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Making & Baking Our Way into Fall | Pics & Links

3 Sep

Oh hi! Here’s what we’ve been up to (a meaty post with pictures & links!)…

Savoring summer, time with Kate’s dad & the best lobstah roll ever (PJ’s Family Restaurant in Wellfleet).

Making pickles! Refrigerator style using this recipe and farm fresh pickling cukes from a farm near Jess’s home town. We added cloves of garlic & black whole peppercorns to each jar. We also made a spicy batch for our neighbor by tossing in a sliced jalapeno from our container garden (YAY!). We’ve been eating them on EVERYTHING (pictured below on turkey sandwiches).

Salivating over a new issue of Bon Appetit and celebrating awesome neighbors with this delightful coffee cake. Toss blueberries in panko breadcrumbs? SURE!

Here’s what the blueberry coffee cake looked like sliced (just before it got hand delivered to our favorite neighbors). This Instagram filter makes it look straight out of my mom’s 1970 Better Homes & Gardens cookbook.

Catching up on crafty gifts, part I! Long overdue wedding card/art piece for friends Emily & Chris. Those are heart shaped bits I cut out of their save-the-date & invitations. I love sewing paper.

Catching up on crafty gifts, part II! Finally getting around to finishing this advent calendar project for 2 very special little boys (yes, that’s 48 little fabric bags). Promised last year that I’d make these & we’d fill them with goodies each year…literally the gift that keeps on giving! The first time I stumbled across this project on Lansdowne Life, I obsessed over the adorable vintage looking fabric…to die for, right?!? Can’t wait to fill the bags with goodies & send them off. Oh & those pinking shears were an amazing vintage find at a little consignment shop on the Cape. 

Officially launching Opal & Ollie on Etsy. YAY! A selection of my etched glass mason jars are also available at Magpie in Davis Square & On Centre in Jamaica Plain.

Summer of Love | Picnic Recipes Galore

25 Jul

Summer is for harvesting garden goodies, hanging out outside — picnics, hammocks, BBQs & early morning outdoor bootcamp — cold brewed coffee, fizzy fruity delights, cooking with farm/our container garden fresh ingredients, crafty endeavors, new friends & romps with the pups. Phew…all that and we’re back in BlogLand with a vengeance!

We celebrated our first anniversary (and 7th year of togetherness!) over the weekend & it was filled with commissioned art (thanks to Nan Lawson, Flowers In May & the fact that paper is a traditional first anniversary gift), yummy food & sentimental goodness (Remember when I wanted a set of these ? Well, Jess surprised me with a vintage 1940’s set in mint condition. *swoon*).

custom illustration by Nan Lawson

custom anniversary illustration by Flowers in May

I had ambitious plans to surprise Jess with a romantic outdoor picnic — filled with smartly designed paper goods, mason jars upon mason jars, yummy food reminiscent of our wedding catering — spread on a handmade little blanket/quilt made out of fabric from our wedding. But I participated in ArtBeat as a craft vendor on Saturday & totally ran out of time (despite planning the picnic menu & starting projects months ahead of time).

my table at ArtBeat! Opal & Ollie Etsy shop opening in August! stay tuned…

So…the weather forecast wasn’t promising & I decided, the morning of, that we’d either eat inside or on the deck. Oh, and, I didn’t finish the blanket but I made really great progress & will finish it one night this weekend. We used an adorable picnic blanket as a tablecloth that our friends Cobi & Sarah gave us as a wedding shower gift. K.I.S.S., right?

Now on to the good stuff!

The menu (with links to recipes & my notes)…

Deviled eggs | Recipe: Mark Bittman (basically your traditional deviled egg recipe: hard boiled eggs, dijon mustard, mayo, S&P) | I topped each with a tiny bit of dill relish instead of paprika.

BLT corn salad lettuce wraps | Recipe: Joy the Baker | This charred corn salad was incredible. I used high quality bacon & oven roasted it. Charring corn in a small apartment kitchen over an open gas burner flame is amazingly fulfilling! I wondered if the corn would actually cook & it did…perfectly! It turned a darker yellow as the kernels crackled & blackened. Mess warning: the stovetop was eat-off-of-it clean before this endeavor & corn shrapnel was everywhere after 3 ears of corn were nicely charred. Well worth it though!

Best berry salad | Recipe: Our very own!

