how to: make the best beans…ever!

Seeing as Memorial Day weekend marks the official start of summer, I thought today would be an appropriate time to share my favorite recipe for toting along to barbecues and potlucks: Susan Crawford’s “Best Beans…Ever!” This gem of a recipe’s been in my possession for 11 years now, passed on to me by Susan Crawford, mom to one of my dear high school friends, Jane. In the decade-plus since high school graduation (!!!), I’ve brought this dish to more barbecues than I can count, and it always nets mad compliments. Enough rambling though…here’s how to make it yourself.


1 lb. ground beef (or a little more), browned & drained
1 lb. bacon, browned & drained
1 large and 1 small can Busch’s Baked Beans (don’t drain)
1 can great northern beans (rinsed and drained)
1 can butter beans (don’t drain)
1 can spicy chili beans (don’t drain)
1 cup brown sugar
1 envelope Lipton Onion soup mix
1 cup barbecue sauce


Stir all ingredients together and bake at 350° (or 325°) for 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

So. Super. Easy.

Here’s what it looks like before baking.

In truth, it doesn’t look that much different when it’s done. I haven’t fiddled with the recipe much, seeing as it’s pretty perfect as is, BUT, I do want to give The Pioneer Woman’s bacon-topping technique a try on them some time. Bacon on top, bacon on the inside…bacon, bacon, bacon, bacon, bacon.

If you give this recipe a whirl over the course of the summer, please do tell me what you think!



how to: make crepe paper bunting

It seems like before any of our Mighty Swell sales, Rae and I are always finishing something up at the 11th hour. Take, for example, this bunting, which Rae whipped up out of leftover crepe paper that was lying around from our sneak peek photo shoot. I’m pretty sure our first customers were walking through the door while Rae was finishing up hanging it! Since we raked in a ton of compliments on it over the course of the weekend, I thought I’d have Rae share the how-to so you can make your own. It’d be a cute addition to any shower, birthday party or backyard barbecue, right?

“What do you do with a lot of extra crepe paper from a photo backdrop? Make a bunting to hang in the windows, of course. This simple decor came together in a snap, and the crepe paper looks lovely when light shines through it.”—Rae


Rolls of crepe paper in several complementary colors—we ordered ours through Papermart.
Yarn (we used white)
A stapler and staples
A pair of scissors


1. Cut a 2-foot long piece of paper off of the roll and fold it in half length-wise. Cut down the fold, so now you have two pieces. Fold both of the pieces in half and lay them on top of each other. Now cut those pieces into 3-inch strips. Since I wasn’t measuring (and was in a hurry) my pieces were quite irregular, but I think this added to the charm of the bunting! Repeat with remaining colors so you have piles of strips in every color.

2. Grab your yarn and stapler and start making magic! Cut a piece of yarn the length you want your bunting to be. Slip a strip over the yarn and staple just under the yarn (this way your buntings can be moved and spaced out. If you want them fixed, staple your folded-over strip right onto the yarn.). Repeat with alternating colors and voila—you’re done!

Many thanks to Rae for walking us through it step-by-easy-step!



P.S. Yesterday was a happy day for Karissah, winner of the Girls Got Rhythm fest ticket giveaway. There’s still time to get your tickets online; a limited number will be available at the door tonight and tomorrow.

how to: plan a thriftcation

I’m heading out on a weekend-long road trip with my beau tomorrow and I’ve got to be honest—instead of thinking about the fancy condo waitin’ for us (there’s a fireplace!) or all the fun things we’ll do and see, I’ve been busy daydreaming about the thrifts we’ll be hitting on the way! It’s a cheap, addictive thrill, exploring out-of-town thrift stores. But in order to maximize your time and not miss any gems, there’s a fair amount of preparation to do before you hit the road. Since this topic’s fresh on my mind, tonight I thought I’d quickly share a few do’s and don’ts for thriftcation planning.


Ask around. Before I embark on any significant thrifting trip, I ask friends and acquaintances familiar with my destination for their suggestions. Don’t know anyone where you’re headed? That’s what Twitter is for! Another trick: Once you’re shopping around a small town thrift, ask an employee if there are any other stores in the area. More often than not, they’ll have great suggestions for you.

Do map out your route. Look to see what towns are on the way, and then look up to see what stores are easy to access from the highway. I have three must-stop-spots  between Minneapolis and my hometown that are within a painless five minutes of I-94. It just seems silly not to pop in when they’re right there!

Do update your apps. My most recent happy app discovery is the FREE Craigslist app. You can find details about the other iPhone apps I rely on when I’m out thrifting here.

Do keep your eyes open. Tons of estate sales, flea markets, garage sales and thrift store listings never find their way to the great world wide web. Gas-station signs, church bulletin boards, fliers on a telephone pole, ads in a community newspaper, sandwich board signs—look out for them all!


