Sunday, November 3, 2013

2nd Annual Lillyella Secret Santa Gift Exchange!

The thing I love most about the holidays (besides snow!) is giving gifts. I get so darn excited I can hardly contain myself! I hosted this secret santa gift exchange for the first time a couple of years ago and it was tons of fun, so now that I'm settled and back to blogging, it's time to make this an annual event!

So here's how it will work — From now until November 20, I will collect the names and addresses of anyone who would like to participate. Guys and kids are welcome, too (with the assistance of a parent)!

I will then randomly assign each participant the name of a person you are to send a gift to and you will receive a gift from someone else. Only myself and your secret santa will have your information and everything will be secret until gifts are received!

Gifts can be handmade or purchased, should be valued around $20 (before shipping) and gift wrapped. If you'd like to spend more on your gift or if the item you make is valued at more than $20, that is no problem at all as long as you understand that you may receive something smaller.

Please keep in mind you will need to ship the item and I'll ask that items be shipped by December 16. Since international postal rates changed this year, it is more costly to ship internationally than it used to be, but it's not difficult to do if you don't mind paying a little extra. 

Please email your name and mailing address to, subject: Secret Santa. Please also include what country you are in and whether or not you are willing to ship internationally, and if so, to what countries. Feel free to also include information about yourself — likes, dislikes, favorite colors, favorite Etsy shops, your personal style, hobbies, interests etc, or you can just leave it up to your secret santa to totally surprise you!

I will email you the name of your gift recipient, along with all the important details by or before November 28.

Feel free to contact me anytime or leave a comment below with any questions. And invite your friends to join in, too!

Happy Holidays, everyone!

photos © Anthropologie

Thursday, October 10, 2013

In the Kitchen: Caramel Apple Mini Pies

For the past ten years or so, my husband and I have gone apple picking on my birthday. The timing is perfect for us (October 15) because our favorite, braeburn, are pretty much the only thing left on the trees. We pick a lot of apples, so many we can hardly carry them all. I think we usually go back for more, too.

I spend the next few weeks making apple butter, apple sauce and apple jelly (my dad's favorite), but we've actually never picked enough to leave room for making pie filling. Honestly, I'm not really a huge fruit pie fan, will the exception of cold soggy tart cherry pie, which any family member of mine will attest to.

This year we will not be picking apples on my birthday, because I've been picking them from my very own trees for the last two months! There are still a few left hanging and I still have buckets around the house and bowlfuls in the fridge, but I've already processed more apples this year than the last ten combined. That meant my first attempt at pie filling! It was almost a debacle. Actually, I think it does qualify as a debacle, but a salvaged one. In the end all it meant was the quarts I intended to have became pints. I've since been on a mission to come up with some mini dessert recipes that someone could easily make with a smaller amount of pie filling, and here's my first! Did I mentioned those are marshmallows on top?

pie crust dough (homemade or store bought roll)
apple pie filling (homemade or store bought can)
caramel baking bits (in the baking aisle with the chocolate chips)
mini marshmallows

Aside from being quick and easy, the beauty of this recipe is you can make just a few or a whole baking sheet worth at a time. Leftover dough and filling can be stored in the fridge to make something else or bake more fresh later.

Preheat oven to 400°. Cut 4" to 5" circles from the dough, depending on what size you'd like the finished pies (I cut about 4.5"). Spoon one to two tablespoon of filling in the center (you can cut up the apples if you'd like or need to). Sprinkle the caramel bits on top of the filling (as few or as many as you'd like), then fold up and crimp the edges.

Bake for about 10 - 15 min until the crust edges start to brown. Remove from the oven and cover the top with the mini marshmallows. You can also cut up full size marshmallows if you happen to have those. I wasn't sure if too many would make the pie's too sweet so I went light on them as you can see in the photo, but they were amazing and next time I'm totally piling them on!

Return to the oven for about 3 - 5 minutes until the marshmallows start to puff and brown.

As hard as it will be, I recommend waiting about 10 minutes before serving for the marshmallows to set and the pies to cool a bit because they will be bubbling!

I made a few without the caramel bits and they were excellent as well. You can also drizzle caramel (or butterscotch) sauce over the top in lieu of baking with the bits. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

hobby #727 (and a little pillow giveaway!)

I just have to start by reminding everyone that it's October! (As if anyone could forget.) It's my favorite month and the start of my favorite season. Me and summer just don't see eye to eye, I'm an overall better person when the air is cool and there are pumpkins everywhere! I'm extra excited about fall (and winter!) this year because I am finally out of the North Carolina climate and planted somewhere that actually gets cold. I mean single digits and below zero cold. Sorry NC friends, 30° is not cold! :)

So, onto the topic at hand, my newest hobby. I was destined to be a quilter, I could feel it in my bones, it was just a matter of the right time and place to jump in. It was at the top of my bucket list after the move and crazy enough, it all fell into place! I found a local shop that offers classes and took a beginners class about a month ago. Totally hooked! The class project was a 36" square log cabin style quilt. The hardest part for me was choosing fabrics, but I just had to keep telling myself that it wouldn't be my only quilt, so I picked something I loved and went with it.