Chocolate yogurt snack cakes | Recipe: Smitten Kitchen | Ah-mazing! I added a teaspoon of espresso powder to the recipe to bring out the depth of chocolatey goodness & dusted the cooled cakes with a little bit of powdered sugar. I’d make them again in a heartbeat. Oh, I had trouble finding whole milk yogurt (weird because I remember seeing it years ago – before the shelves were overflowing with a million brands of Greek style yogurt) so I opted for 2% Swiss yogurt.

Coconut rice pudding with fresh mango | Recipe: Mark Bittman (traditional rice pudding from How to Cook Everything, see very bottom of this post for recipe) | I substituted light canned coconut milk for the cow’s milk. I also added a teaspoon of vanilla extract after the pudding finished cooking. I served it cold with diced fresh mango to mimic the flavors of Jess’s favorite mango sticky rice dessert from a local Thai restaurant.

Home-brewed Arnold Palmers | Recipe: Tyler Florence | The slushy & bright homemade lemonade makes this drink extra special. Definitely prepare this a few hours ahead of time as all of the components need to be nice & cold. Served up in a mason jar with tiny heart etched in the glass (by yours truly!).

mis en place: chocolate yogurt snack cakes

roasting corn!

the spread!

Arnold Palmer with a twist

Rice Pudding (Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything)

Ingredients:
2 cups water

1 cup long or short-grain rice (I used arborio)
dash salt
2 cups milk (I used canned light coconut milk)
3/4 cup sugar, or more to taste (3/4 cup was plenty for our taste)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or cardamom (I skipped the spices because I knew I wanted to top with mango)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Steps:
1. Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan; stir in the rice and the salt. Cover & cook over low heat until almost all of the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

2. Uncover, pour in the milk, and cook, stirring frequently, until about 1/2 the milk is absorbed. Stir in the sugar and spices and continue to cook until the rice is very soft and the milk absorbed. About halfway through the cooking, taste and add more sugar if necessary. 
3. Spoon into custard cups and serve warm or cold, garnished with whipped cream. I served it topped with diced fresh mango. 

This keeps well for 2 days, or more, covered and refrigerated. Serves 8.

Picnic Food Pick | Hummus & Flatbread

7 Jul

This is a fairly simple & fast recipe that’s fun to make and take to a gathering any time of the year. But both the hummus & the flatbread will survive quite well sitting out on a picnic table in hot summer temps (unlike your gran’s famous potato salad!).

We brought this to our friends’ 4th of July BBQ (along with our appropriately patriotic berry salad & frozen chocolate dipped bananas on sticks). The hummus & flatbread made a perfect party platter with the simple addition of a bowl of baby carrots & disks of seedless cukes.

Hummus

Ingredients
2 cups chickpeas, rinsed & drained

1/3 cup tahini (can be found in most grocery stores in the “ethnic food” section)
1/4 cup lemon juice (I used 3 juicy lemons…I like my hummus lemony so I’m a little heavy handed with the lemon)
1 tsp salt
2 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 tbsp olive oil (I used olive oil our neighbor brought us from Italy!)

Steps
1. In a food processor, blend chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, salt & garlic until smooth.

2. With the food processor on, stream in the oil (through that little shoot in the top of the processor) & blend until well incorporated.
3. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Maker tip: If you cook a lot with garlic, I highly recommend investing in one of these stainless-steel babies. They squish, I mean press, the garlic perfectly every time, are super easy to clean (my favorite!) & save your wrists from wrestling with presses that pale in comparison.

Multigrain Flatbread

Ingredients
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

Steps
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Then in a large bowl, combine the flours, oil, baking soda & salt. Add enough buttermilk (I used it all) to make a stiff dough.

2. Knead dough for 30 seconds on a well-floured surface.
3. Return dough to bowl & cover with a damp paper towel/clean kitchen towel to prevent drying.
4. Roll 1/4 cup handfuls of dough into a ball & pat into a flat circle.
5. Using a rolling pin, flatten dough into 10 inch circles (mine were definitely NOT 10 inches — probably more like 8 but they were still nice & thin). Oh and they will not be perfect circles. That’s okay — we’re making something homemade so it’s nice if it looks rustic. That’s the beauty of it, people.

side note: my Uncle Bob made that amazingly beautiful cutting board!

6. Place the circles of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet or preheated pizza stone (I used the latter) & score each little round of dough to make little triangular pie slices. Scoring the dough isn’t as hard as it may sound — just use a really sharp knife & lightly drag it across the dough (be careful not to cut all the way through). See picture below.


7. Repeat steps 4-6 with the remaining dough.
8. Bake in a preheated 350 degree (F) oven for 8-10 minutes.
9. Cool on a wire rack briefly before breaking along scored lines.