Don’t blow your budget just because you’re out of town. It’s easy to lose your head when you’re on the road, trust me, I know. Avoid buyer’s remorse by staying true to your normal high standards for quality.

Don’t ignore who you’re thrifting with. My boyfriend has a saintly level of patience when it comes to my thrifting addiction, but even the most heaven-sent companions have their limits. Don’t wear your partner in crime out or you might not have a buddy for your next trip!

Don’t forget to eat. Stopping for breakfast at a greasy spoon diner or breaking for a milkshake along the way make thrifting road trips way more fun, not to mention more memorable. (Have I mentioned I just like to eat?)

I hope these dos and don’ts come in handy the next time you set out to plan a road trip. As for me, I’d better sign off so I can finish packing…our 5 a.m. departure time is going to roll around before I know it. I hope y’all have beautiful weekends!



P.S. The photo above was taken last May at the Am Vets thrift store in Memphis, Tennessee, conveniently located just down the street from Graceland. :-)

how to: make tea-tin candles

I have this horrible tendency to hang on to way too many things, vintage tea tins being one of them. Which is why, in the course of the past week, my kitchen has been transformed into a veritable tea tin candle-making factory. If you, too, find yourself in a last-minute gift-making frenzy, here’s the how-to.


 Miscellaneous vintage tea tins—all of mine were from thrift stores, where you can find them easily, priced anywhere from 25 cents to $2.

 Microwavable soy wax—a four-pound box of microwavable soy wax ($10 at Michaels’s with a coupon) flakes made three average-sized tea tin candles.

Wicks of the extra-large variety (tea tins are pretty big in diameter, so you need a fat wick)—also available at Michael’s

Silicone chalk (for the tins that are not water-tight)

Wick holders (optional)

Newspaper (not optional)



1. Test your tins. Fill your tins with water to see if they leak. If you find some are not water-tight, seal the inside bottom rim, corners and sides with a silicon chalk. Do not be an eager beaver and skip this step! (Unless scraping a counter-full of wax off with an old credit card sounds fun—then by all means, skip away!) Follow chalk dry time instructions before moving on to step two.

2. Cover your work space with newspaper. (Again, please learn from my mistakes!) Center your wicks in the middle of your tins, making sure the bottom of the wick is flush with the base of the tin. I prefer to use wick holders to accomplish this. (If you don’t want to buy holders, you can dip the bottom of the wick in melted wax and then stick/center in the bottom of the tin.)

3. Melt your wax—fun! I melted four-plus cups at a time in my glass liquid measuring cup. Four cups took about 4-5 minutes to melt entirely, quite a bit longer than the box o’ wax predicted. If you have a thermometer to test the temperature (per package instructions), feel free to do so. I did not and everything worked out just fine.

4. Fill your tins on up with wax, but not all the way up, just close to it. Wicks will need adjusting after you pour the wax; this is totally normal. It’s also normal to run out of wax before a tin is full. Just get going on nuking the next batch right away and add it when it’s done.

5. Leave your tins alone for 45 minutes to an hour. Go watch a Golden Girls episode, read a magazine or take pictures of your cat…I’m not one to judge.

6. After an hour or so has passed, poke a few holes near the wick, going all the way to the bottom of the tin. This allows air to escape and makes for a more evenly topped candle. Top off your candles with a little more wax.

7. Leave them alone again, this time for a while. In a few hours time…boom. Tea tin candles are ready to go. Cozy on up and enjoy your handiwork.



how to: bake pumpkin bread like tammy wynette

I’ve been thinking about Tammy Wynette a lot lately. Maybe it’s because I changed my work computer’s desktop to this last Friday, or maybe it’s because I’m saying her name 100 times a day, scolding my naughty kitty, her green-eyed namesake. So last week, when I came upon a couple handwritten recipes of hers on the Country Music Hall of Fame’s website (check them out here), I decided her pumpkin bread would be the perfect baking project. Like most of my go-to recipes, it’s pretty simple and pretty delicious.


3 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 eggs, lightly beaten
3 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups mashed pumpkin
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts


Mix dry ingredients, blend other ingredients, except nuts. Mix alternately and add nuts. Grease two Bundt pans and fill. Bake approximately 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Then try to fend off your cat and dog while you enjoy a slice and a glass of milk.

Obviously, I’d recommend baking these babies with Tammy on. I’ve been listening to her “Another Lonely Song” album a lot. Every song is a winner.



Top photo c/o: country dreaming

how to: care for vintage pyrex

I love vintage Pyrex. Hardly a day in my life goes by when I don’t use a piece or two from my collection. Right at this minute, a bowl holds ripening nectarines on my kitchen counter and two covered casseroles are keeping a fruit salad and some leftovers fresh in my fridge. In the sink there’s a princess bowl from last night’s post-swimming popcorn snack. They’re adorable little workhorses, they are. Like chocolate lab puppies…what’s not to love? Through my years of thrifting Pyrex, I’ve picked up a few tricks and tips for the proper care of it…tips I’m more than happy to pass along to you!