It was a blast! Like anything, learning the basics and having the right tools make all the difference, but I do believe this is a craft of patience and the OCD perfectionist in me doesn't hurt either. I'm still pretty slow at it, but now that I have a space to keep my machine and supplies out, it doesn't matter! I can work when I have time and not stress about it. The hard part will be finishing a project before starting a new one, I already have four new quilts in the works and am out of work space!


I had a ton of extra fabric strips leftover from my first project so I just kept sewing up more squares! I thought they would make an adorable little pillow, was I right? This also gave me a chance to practice actually quilting a piece on my machine and was my first experience with piping. I lost a chunk of my right index finger, but otherwise a smashing success (I promise, it's not inside the pillow).

I thought it would be fun to give this little pillow away and brighten someone's day! 

To enter, please leave a comment below telling me who you plan to give gifts to this holiday season (family, friends, co workers, etc) and what you are planning to give (homemade or bought). 

Just be sure your first name and email are included in your profile or your comment. I will draw a winner randomly on Monday October 7.

Happy October! ~ nicole

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

In the Kitchen: One Pan Pasta

My husband recently saw this recipe while browsing my Martha Stewart Living magazine (you can laugh at the visual, I do) and was for some reason obsessed! I could never claim to be mightier than Martha, but I have to admit that I've never been a huge fan of her recipes as they are written. I typically find they are missing something or need more flavor, more liquid, a touch of this or that, so I honestly would have passed right over this one if he wasn't so darn persistent.

It seems to have become quite the rage 'round the interwebs these days and while I read many variations on this recipe, I (more or less) stuck with the original and loved it!

It's simple (one pan, ten minutes people!) and surprisingly fresh and flavorful. I thought it would be dry, and even looks a little dry in photos, but was pleasantly surprised with the amount of sauciness. The taste was different than I expected (sweeter and spicier), but super delicious and easy to modify to your personal tastes, not to mention a beautiful way to put your garden harvest to use! (And an excitement Mr. Wizard type experience for your children, or husband, in my case…)

Here is a link to the original recipe on the Martha Stewart website and below is how I made it, what I learned and how I'll change it next time:

12 ounces linguine
12 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes (halved or quartered)
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 sprigs basil, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cups (32 ounces) vegetable broth
1/2 cup water
Fresh grated parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients except the cheese in a large straight-sided skillet or wide dutch oven. You'll need a pan that's big enough for the pasta to lay flat and some room for the liquid to bubble.

Bring to a boil over high heat and continue boiling, stirring occasionally to prevent the noodles from sticking, for about 9 - 10 minutes until the pasta is al dente and most of the liquid has evaporated. And that's it! You're done! Spoon it into a bowl, top it with loads of grated parm and scarf it up.

I made mini beef meatballs that we mixed in before serving, and husband requested 'those little balls of fresh mozzarella', which I thought was a great idea!

The original recipe calls for water and about 2 teaspoons salt (or more to taste). I used vegetable broth for some added flavor and a little water to make up the difference. Four and half cups of liquid worked perfect for me, which is what the original recipe called for. I thought being at a high altitude that I would need to boil it longer for the noodles to be done and may need more liquid, but I did not.

I was worried there would be too much onion (and I always cook with onion) or that the thin slices would be too big (as opposed to diced) but they cooked down nicely and I didn't even notice them.

The 1/2 teaspoon red pepper added quite a kick, so lessen it if you're not a fan of spice (we are!). If you look at the other photos of this dish, you will see the basil sprigs are whole. Not really sure how that works unless they took them out at the end? I chopped mine up so it could incorporate. You can also save some fresh to add when serving if you like it (yum!).

Next time I cook this dish, I will make a few changes…

I love mushrooms, so will add about 6 - 8 ounces fresh sliced along with the other ingredients at the beginning.

It made a ton! Dinner twice (for two) and then some. I think I will use 8 ounces of pasta instead, but keep the other ingredients the same. Most boxes of pasta are 16 ounces, so I measured out 12 for the original recipe, but will use half a box and save the other half for the next time. We typically eat whole wheat pasta which takes longer to cook, so I used regular linguine the first time around and it cooked well. Next time I will try using whole wheat angel hair. The whole wheat will take longer but the pasta is much thinner, so I think the cooking time to liquid ratio will balance out.

I will also wait to add the basil until about halfway through the cooking. I want it to cook with the dish a bit, but I think it looses too much flavor when cooked for the entire time.

