relationships start in childhood, others form later in life. Our best friends can be neighbors, sometimes they are actually family members, a close aged cousin or sibling, and sometimes they are even our spouses.  Whomever you call your best friend, make sure they know how very special they are to you. [All Item/Image Credits And Details Follow At Bottom of Post]

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We did it easily in childhood, we would ‘claim’ our best friends as such in front of classmates or contemporaries. We would hold their hands, share secrets, have sleepovers, and they would be the person we saved a seat for at the lunch table or at our birthday parties.  As adults, it is somewhat more difficult to express publicly our friendly affections without it feeling a bit odd, we may hug them hello or give them a quick squeeze when we say goodbye, but we often assume they understand how much they mean to us.

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 Sometimes they do know, and that is perfectly wonderful. But no best friend ever complained that they heard too often how much they mattered in another persons life.  Often the times we most rely on these friends are the hardest moments in our lifetimes.  When we suffer the loss of a loved one, when we go through a trauma, when we end a significant relationship.  During those times, we are often not in a place to be aware just how much we are dependent on our very best friend.

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These are the people that make us laugh at ourselves and know just what to say to make us know they are happy just to be with us when we are miserable. Think about the last time you laughed till you cried, laughed so hard that your sides hurt and you doubled over, was it your best friend that made your sides split?

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Real friends would never complain of it being a burden, they understand that the nature of the best friend relationship is based in the reciprocity it allows. We are there for them when they need us, and they are there for us in our hard times, that is just the way it works, at least with true best friends. One-sided relationships are often exhausting and rarely last, but a true best friendship is one of the most sacred bonds we may ever know.  Therefore, today’s Sweetness Sundays post is dedicated to that sweet relationship known as the Best Friend.

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Children have become hooked on the term “BFF“, meaning Best Friends Forever. We can blame that lovely little bit of terminology to the likes of Paris Hilton, who popularized it on her TV reality show. Teens often refer to their best friends as “Besties“, I hear that term quite frequently from my neices. Adults tend to drop the “Best” part, we know who our closest friends are and don’t want to make any of our general acquaintance feel awkward by pointing it out.  Whatever we call them, whoever they are, make sure you make a point this Valentine’s Day of telling your best friend(s) that you love them.

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Valentine’s Day, in my mind, is a day we celebrate love in all it’s forms, not merely romantic love.  We are expected to send cheesy cards to our spouse, partner, or significant other. Parents often remember their children on St. Valentine’s Day, and children often pepper their entire classroom full of peers with themed printed Valentine’s Day cards.  If you want to really show your friends you care, take a lesson from any parent of young children, there is nothing more precious than something hand-made with love and care.

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If you aren’t crafty, well that’s where the good news comes in, there are lots of people who are. You can find heaps of lovely best friend ‘themed’ gifts and cards on Etsy and other on-line sources.  Personally, I choose to feature Etsy vendors often because I find the process of shopping Etsy to be so simple. The descriptions are usually very clear, you can see what you are getting and the images are often so beautiful and attractive that you can get a real sense of the objects special qualities, and you can almost always pay securely by PayPal.  Today’s post is packed with amazing items celebrating the special friendships in our lives, and no matter what your age, you can never tell your friends enough just how much they are valued.

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If your child has a best friend, or if you know a child that does, make sure you encourage them to acknowledge the relationship for how special it is.  We may have many best-friends throughout a lifetime, but the value of the relationship is a certainty.  Call your best friend today and tell them how much you care and how much they mean to you. Now isn’t that sweet?