First, some DON’Ts….

DON’T put your Pyrex pieces in the dishwasher. Just. Don’t.

DON’T clean the colored outside portion of your Pyrex with abrasives or cleansers with bleaching agents (ex. Comet, Bon Ami, some Soft Scrub versions, oven cleaner, etc.). The white insides can handle a tougher clean, but the colored parts cannot.

DON’T stack wet Pyrex. It can stick together in the most terrible fashion and pulling pieces apart can cause a piece (or worse, both!) to break. Sadness will ensue, believe you me.

Some DO’s….

DO buy a can of Bar Keeper’s Friend and a pack of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. Both are multi-tasking wonder products that are both bound to be your new BFFs in the kitchen.

DO try cleaning your Pyrex in warm, soapy water with a non-abrasive sponge before moving onto any other method.

DO use Bar Keeper’s Friend to get out stains on the inside or non-colored parts of your Pyrex. Sprinkle a bit of the powder on a wet cloth or sponge, then rub it in gently. Let the paste sit for up to a minute before rinsing off with warm water.

DO use a Magic Eraser to safely remove baked-on crud or stains from the colored parts of your Pyrex. Be gentle! Not a lot of elbow grease is necessary.

DO test (in an inconspicuous spot!) any other types of cleaners, chemicals or abrasives before going all out.

DO clean your Pyrex regularly. It’s amazing how much dust and grease and other nasties will find their way to the bottom of your bowls, casseroles, etc. Give pieces that haven’t been used in a while a little soap & water bath.

Curious about the history of Pyrex, the value of collectible vintage pieces or about what a certain pattern is calledPyrex Love has everything you need and then some!

If you liked this how-to, check out these…how-to get out stains, how-to clean vintage luggage and how-to clean thrifted jewelry.

I hope you all have wonderful days!



{guest post} how to: make lavender-lemon ice pops

I couldn’t be more excited about today’s guest how-to, courtesy of Andi McDaniel, co-owner of 10,000 Licks, the Twin Cities’ new gourmet farm-fresh ice pop business. You can find these gals’ insanely delicious treats at the Midtown and Uptown Farmers’ Markets, beginning July 16th. They’ll also be sampling mini-pops at the Mighty Swell’s “Summer in the City” event…an idea, I think is, well, mighty badass. Learn more (and peruse flavors!) on their website here. And for goodness sake, become a fan on 10,000 Licks on Facebook! Take it away Andi…

My husband and I bought our house in Longfellow in late winter, when the entire yard was still covered in a stubborn layer of snow. So imagine my surprise—and delight—when the snow melted and revealed a wealth of edible riches—Blueberries! Rhubarb! Thyme! And best of all—the healthiest looking lavender plant east of California. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I’ve heard that lavender is finicky, and yet ours, miraculously, isn’t. But enough about our dumb luck. Let’s talk about how to turn lavender, and it’s flavor-soulmate, lemon, into delicious homemade ice pops. Because it’s finally summer and it’s best we forget about snow for awhile.

This recipe is actually the first “official” 10,000 Licks ice pop recipe my business partner shared with me the other day. We’ve been making our ice pops in our home kitchens so far (we move into a commercial kitchen on July 1), and as we’ve been test-driving recipes, we’ve each adopted our faves. I’m the Sweet Corn gal, as well as the steward of Rhubarb and Vanilla Beet. Meanwhile, Sarah is the genius behind Lavender Lemon. She’s been in charge of them—so I had no idea how to make them. I emailed her for the details and here’s the scoop.


♥ Juice of six large lemons (makes about 1 1/2 cups juice if you use a juicer, so if you’re doing it by hand use extra lemons)

♥ Equal parts water (to match the lemon juice)

For the simple syrup:

 1 cup of honey (raw is tastiest, I’ve found)

 1 cup of water

 Approximately 4-5 tablespoons of lavender


1. Juice the lemons.

2. Combine lemon juice with equal parts water (strain out lemon seeds and pulp if you’re doing it by hand).

3. Refrigerate lemon mixture.

4. Meanwhile, combine honey, lavender and 1 cup of water in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir to dissolve honey, then remove from heat almost immediately. Cover and let sit for as long as overnight or as little as one hour (if you can’t let it sit overnight, just use more lavender—it’s all about flavor potency!).

5. Once syrup is cool, combine with lemon mixture and poor into molds. (We use these.)

6. Freeze overnight.

Note: These pops would do fabulously as ice cubes, for use in the cocktail of your choice. If freezing in an ice cube tray, a few hours in the freezer will be plenty of time.