It’s National Chocolate Cake Day

Serendipity Blackout Chocolate Cake | The Lush's Blush blog
Serendipity Blackout Chocolate Cake

I love how these random “days” just come about. I don’t know who decides on them. Can I suggest a few? National Mimosa Day? National Stay in Your PJs All Day? National Leave Work Early and Go to the Beach Day? National Drink Wine (or beverage of choice) at the Beach All Day Day? Clearly you can see where my mindset is today.

Alas today is none of the above, but rather it is National Chocolate Cake Day. Around the holidays, my sweet husband made two of the most amazing chocolate cakes EVER! Both recipes are from the Sweet Serendipity cookbook from the famous Serendipity 3 in New York City.

Both recipes are pretty involved, in fact my husband swears he’s never making anything out of the Sweet Serendipity cookbook every again. But they are amazing cakes, Mad King Ludwig’s Chocolate Cake we made for my dad and godmother’s birthday and the Blackout Chocolate Cake we made for Christmas Eve. Yum!

What is your favorite cake? Leave a note in the comments!

Mad King Ludwig's German Chocolate Cake | The Lush's Blush blog
Mad King Ludwig’s German Chocolate Cake
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Old books are like old friends

Anne of Green Gables quote | The Lush's Blush blog
From Anne of Green Gables

I have been a book lover since I was a small child. My Mamma always read to me when I was little. Once when I was only about three, my Mom was so impressed with me. She thought I had already learned to read because I was reading along with her as she read to me. I hadn’t learned to read yet, but I had memorized  passages of the story. Jenny’s Surprise Summer was one of my favorites.

I still go back and read some of those childhood favorites and it’s so comforting like a warm hug from an old and dear friend. I’ve even reread some of the old classic Nancy Drew books. They are a little silly when you reread them as a grown-up but they take me back to a happy time.

Nancy Drew books | The Lush's Blush blog
Nancy Drew books

In the winter of 2014, not long after my Mamma passed away, I happened to reread The Secret Garden. It was such a healing thing for me to read. Mary’s sourness in the beginning of the story, and Colin’s, too, reminded me of own sour mood. The joy as the two cousins meet Dickon and begin to garden gave me hope as well.

The Secret Garden | The Lush's Blush blog
From The Secret Garden

My good friend Jessica has been reading books aloud via Periscope of late and it has been so much fun. Who doesn’t like to be read to? I remember my fourth-grade teacher Mrs. Gullion would also read aloud to us and I loved it. You can find Jessica here on Periscope. And also, be sure to follow along with her wonderful magical tale of the Society of Moss and Lace.

Another childhood favorite I’ve been wanting to reread is Island of the Blue Dolphins. I’d love to hear about your favorite childhood books! Tell me about your favorites in the comments.

The Secret Garden quote | The Lush's Blush blog
The magic of The Secret Garden

The stones of peaceful slumber

The Lush's Blush blogI sleep with rocks under my pillow. It sounds crazy, trust me, I know. Even my husband teases me about it. As part of my crystal healing studies, though I have learned the stones that are meant to bring calming energy and peaceful dreams.

Having a few of these comforting crystals in a small medicine bag under your pillow or on your nightstand can help bring about peaceful slumber.

Taking time to wind down from the day with some calming music, a warm bath with lavender oil, or both, is also a great way to get in the mood for a good night’s sleep.

The Stones of Peaceful Slumber

Rose Quartz – A heart chakra stone with a very gentle and calming vibration that allows for the release of emotional stress.

Moonstone – Can help with sleeplessness, moonstone also can bring about dreams of past lives. This stone is also closely associated with the Goddess and moon magic and is known to enhance one’s intuition.

Smoky Quartz – This powerhouse stone transmutes negative energy. Can also bring connect to spirit guides and help bring one’s inner dreams to fruition.

Sodalite – Like a deep blue night sky, this stone, too, can bring one into a state of lucid dreaming and protect one from nightmares.

Amethyst – A good stone for meditation, Amethyst is said to create a bubble of light around the bearer.

Petalite – This small stone is a powerhouse of protective energy. It has a gentle vibration and works as an auric sheild. According to the Book of Stones, Petalite “can take one to a dimenson of rest and healing, a space in which the worries and concerns of this world are released, allowing one to bathe in the quiet bliss of the unencumbered spirit.”

The Lush's Blush blog
The Stones of Peaceful Slumber

 

 

Snow day link roundup

We are getting hammered here in Yadkin Valley Wine Country with snow and sleet. I’m really more of a warm weather gal, but I have to admit the snow is pretty. Now we’re just hoping it doesn’t turn to freezing rain.

So on this snow day here at The Lush’s Blush headquarters, here a few things I’ve been perusing on the internet.