Some other variations I read about on other blogs included using canned tomatoes and dried herbs instead of fresh, using chicken broth for the liquid, sweet or red onion instead of yellow and adding additional ingredients such as bell peppers, parsley and lemon slices.

I recommend trying this one close to the original and seeing how you like the flavors and amount of sauce, how the liquid and cooking time works out with your stove, etc and then start making modifications to suit your preferences.

If this is something you've been making for years or have already modified, I want to hear about it! And if its new to you, try it and let me know what you think!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

In the Kitchen: Ricotta Zucchini Fritters

Chances are that you, like me, are always looking for new ways to use ALL THOSE ZUCCHINIS you have this time of year, whether from your garden or picked out of the overflowing baskets at the farmers market. I've been wanting to try something like this for awhile now and am so glad I finally did because seriously people, I'm tooting my horn over here on this one.

About 1 pound zucchini, shredded (2 medium or 1 large)
2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 large scallions, sliced (green and white portions)
zest of one large lemon (about 2 tsp)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1 scant cup flour
Oil (for frying)

In a large bowl combine zucchini, garlic, scallions, lemon zest, salt, pepper, ricotta and egg and mix well. Add flour and mix until just combined.

Heat 1/4" oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Use about 2 T batter for each fritter, using the back of your spoon to spread into a thin cake once dropped in the pan.  

Fry for about two minutes on each side, or until golden brown. The middles will stay slightly mushy, which is ok! Set on paper towels to drain excess oil. Serve warm with lemon wedges and sour cream, if desired, and eat your brains out! 

This recipe makes about 12 three inch fritters and can easily be halved. You can keep fritters warm in a 250° oven while cooking if needed, but I have yet to try reheating any leftovers (because I ate them ALL, of course). 

I hope you enjoy these as much as I have (with every meal for the last two days), and let me know what you think!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Spotlight: The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery

I can't remember when I first learned to cross stitch, I just always remember doing it! I probably learned when my mom was working on this big americana sampler that we hanging in our hallway. I remember  what it looked like and watching her work on it so clearly, yet can't think what my first project may have been. I kind of equate cross stitching with knitting and crocheting. They are all cathartic in a sense, portable, able to be done while doing something else (you all know how much I love multitasking!) and can be set aside for as little or as long as you want, waiting for you to return. I always have a project going and it's so easy to pick it up whenever I need a break, have to sit somewhere for a long time, or just need to take my mind off of things. I even took one to Africa and worked a bit every night with a headlamp under my mosquito net.

For those who equate cross stitch with grandma, it's time to check out what it's all about these days! Don't get me wrong, fabulous vintage patterns have their place (finally starting my Mad Men deer by the way, remember that hunt?!), but the patterns being created these days are just too cute to resist picking up this craft, or getting back into it.

latte love by the frosted pumpkin stitchery

Today I want to introduce you to a couple ladies I recently discovered through the workroom, Amanda and Ashleigh of The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery! This BFF duo creates cute, one of a kind cross stitch patterns for stitchers of all experience levels. 

Some of you who follow me on facebook and instagram have asked about the project I've been sharing (above top), which is the springtime sampler from the frosted pumpkin stitchery. Think of it as a virtual stitch-a-long! When you sign up during the sampler presale, you receive a color key and chart of all the sampler borders, then you receive  a chart every week for a month or so with the pattern for one row of the sampler.

You can follow along on facebook, instagram and flickr to see everyones progress as you go (above bottom). The Springtime Sampler was released in April and while many people have completed, I'm way behind — but it doesn't matter! 

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Their first seasonal sampler was a winter wonderland and they will be continuing with summer and fall, too. In fact, the presale for their Summer Sampler begins today!! It is on sale for $12.95 through the end of this month with the first full week beginning with the start of summer, which gives you plenty of time between now and then to get all your supplies and prepare your borders! 

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Some of their samplers are monthly, including their most epic pattern, the fruit of the month club (shown above)! There's no way I can pass this one up, but it will have to wait until after the move! This pattern was released before as a year long stitch along, but was recently re-released as an entire pattern which you can find here.

Another monthly sampler that is currently in progress is their woodland sampler (shown below). How adorable is that?! It's never too late to begin and get caught up! You can purchase this pattern at any time through the year and will receive the current and previous months initially, then receive each following month as they come.

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Want to learn more about the ladies behind the patterns? Read on!

Who is The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery?

The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery is Amanda & Ashleigh! We are two best friends!

Where do you currently call home?
We both live in Northern California

How long have you been operating?
Since 2011

Is Frosted Pumpkin a full-time adventure or do you have a day job?
Since the first of the year it's become our full time job! Ashleigh works at a ceramic studio on the weekends and Amanda occasionally designs quilts.

How did you come up with your shop name?
We both love sweets and fall- our dream baked good is anything with frosting and pumpkins!