I heaped the flatbread wedges in the center of a clean kitchen towel & tied the corners together for easy transportation on the tray of hummus & veggies. 

Happy dipping & eating!

Anytime Appetizer | Make Your Own Herbed Olives

25 Jun

As a child my summer days and nights were spent surrounded by adults, most notably my grandparents and my aunt. Entertaining, screen house entertaining that is, was in my family’s blood. I remember the roar of the laughter, the smell of the barbecue and the tiny ceramic vegetable shaped trays filled with “pickies” lining the tables. Pickies are what my family calls appetizers, small bites of goodness served to tide you over for the meal. In the summers there were a variety of them, most notably stuffed celery, crabbies (that can be another blog post on its own), and black and green olives.

I never quite have figured out if the word “pickies” is a New England thing, growing up north of Boston and spending summers at Hampton Beach, or if it was just a word that only my family used, which now I have started using with my own little family.

Here’s an easy crowd pleasing pickies recipe that could be made year round, although I’m sure it would be a Summer hit. *screen house not included*

Lemony Herbed Olives

Ingredients

1 jar Organic Green Olives (I used Cat Cora’s Kitchen)
1/2 fresh lemon
Sprigs of fresh Rosemary (from our container garden)
Sprigs of fresh Thyme (from our container garden)
2 cloves Garlic
Salt and Pepper
Organic California Olive Oil (or whatever your favorite good quality olive oil is)

Steps

1. Drain the liquid from the jar of olives and place olives in a small bowl.
2. Set aside olives and roughly chop the rosemary and thyme.
3. Peel the garlic cloves and smash with the edge of your chef’s knife to release the oils and flavor.
4. Toss the olives with the rosemary, thyme, and garlic in the small bowl.
5. Squeeze the juice of 1/4 of the lemon over the olive mixture.
6. Season with salt and pepper.
7. Slice the remaining 1/4 of the lemon and toss with the olive mixture.
8. Spoon mixture into the now empty jar that the olives were purchased in.
9. Don’t be afraid to really squeeze everything in there, it will be a tight fit.
10. Once the jar is filled, pour the olive oil into the jar filling it so the olives are covered in oil.

There you have it, your very own custom herbed olive mix!

Notes:

  •  You can use any combination of herbs that you wish. Be creative!
  • The cuter the label, the better they taste.. ok they taste great regardless, but cute labels don’t hurt.
  • Because I used fresh herbs that we are growing and doctored up store-bought olives, this crowd pleasing recipe is quite thrifty.

Berries All Around! | Best Berry Salad

23 Jun

image credit: my mom’s childhood “Fun to Cook Book” printed by the Carnation Milk Company

Jess first made me this yummy treat as part of a little picnic (@ Walden Pond!) we went on when we first started dating. Berries are in season & they’re everywhere! Take advantage of local “pick your own” farms — or the sales in your local supermarket & bring this along to your next BBQ. It’s really easy to whip up & your friends/family will thank you! Extra bonus: it’s healthy too. 

Best Berry Salad

Ingredients

2 quarts of strawberries
2 pints of blueberries
1 pint of raspberries 
1/2 pint of blackberries
1/2 cup “Craisins”
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped 
2 Tbsp cane sugar or other natural sweetener

Steps

1. Rinse the berries in cool water & drain.
2. Hull & quarter the strawberries.
3. Put the berries, Craisins, walnuts & sweetener into a large bowl & gently toss with a wooden spoon.
4. Let the salad rest at room temperature for 15 minutes or so to let the fruit macerate.  
5. Serve immediately or cover & refrigerate. 

Happy picnicking! 

Blueberries All Around | DIY Syrup, Compote & Dad’s Day Memories

17 Jun

I have always loved blueberries & my most delicious memories from childhood (and beyond!) are my dad’s amazing baked goods. We’d wake up on the weekends to freshly baked blueberry muffins (one of his specialties!) or celebrate the 4th of July with blueberry & rhubarb pies. The list of yummy baked confections goes on & on — keep an eye out for future posts featuring some of his secret recipes!

While there aren’t any baked goods featured in this post, this one goes out to my dad: carpenter by trade, baker self-made — & an all around amazing guy. I couldn’t be luckier (or more inspired)!

Inspiration can come from anywhere — a memory, a sale, a recipe, a special birthday, etc. So when ridiculous quantities of blueberries were on sale at a local specialty market & a friend’s birthday (whose SodaStream dreams were about to come true) was right around the corner, I dug out one of my favorite making books, can it, bottle it, smoke it by Karen Solomon, & got inspired!

