I'm linked up over to #talknt tonight, having a great time! If you missed the fun, check it out before next Tuesday!

Learn more and link up at: http://talkintuesdays.blogspot.com/

Also, here's my Share from tonight -- my first quilted throw pillow. It's up for voting at the Pink Castle Fabrics Fall for Solids contest hosted on Threadbias. If you're a member there, please join the group and vote for my pillow. I'd love to add all of those beautiful new fabrics to my stash!

Holiday Cookies

I've been looking for a go-to cookie recipe for a long time, and I think I may have finally found it!

This is Martha Stewart's Basic Vanilla Cookie Dough. The best part? The geniuses over at Martha Stewart also posted modifications to the basic recipe to convert it to chocolate, spice or citrus cookie dough. It can be made into icebox (sliced) cookies, ball cookies, cookie cutter cookies... the choices are endless!

One recipe to memorize, a billion different applications. It's like Martha was reading my mind.

I dressed up my first batch of holiday cookies by dipping them in melted semi-sweet chocolate chips. While the chocolate was still molten, I sprinkled the cookies with crushed candy canes or sprinkles. Then, let the chocolate firm up again by resting the cookies in the freezer for ten minutes.

These didn't last long, but to be fair, most baked goods don't in our house! I think we're ready for a second batch...

Tweet, tweet!

Oh my gosh, I finally registered for a Twitter account. Help!!

Follow me @JessWHCT. (Did I do that right?) Also, leave your handle in the comments below -- I'd love to follow you too!

Five tricks for raising a peaceful puppy

Our new puppy, Parker, is a great little dog. Like all puppies, though, Parker has a crazy streak. It comes and goes in waves; one moment he's snuggling and adorable, but the next he's trying to chew your hand off. It has been a frustrating few weeks as we've learned to work back and forth with Parker to maintain a happy home. I feel like we've made a few breakthroughs, and I'd like to share them with you!

I'm by no means a pet training expert. I've owned dogs through the years, and I can say with assurance that Parker's behavior is not the mark of a "bad dog" -- he's just being a puppy! Especially during these early months, where they are growing and exploring and teething, I would expect most puppies to behave the way Parker does: chewing, barking, getting into things he shouldn't and just generally being "wild" with bursts of energy. The goal, I've found, is not to punish the dog for his excited puppy energy but to redirect it.

So, without further ado, here are those tricks!

1) Don't raise your voice to an excited puppy. As much as it pains me, when Parker is chewing on a very expensive pair of leather boots for the four-hundredth time, I know I can't shout excitedly and get him to stop. When he's biting my hands incessantly, I can't yell and flail and make a fuss to show him that biting is wrong. Especially when he's barking at the top of his lungs at 2:30 AM, and I haven't slept in two nights, I can't attempt to control him by becoming louder than him. It just won't work.

I've found the best way to start redirecting these types of behaviors is to become as calm as I can be. It's actually a trick I picked up from my friend who teaches elementary school children; if I bring my voice down to a softer volume (while maintaining an assertive tone) Parker needs to focus more in order to listen. Usually, that distracts him from the bad behavior he was enjoying, and gives me the brief moment I need to redirect his energy.

2) Start training young. I've found that once I have Parker's attention, I've only got a few seconds before he'll return to his bad behavior. The best thing I can do in those seconds is run him through a few of his tricks, such as sit, shake or lay down. That exercise turns the tables from him simply listening to my voice to him responding to my commands, and once I've accomplished that I'm back in control.

We adopted Parker from a local rescue that places all of their dogs in foster care prior to adoption. Parker's foster owners had trained him to sit before we adopted him, and that was at 8 weeks of age -- proof that you can effectively start training at a young age! We continued to work on "sit" for the next couple of weeks as we also added "lay down" and "shake" to his repertoire. We're lucky that Parker is eager to learn and responds well to training; most dachshunds are not as motivated to perform!

3) Respond when your puppy has a need. One of the hardest things about adopting a new puppy is breaking the communication barrier. Within the first few days of being home Parker learned that he should relieve himself outside, but he had a hard time getting us to recognize when he needed to go out. He would begin whining and biting our hands, and we would in turn scold him and ignore him for "bad behavior". He would get frustrated, and bite harder, and the situation would escalate quickly.

Now Parker knows to go scratch at the door if he needs to go out, so we've overcome this one problem. However there are still times where he'll act up and begin barking or nipping, and it turns out he's trying to tell us that his toy has rolled under the sofa, or that his water bowl is empty, or that he's feeling sick and needs to be let outside at an irregular time (like 2:30 AM). Once we resolve the issue, his bad behavior disappears.

4) Recognize when your puppy is bored. Parker's worst behavior starts when we've failed to give him enough attention and direction, especially after a long day cooped up in his kennel. He will bark, bite, and get into the things we don't want him to have (shoes, electrical cords) simply because he knows those things will draw our attention.