  1. BFF Chain Link Hat & Wristmarmer Set Crochet PATTERN Fits 4T – Preteen PDF 121 by Kristine Mullen, Ambassador Crochet on Etsy.
  2. Little Girls’ BFF Matching Hand Bags by ZeeaDarling, FilthyCute Boutique on Etsy.
  3. Best Friends Necklaces BFF – Oreao Cookie Necklace – Cute Necklaces – Kawaii Heart Charms – Best Friend Jewelry by Kawaii Desu Ne, oh, it’s cute! on Etsy.
  4. Best Friend Art Print – Home Room Decor – Gift For Friend – 8×10 Print by Jordan Eaks, Something Beautiful Photography on Etsy.
  5. Best Friend, Sister Art Print – HUMAN NATURE by Shira Sela, Shirae on Etsy.
  6. Best Friends Necklace – Two Necklaces by Mary Beth Heishman, I Adorn U on Etsy.
  7. Friendship Art Print – Best Friends – Archival – Limited Edition Print -8×8 – 2 divided by 2 equals by cori dantini by Cori Dantini, corid on Etsy.
  8. Best Friends Art Print Room Decor – You Are My Best Friend Ever – 8×10 Art Print by Ortal, 2010 Gifts For All on Etsy.
  9. Set Of Two Best Friend Enamel Owl Necklaces – Hand Stamped Necklace Best Friends Gift by Kristen, Kikiburra Beads on Etsy.
  10. B.F.F. 11×15.5 Giclee Print – Best Friends, Girlfriends, Sisters, Contemporary Art, Friendship, Love by Jahna Vashti on Etsy.
  11. Best Friends – Boys – 8×10 Archival Print by Rosy Designs Online on Etsy.
  12. Two Peas in a Pod Best Friends Necklaces, Mother Daughter Necklaces, Sisters Necklaces by Dragon Fly Tears on Etsy.
  13. Best Friends Handmade Fabric Dolls by Laura Hunter, Roving Ovine on Etsy.
  14. Custom BFF Best Friend Art Print Set // 8×8 by Kate Gabrielle, Flapper Doodle on Etsy.
  15. Hand Stamped Bestie BFF ONE WORD Best Friends Cuff Bracelet Aluminum Set of 2 Friendship by Kitty, Always A Memory on Etsy.
  16. You Plus Me Equals Awesome, Awesome Print, Wedding Print, 8×10, Best Friends. Custom Colors Available by Rose, Pumpkin and Butterfly on Etsy.
  17. Best Friend Greeting Card by Alisson Burda, Artsy Fartsy on Etsy.
  18. BFF Necklace Set in Teal by Jessica Marshall, Jessica Marshall Jewelry on Etsy.
  19. Greeting Card… Best Friends by Christa Howard, C Howard Designs on Etsy.
  20. Available for Pre-Order Only, Set of 2 Best Friends Initial Letter Bow Necklaces, Limited Edition by Indie Meadow on Etsy.
  21. Best Friends Postcard by Sophie Parker on Etsy.
  22. The Best Friends Girls Art Print by Claudia Tremblay, Print Illustrations on Etsy.
  23. Seahorse Buddies – Best Friend Necklace Set by Wishbowl Jewelry on Etsy.
  24. Gumby and Pokey Best Friends Black and White Wall Art Mexican Framed Print by Michael Dexter, DexMex on Etsy.

Sweets For My Sweet – Sweetness Sundays

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A short but very sweet post today, all about the heavenly confections that make life, well, sweet. Most people feel comfortable attempting to bake or cook in their kitchens, but making candy and sweets is still a little daunting to even the most seasoned chefs. Candy isn’t like most kitchen arts, it requires a lot of practice, careful control of temperature and timing, and often special equipment for molding or shaping your creations.  It is for that reason most of us find it easier to buy candy at the corner store or market.

Rolled Sultan Turkish Delight, Rose Flavor by ggbytech on Etsy.

If you are lucky and have a local Chocolatier, Confectioner, or Sweet Shop that churns out fresh hand-made goods, you know where this is heading. Nothing beats the real thing. Handmade candy and confections are not only free of all those preservatives and stabilizers that keep those other manufactured ‘treats’ shelf sitting for months or years on end, but they taste so much better. Often you can get unique flavor combinations that are more gourmet and appeal to a smaller group of consumers, you can also interact directly with the sweet-makers. You can ask questions about ingredients and the things that matter to you about your food, such as local suppliers, green practices, and vegan or health specific issues. Today I present to you a virtual sampler of some beautiful hand-made confections that you can order on-line and enjoy with your valentine(s). At the very least, it may send you looking for you own local sweet shops. Have a “Sweet” Sunday.

Sweet Honeydew, Vegan Handmade Hard Candy by Von Dulce on Etsy.

Organic Freckled Strawberry Marshmallows,  All Natural, Gluten and Egg Free, Kosher by The Realist Mermaid on Etsy.

Simple Chocolate Dipped Pear, Handmade Fresh To Order by Sugar Queen Sweets on Etsy.

Pretty In Pink, Pearl Embellished Hard Candy Lollipops – Made To Order by  Vintage Confections on Etsy.

Rocky Road Fudge, Made Fresh to Order by Fudge Face on Etsy.

Cupcake Crystal Hard Candy Lollipops, Pink Bubblegum by Sweet Lollipop Shop on Etsy.

Valentine’s Day Gift Box of Assorted French Nougat Candies in 5 Flavors, All Natural No Preservatives by Kettle Confections on Etsy.

Lemon Mocha Truffles Worth Puckering Up For, Made in Canada – Semi Sweet Chocolate, Nut Free by My Hands Are Busy on Etsy.

Soft Caramels, 1/2 Pound, Sweet Soft and Buttery by Bubble Gum Art Company on Etsy.

 Vegan Chocolate Fruit Cremes, 7 Flavors, Covered in German Chocolate – Made To Order by Hippie Cakes on Etsy.

Cookie Lovers Delight, Hand Dipped and Drizzled Double Stuff Oreos by Sweet Sophia’s Creations on Etsy.