Blueberry Lemon Syrup (from book referenced above)

Ingredients

4 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (the BEST/freshest available)
2 cups sugar (I used organic can sugar & a about a 1/4 cup less than this)
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (from 1-2 lemons)
pinch of kosher salt

Directions

1. Combine the berries, sugar & water in a large saucepan over medium heat & bring to a gentle boil (be careful not to let it boil over).
2. Reduce heat & simmer, covered, for 3 minutes — just enough time to let the berries release their juice.
3. Take the pan off the heat & stir to cool slightly then pour the contents of the pan through a fine-mesh sieve set over a large bowl, stirring but not pressing the berries to harvest as much syrup as possible.
4. Reserve the berries for another use (more on that later). The recipe suggests pureeing them in a blender to make a great jam or using them as an ice cream topping, pie filling or compote.
5. Stir the lemon juice & the salt into the syrup.

Storage 

Using a funnel, pour the syrup into a glass bottle for storing in the refrigerator, where it will keep for up to 6 weeks. (I just used a batter bowl with a little dip in the side & that worked just fine — no need for the funnel or extraneous kitchen equipment.)

Making soda

Stir 1 part syrup into 2 parts sparkling water. Add ice cubes & enjoy. (Shot of vodka optional.) It’s very pretty looking & a yummy summer beverage!

Using the blueberry leftovers

I put the leftover blueberries from the syrup making process into a mason jar & tossed it in the refrigerator. I used the compote as a topping for a week’s worth of DIY yogurt parfait breakfasts using a couple of tablespoons of compote, 0% Chobani plain yogurt & Trader Joe’s blueberry muesli. We also mixed some of the compote with fresh berries & used it as a topping for angel food cake. YUM!
 

Life Snippets | 2 Weeks in Photos

12 Jun

Phew! We’ve been busy bees these last couple of weeks. Here’s some of the goodness we’ve been up to…

Beautiful weather = inspired dinners on our deck. The pups like the extra fresh air too!

pulled pork (crockpot!), soft corn tacos, butter lettuce, fresh pineapple, fancy carrots, sour cream

Jess & Stevie enjoying the deck

Ollie likes the deck too!

Cold brewed coffee makes the BEST iced coffee in the world. Psssst…it’s also fun to prettily package in fancy bottles & give to friends as gifts. Put it on your summer “to do” list…now.

cold brewin’…patience is a virtue & the payoff is delicious!

Secret birthday prize (blueberry lemon syrup) for Kris made with fresh blueberries & lemon (just add to carbonated water to make a perfect summer soda :: recipe later this week!) yielded yummy blueberry compote “leftovers”. The compote makes a yummy spread, yogurt accompaniment or angel food cake topping especially when mixed with fresh berries.

blueberry goodness x2

blueberry compote, Chobani 0% plain yogurt, blueberry muesli (Trader Joe’s) = protein & antioxidant packed breakfast

It’s that time of year again…when Diesel & Bloc 11 Café staff release their inner artists & create unique pieces for the staff art show (hosted by Diesel Café). It’s the perfect opportunity to check out the show, support local artists &/or your favorite barista & give art a good home. Tip: This is a great way to purchase really affordable art pieces to add to your collection…or a good excuse to start one!

Here’s one of three framed pieces in the #thecaffeinatedlife series by Jess (inspired by life stories & connections that happened at the café).

Jess’s art for Diesel Cafe staff art show (happening now!)…this one sounds a little familiar 🙂

A (long) Weekend in Pictures

29 May

Yippee for long weekends, birthdays, friends, family, cute pups, sweet surprises, more-than-a-day off with Jess, new green thumbs, adorable babies, inspiration, yummy sweets, homemade goodness, truly talented friends, vintage treats & …

…city gardening…

…new boston terrier art…<heart my bro & his wife!>…

…pretty flowers…

…vintage containers…moustaches all around…yummy homemade ginger syrup <how to here>…

…homemade *Sno Balls*…

…pooped <& very clean> pups…

…how’d I get so lucky?

xo

Another Decor DIY | Old is the New New

23 May
We recently got a secret framing tip while visiting our friends at The Little House Studios and since it’s been so long since my last blog post, I feel like I should spill the beans & share it with you.
 
The tip?
Hit up vintage shops & antique & flea markets for old frames for new artwork or photos. I know, it sounds obvious, but I think it’s really easy to overlook old finds for new Ikea frames, simply because one stop shopping is a little more convenient.
 