When I know Parker is on the verge of boredom and even his favorite toys won't cut it, I'll try to find a new experience for him. Since he's only a few weeks old, those things are still easy to find! For example, I'll offer him an empty 2 liter soda bottle to chase around the house, or I'll put a treat under a Solo cup and let him work it out. (Note: you should only do things like this under supervision. You'd hate for your dogs new experience result in a trip to the vet!)

5) Finally, know when your puppy is tired. Parker's behavior also takes a turn for the worst when he's tired. As a growing puppy he sleeps a considerable number of hours every day, and sometimes he needs to sleep more than he needs to play. While we've set up a crate as a safe, private dog-only space, Parker still hasn't recognized that he has the right to enter it whenever he wants. When I recognize that he's listless and tired, I'll take him to his crate and suggest "Go to bed?" (his command for entering his crate) and, more often than not, he'll walk right in, curl up and fall fast asleep.

Well, that's it! I hope these tips help, and if you have other ideas, please feel free to leave a comment below. There are still plenty of "new tricks" we'd love to learn around here!

Roasted whole chicken

I can't believe this came out of my oven!

I'd like to introduce you to the first whole chicken I've ever purchased. Don't get me wrong, I'm an old pro at cooking chicken parts, but I've never attempted roasting an entire chicken at once. It was so simple! I highly recommend the commentary provided at The Pioneer Woman -- I followed those directions exactly, and it came out perfectly.

To summarize: Rinse and dry a a 3 to 4 pound chicken (ours was 3.7 lbs). Rub it down with herbs (basil and oregano), salt (coarse sea salt) and vegetable oil. Set on a rack over a shallow pan and cook at 400-450 degrees F for one hour, making sure the thigh meat reaches 180 degrees. (Our house seemed to smoke up a bit, so I kept adjusting the temperature. It probably wasn't necessary.) Allow the chicken to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving -- we refrigerated ours for a few hours before we sat for dinner.

Totally worth it. Especially since this allowed me to make some excellent gravy from the pan drippings to take to my office Thanksgiving lunch tomorrow. (You're welcome, coworkers!)

Thrifted nightstand

About a year and a half ago I rescued this little nightstand from my neighborhood thrift shop. The sticker is long gone, but I believe I paid $8 for it. I have a tall dresser with a similar design, and I knew I could refinish this piece to fit into my every day life.

A month after purchasing the nightstand, my mister (although then he was only my fiance) and I made our move to Tennessee. Days before departing, while I was packing up the rest of my house, I decided to finally refinish the nightstand. (Totally logical.) After a coat of Rustoleum white primer and two coats of gray paint, it became this:

(Boy, do I miss that yard.)

Since then we got married and moved in together, and this poor little nightstand got sent away to the guest room, never to be seen again. It just didn't work with the dark bedroom furniture my mister brought with him, but I couldn't bear to part with it. I actually wound up without a nightstand of my own after that. Then yesterday, I was "shopping at home" and redecorating a few rooms of the house when it finally hit me. I could refinish this piece again, and then I'd get to enjoy it every day! Two coats of black satin spray paint later, and...

Truth be told, it looks better in person than it does in that photo. I love how the finish just seems to glow, and the black really makes the lines of this piece stand out! Once I get the rest of our room squared away, I'll be sure to get a better shot.

Do you have a favourite piece of art or furniture that you've sequestered away in another room of your house? Try reworking it so that it can be a part of your daily life!

Pumpkin Chai Spice Scones

I've seen recipes all over Pinterest for pumpkin or chai spiced baked goods -- do you know the ones I'm talking about? They're everywhere! I'm certainly not complaining -- I love these flavours, and it was only a matter of time before I jumped on board. Pumpkin spice lattes, "dirty" chai tea, and then these entered my life:

Pumpkin Spice Kisses!

I've been trying to find a way to work more pumpkin spice into our daily lives, before the season is over. My mister makes a mean pot of coffee every morning, and to thank him I try to make a batch of scones once a week so that we can have a delicious and portable breakfast to take to work.

Since we eat scones so often, I'm always looking for new flavours... put two and two together, and voila. Pumpkin chai spice scones are born!

Pumpkin Chai Spice Scones
Adapted from smitten kitchen; makes 8

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
4 tbsp white sugar
1/2 tsp table salt
1 tsp chai spice mix (below)
5 tbsp cold, unsalted butter
handful of roughly chopped Pumpkin Spice Hershey's Kisses
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream

Chai Spice Mix adapted from Pass the Sushi
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare chai spice mix in a small jar.

Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and 1 tsp chai spice mix with a whisk in a large bowl. Using a pastry knife or your fingers, cut in 5 tbsp cold butter. Stir in the chopped kisses. Add vanilla extract to heavy cream, then pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir with a spoon until it becomes a hassle, then take off your rings and work the dough with your hands until it just barely comes together. Do not overwork!

Pat into a disk or rectangle (your choice) about 1 inch thick. Cut into eight equal pieces with a sharp knife and distribute on a cookie sheet lined in Silpat or parchment. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the tops are just kissed with golden brown. Share, eat and enjoy fall!