How delicious does this look?  Prosciutto Lemon Wrapped Chicken from The Splendid Table.

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Photo from The Splendid Table

Boy, I sure wish I had started this soup earlier in the day. This Slow Cooker Potato Soup would have been perfect on a day like today! Great recipe from Gimme Some Oven!

 

 

 

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Photo from Gimme Some Oven

Looking for an awesome new app to keep you busy on a snowy day? Check out the amazing new app A Color Story!

Crystals in the snow at The Lush's Blush
Crystals in the snow
The Lush's Blush blog | www.thelushsblush.com
Snow covered sacred bamboo

Living somewhere warm and wishing for snow? You can view my snow scopes and chat on Katch.me!

My Korean cooking adventure

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Korean Kimchi | Photo courtesy of Alicia B.

I heard a really interesting segment on NPR not long ago about kimchi. I know next to nothing about Korean cuisine, but I do know the word kimchi. My dad served in the army and was stationed in Korea from 1965-1966. He was not a fan of Korean food and doesn’t speak highly of kimchi. But, my dad is not too adventurous when it comes to food.

Click here to skip to the recipe for Kitsey’s Kimchi

I, on the other hand, like to try new things and especially spicy things. And so I decided to try my hand at making my own kimchi. I used a really simple recipe I found on The Kitchn, one of my favorite cooking websites.

I wanted to dig a little deeper into the cultural tradition that is kimchi though. While my dad didn’t care for it, kimchi is a staple in the diets of the people of Korea. There are more than 50 million people in South Korea alone, that many people can’t be wrong.

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My kimchi

My friend Alicia is currently living in South Korea where she teaches English. Here’s what she had to say about kimchi.

“I’m picky about the kimchi I allow onto my plate. Some kimchi can be really spicy, some too fishy, some too salty, and I know of one place that serves kimchi that tastes like it was just dunked in tomato sauce. If I were Korean, I would be embarrassed to serve it!” Alicia said.

In the fall and winter of the year, the women of the household begin the process of making kimchi which is called Kimjang.

“The moms and grandmas get together and make huuuuge batches of kimchi around this time of year,” Alicia explained. “One of my boyfriend’s students said she was stuck making kimchi all weekend with her grandmother, and one of my adult students said she made about 30kg of kimchi one Sunday!” That’s around 66 pounds of kimchi! Wow!

“Traditionally, kimchi is left to ferment in an onggi, which is an earthenware pot/urn that comes in all different sizes, but these days people can just put it in a glass container or a BPA-free plastic container. Easier for storage, especially in the tiny high-rise apartments in the cities,” Alicia said.

“There are actually dozens of different kinds of kimchi, even though most people think of the napa cabbage kimchi when they hear the word.”

Alicia said in Korea that kimchi can be served for lunch or dinner and even at breakfast!

“Kimchi is as good thrown onto a hot grill as it is served in fried rice or eaten on its own,” she added.

12469380_10103252485150508_1446807820842409094_oMaking kimchi is a real family affair in Korea, Alicia said. It was a family affair at the Harrison household as well. Morgan helped me chop all the vegetables up, and by help I mean he did it all. We used carrots, radishes and green onions in ours, in addition to the Napa cabbage.

But our kimchi making was on a minute scale compared to how they do it Korea.

Alicia said a woman from her class, who goes by the English name of Jasmine, spent an entire day making kimchi with her husband.

“They made three different kids of kimchi with 100kg  (about 40 heads of Napa) salted cabbage! The kimchi she made will be sent to her daughter’s family and her son’s family. Another woman (Jun), her sister, and mother made the same amount of kimchi to be divided among 11 people in their family. I asked if they had to wait a couple of days before eating it, and they laughed and said, ‘Oh noo.’ They usually end up picking at the kimchi while they are making it, and often eat it with boiled pork as they go. Some women said there is no real recipe they follow, but one woman (her English name is Naomi) said that she wrote down her mother’s recipe about 20 years ago because she knew she would have to make it for her two daughters one day. Her daughters are now in college and do get the kimchi that Naomi makes.”

Kimchi is so popular in Korea that many apartments come equipped with a special refrigerator just for storing the kimchi.

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A kimchi fridge in Korea

“They’re about the size of a dorm fridge, set under the counter where cabinets would be. There are usually two drawers with separate climate controls. Kimchi tends to make everything else in your fridge smell and taste like kimchi, so a separate fridge is a must when you have 30 kilos of it!” Alicia said.

“We use ours to store leftovers and beer though,” she added.

Morgan and I made only a small amount, which

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A peek inside the kimchi fridge

fit into a quart mason jar. We served it with rice and chicken stir fry. I was a little nervous to cook it into the rice as I had never had it before so I cooked the stir fry and rice and just added a bit of the kimchi afterwards. I really enjoy it though and so did Morgan so next time maybe we’ll try making fried rice with the kimchi.