What, if any, formal training have you had in the arts?
Ashleigh has a degree in graphic design, Amanda went to school for printmaking

"This is how we work: Ashleigh designs a chart (this is the full summer sampler!) and we set up camp at Michael's and pick colors!"

What made you decide to start your business?
We really loved to craft but it was hard to find kawaii cross stitch patterns!

Where do you sell and market your patterns? (you can also find some patterns on Kitschy Digitals)

Five things you love:
Amanda: I love Halloween, donkeys, camping, sock yarn & Porkchop!

Ashleigh: Road Trips, peach tea, my pups Zula & Panda, being crafty & Autumn

What is your favorite leisure time activity? 
Amanda: knitting socks!
Ashleigh: Crocheting or cross stitching

Favorite junk food?
Amanda: pickle chips! 
Ashleigh: Reese's peanut butter cups

If you could trade places with any other person for a week, with whom would it be?
Amanda: Hermoine for sure! She's my very favorite.
Ashleigh: I would have to say Tina Fey. I would love to be as witty and creative as that lady!

Share some of your favorite music 
Amanda: I alternate between the soundtrack to Animal Crossing, to Motley Crüe to Waylon Jennings. It really depends on my mood that day!
Ashleigh: Some of my favorites are Old Crow Medicine Show, Adele, Miranda Lambert, Billie Holiday and Mumford & Sons

What would you like to learn?
Amanda: I'd like to learn how to weave!

Ashleigh: I would like to learn play the violin (super random!)

What does the future hold for you and your creative endeavors? 
We are going to keep releasing new patterns, maybe an ebook! We have lots of ideas and hopes and dreams!

You can follow The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery on facebook, flickr and on instagram with hashtag #thefrostedpumpkinstitchery. You can also visit Amanda's blog, Hey Porkchop, for tons of other crafty adventures!

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So, are you ready to begin?! You can start with this FREE pattern of the Frosted Pumpkin mascots, Sugarloaf and Threadly, and sign up for the summer sampler here! Tell me, did I make a cross stitcher outta you? :)

Happy weekend, friends!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

In the Kitchen: Ham and Broccoli Shells with Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce

I've been hoarding recipes. I know, it's so selfish of me. My husband teases that I never learned to share because I was an only child, but what does he know. He is a boy, after all.

In all honestly, I've been trying to wait (impatiently) until I was out of my dark, poorly lit apartment kitchen and into my new, bright airy naturally lit kitchen so the photos could actually look appetizing, but it's just taking too long!

Since we're stuck here, packed and ready to go, with nothing else to do for the next three weeks, I thought I would put the time to good use and do a little much-overdo blogging! So, allow me to apologize for the ugly photos you are about to see, but I promise the deliciousness of the recipe will make up for it all.

This is one of those you-can-use-cauliflower-for-anything kinda recipes. Are you into those? You know, cauliflower rice, cauliflower tortillas. It seems to be the new world's most versatile food, but I might just be behind on the times as I usually am!

The sauce for this easy, oven-baked casserole is made rich and creamy without having to use tons of cream, sticks of butter or tubs of cheese, but by using pureed cauliflower. I personally guarantee (should I create my own seal of approval?!) that no one (especially your kids!) would ever guess what it is made out of.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 head cauliflower, chopped
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 large white onion, chopped
1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
4 teaspoons flour
4 cups milk
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 ounces pecorino or romano cheese, grated
1/2 lb pasta shells
1/2 - 1lb ham, chopped
1 - 2 bunches broccoli, cut into florets 

Preheat oven to 400°. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add cauliflower, garlic, onion, salt and pepper and cook until slightly softened, about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle with flour, stirring to coat, then add milk and slowly bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently until cauliflower is very soft, about 15 minutes. Be sure to heat slowly and stir often to avoid burning the milk on the bottom of the pan.

Remove from heat and stir in the nutmeg (don't leave this out!) and half the cheese. Puree until smooth in the pot with an immersion blender, or carefully transfer to a blender or food processor.

In the meantime while preparing the cauliflower sauce, cook the pasta until slightly tender but not fully cooked, about 5 minutes. Mix the pasta, ham and broccoli in a large deep casserole dish. I use about one full pound of ham cut into bite sized cubes and two good sized bunches of broccoli. 

Pour the sauce over top and stir gently to mix evenly. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and bake until bubbly, 20 - 30 min. Broil for 2 -3 minutes to brown top and let stand for 5 - 10 minutes before serving.

As I make it, this dish will easily feed six people (with a side dish) or a family of two to four at least twice. We have it with a side salad, if I'm feeling healthy, or cheesy garlic bread, if not :)

Though I have yet to try either, I see no problem with making this ahead and leaving it in the fridge for a day/overnight or freezing before baking.