Alicia recommended the website Maangchi for anyone interested in cooking Korean cuisine.

Another friend of mine, Rachel, has an entire blog about her adventures in Korean cooking. 

Lush'sBlush

 

Kitsey’s Kimchi

Ingredients

  • 2 small heads Napa cabbage
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • Water
  • 1 tablespoon grated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons red pepper flakes (more or less depending on how spicy you want)
  • 4 to 5 radishes, sliced thin
  • 1 medium carrot, julienne
  • 4 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces

Directions

Chop cabbage, remove core and cut cabbage into two inch pieces. Put cabbage into large bowl and gently massage salt into cabbage until it begins to soften. Once cabbage has softened a bit, cover with water and let sit in brine for one to two hours.

Following the brining process, rinse cabbage and allow to drain thoroughly while chopping the remaining vegetables. Using a small chopper or food processor, combine water, sugar, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes to make a paste.

Combine the cabbage with the other veggies in a large bowl. Using disposable gloves (seriously, you’ll burn your hands if you don’t!) massage the spicy paste into the vegetables. Keep massaging until the mixture becomes fairly liquidy.

Next pack the kimchi until a clean and sterilized glass quart jar. Pack mixture down into jar until liquid covers. Allow to sit on counter in a cool dry place for one to five days to ferment. Each day check the kimchi, open jar to release air bubbles and use a clean spoon to pack kimchi further down into the brine in the jar. On day five move kimchi to fridge. Serve with stir fry!

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Vineyard weddings in the Yadkin Valley

I am extremely proud of the beautiful Yadkin Valley Wine Region I call home. I got married an one of our area vineyards, RagApple Lassie, and it was a magical experience. If you are in North Carolina and considering a wedding venue, one of our state wineries or vineyards is a lovely choice. Below is a piece I wrote for On The Vine magazine.


 

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Bridal portrait by Rod Hunter

The busy holiday season is over, but for many couples, excitement is building anew as they plan to start their lives together. The holiday season is one of the most popular times of the year for engagements and so as a new year begins, many are planning for that special day — their wedding day.

Following the all-important dress decision, the ceremony and reception location is one of the biggest decisions for a couple. Many of the wineries and vineyards of the Yadkin Valley play host to multiple weddings a year. Couples may choose to have their wedding and/or reception at a winery for various reasons, but most, said winery owner Lenna Hobson, love the atmosphere of a winery or vineyard.

“There’s a romance and a mystique attached to wineries and that’s part of what helps

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Mary and Blake Johnson at Raffaldini Vineyards | Ron Day Photography

to bring people to the Yadkin Valley,” Hobson said. Hobson and her husband Frank are the owners of RagApple Lassie Vineyard and Winery in Boonville.

“It’s romance, pure and simple. It’s a centuries old mystique that weddings and love and romance pairs with perfectly,” Hobson said.

While some of the couples who have been married at RagApple Lassie found the location by happenstance, Hobson said many have a connection with the winery in some way. Several couples got engaged at the winery and returned to have their wedding or reception there. Hobson said they often return every year to celebrate their anniversary at the winery as well.

When a unique building adjacent to their property became available a few years ago, the owners of Hanover Park in Yadkinville added on a special space just for weddings and other events. Amy Helton, who owns the winery along with her husband, said the new space has been a big hit with brides. Having a space separate from their winery tasting room also allows a lot of flexibility for couples to decorate and prepare their space in advance of the ceremony or reception.

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Jennifer K. Photography

Helton said couples who have been married at Hanover Park have been from all across the state of North Carolina and some from out of state as well. The unique setting of the vineyard provides a scenic place for a couple’s special day.

Those scenic views showcasing the beauty of nature get in the blood for some, including Jennifer and Nick White. In October of 2008, the couple said their “I dos” at Elkin Creek Vineyard where they became friends with the owner. Now, the couple, along with their friends Louis and Carrie Jeroslow, own the vineyard.

“Elkin Creek Vineyard speaks to couples who are looking for a wedding venue that

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showcases nature, is secluded, but is not remote or hard to get to,” said Louis Jeroslow. “The site of a Historic Grist Mill built in 1896, our special location features two creeks flowing through the property. One of our most sacred and symbolic places at Elkin Creek Vineyard is where the two creeks join together to form one. This extraordinary setting can host very intimate ceremonies and larger-scale celebrations.

“Elkin Creek Vineyard embodies the elegant-rustic qualities that are now so highly sought after,” Jeroslow added. “We have worked very hard to create wedding packages that are completely scalable to the size needed. We often provide an all-inclusive wedding experience to private elopements and can also host weddings up to well over 100 guests. The flexibility and personal touches are what really attract couples to want to have their wedding here.”

Local wedding photographer Jennifer Kleinheksel has photographed multiple weddings at Elkin Creek and other area vineyards. She said a vineyard setting for a wedding makes for beautiful images which will be treasured for years to come.

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Jennifer K. Photography

“I love photographing weddings at our area vineyards and wineries because I get to be a part of one of the most important days in someone’s life and at a beautiful location,” Kleinheksel said. “There is so much love and joy that is part of the day and it is a true honor to be the one to capture it all. It is my job to not just be taking photographs of the day, but to actually capture the essence and feelings that the couple felt so that every time they look back at their images, they will be able to relive and feel those feelings all over again.”

For couples looking to tie the knot at a Yadkin Valley vineyard, the best place to start is visiting area vineyards to get a feel for the setting. Most area vineyards also have information available on their websites or by contacting the location regarding wedding and reception options.

Wedding photos courtesy of Rod Hunter, Ron Day and Jennifer K. Photography

Super simply spicy enchiladas

DSC_0610You can certainly make enchiladas all the way from scratch, even making your own sauce. They are delicious. But sometimes, you want something a little easier and a little quicker.

My husband and I made these super simple spicy enchiladas last week and they hit the spot!

Super Simple Spicy Enchiladas

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds ground beef (You could substitute ground turkey if you prefer.)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 4 oz can chopped green chilies (we used the hot kind, but you can do mild if you prefer)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese (or cheddar if you prefer, we actually used a little of both)
  • 1 can red enchilada sauce
  • flour tortillas

Directions:

In a skillet, brown ground beef over medium heat. Once browned, remove beef from pan and drain the fat. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in pan and saute diced onion until golden brown. Add chilies and stir to combine. Return ground beef to the pan and half the can of enchilada sauce. Season with cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Put half the cheese into the beef mixture and stir to combine. Spread some of the beef mixture into each flour tortilla, roll up and place seam side down into a lightly greased 9 X 13 casserole dish. Pour remaining enchilada sauce on top of rolled enchiladas and top with remaining cheese. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes.

 

 

Stones of the serene spirit

These are the stones of the serene spirit. In combination these stones are protective and can provide access to personal healing, past life recall, joy and connection with loved ones who have crossed the veil.

Desert Rose Selenite – Calms anxiety, offers access to angels and spirits of positive energy and past life remembrances.

Crazy Lace Agate – A happy stone that provides protection against accidents. This stone has a very positive and joyful vibration.

Snowflake Obsidian – A grounding stone that brings peace and comfort and connection to loved ones who have passed on.This stone also reminds us that we can overcome life’s challenges and get to a better place. Also a stone that can bring past life recall particularly for the purpose of learning and healing issues in the present life.

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Wine Review: Apothic Dark

DSC_0652I feel like Apothic wines are the new “it” wines. I hear a lot of people talking about them, and with good reason. They are great wines. Last night for dinner my husband made a delicious red wine braised roast which we served with Apothic Dark.

I am a red wine drinker, but I admit I was a little bit intimated by this wine. The label is dark, the font is very dramatic and Gothic, the wine itself is a dramatically dark purpley red. I was a bit afraid that this wine was going to very heavy. It is not. It is very drinkable.

There are some berry notes, a little coffee, a little chocolate. It is dark and dry, but it is extremely DSC_0657smooth. I would definitely recommend it to serve with a good hearty meal like a steak or roast, but you also won’t mind having a glass just on its own as well.

Apothic Dark is definitely a keeper. And the black cork is pretty fancy too.

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Favorite Things: The Velvet Lotus

My good friend Seja has an absolutely amazing crystal shop on Etsy. I’ve heard her refer to it before as her “little rock shop.” Well, let me tell you, The Velvet Lotus is so much more than just a rock shop. The Velvet Lotus is nothing but pure magic.

I have a number of crystals and other magical goodies from The Velvet Lotus and they are all so special to me.

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White Atlantean Phantom Quartz

One of the most incredible things about The Velvet Lotus is the way each item is lovingly packaged. A lot of “woo woo” shops, if you will, package things very prettily in little organza bags etc., but Seja pulls out all the stops. Her packages are filled to the brim with the most fragrant and lovely flower potpourri and glitter. I love glitter. I love it!

 

I tried to do a live unboxing on Periscope of my latest order from The Velvet Lotus, but it was so amazing that I had to just stop because I couldn’t video and concentrate on all the loveliness I was seeing. You can watch those video’s here and here.

 

If you’re looking for a place to purchase some amazing magical tools, I highly recommend The Velvet Lotus!

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