The search is on...
So via our Little House Studios friends, we heard especially great things about the Cambridge Antique Market. In all honesty, I’ve had great luck finding frames at thrift stores and as I mentioned, there’s nothing wrong with Ikea, but we bought an incredible & intriguingly creepy print by Alethea Roy. And well, it was screaming for something different. I knew I wanted something old. Jess suggested something round or oval (inspired by a vintage mirror that was my gran’s that’s hanging in our office). So off I went to the Cambridge Antique Market with the print & measuring tape in hand. (If you can’t/don’t want to bring the artwork, you could just take measurements & jot them down or trace the shape of your artwork with a piece of tracing, parchment or tissue paper & bring it along instead.)

If you’ve never been to the Cambridge Antique Market, it’s a little overwhelming. I felt like Goldilocks. There were plenty of framed pictures & artwork & some frames without but none were quite right (too $$$, wrong shape, wrong size, missing parts, etc.). I contemplated  skipping the 5th (and final) floor but headed up there anyway. I’m oh-so-glad I didn’t give up hope because I found the perfect frame — the right size, the right price and antique convex glass to boot! It definitely needed some love — the metal branches on the top & bottom of the frame were broken off — but I’m always up for a challenge. Oh, and I paid in cash & received $6 off the asking price, making it a total steal at $26. Woo hoo!

Another tip: Look beyond what’s inside the frame. There’s a lot of bad art & crazy old family photos out there — just hanging out in perfectly good frames!
 
So you’ve got the frame, now what?
When I got home, I took out my wire cutters (part of my jewelry tool arsenal….I secretly hoped I didn’t need something more heavy duty), glass cleaner & paper towels, a dust cloth & newspaper. I disassembled & cleaned the frame & glass and cut & removed the rusty picture wire.  I removed the old Victorian photograph & contemplated saving it but it was warped & had some water damage so I set it aside for possible donation (another man’s trash is…).
 
Refurbishing 
I contemplated what to do about the broken branches & decided to cut them off. I was able to use the wire cutters that I had — the metal was super soft & silvery under the gold. It kinda made me worry/wonder if the branches were made of lead (?). That said, I trimmed them down. I was originally planning on filing them to smooth any sharp snags & make it appear as if they were never on the frame in the first place, but, for safety’s sake, I decided to forego the filing. Because the branches were a different material than the rest of the frame, they were painted in gold (possibly gold leaf?) so after trimming them I wondered what to do about the silver metal shining through.
 
I grabbed a gold Sharpie (one of the oil-based paint variety) from my stash, some black shoe polish & a soft cloth. I dabbed the silver patches with the gold Sharpie, let it dry & then put a little of the shoe polish on the cloth & buffed the freshly coated gold paint. I had no idea if it would actually work, but it did! It perfectly added a little age/patina to the spots I’d touched up & blended them with the rest of the frame. I thought the bumps would drive me nuts but I really don’t mind them. They add “character”.
 
New meets old
With the frame clean & ready, I carefully measured & trimmed the edges of the artwork to fit in the frame. Then I reassembled all of the parts & gave the front of the glass one more wipe down to get rid of pesky fingerprints. And…voila!
 
Share your projects with us!
How have you transformed something old into something new?

Easy Peasy! | Stencil project

9 May

I’m sharing a quick & easy mid-week project because it’s perfect for a last minute Mother’s Day treat (who doesn’t keep some sort of project, to do, grocery, or inspiration list?!). My dad used to keep folded pieces of lined paper in his shirt pocket for on-the-job lists & notes but we’ve recently gotten him jazzed about these little gems (how cool that you can customize them, too?).

So…I wanted to make him my own version to put in his Easter basket. While I couldn’t find a notebook in the exact same size, Moleskine’s Cahier size notebook is close enough (and who doesn’t love Moleskine?!). I prefer the kraft brown but a word of caution: it can be a little tricky to stencil on if you’re using a sticky stencil because you might peel some of the kraft paper up when you lift the stencil. It’s possible, just be careful.

Supplies

Stencil (steps for making your own included below)

  • Pen or extra fine point permanent marker
  • Frisket (wide masking tape or contact paper, etc. – I used transfer paper commonly used with adhesive vinyl because it comes in a large roll & has a printed grid pattern that makes it easy to align)
  • Craft knife or tiny scissors

Sponge or piece of foam (I used a shoe shine sponge – hotel freebie!!!!)
Paint (I used liquid acrylic but regular acrylic or screen printing ink would be fine, too)
Notebook (or any object you’d like to stencil)

 Making the stencil

  1. If you don’t have anything sticky to use for your stencil, you could use a piece of heavy paper, freezer paper or card stock & just tape it down. I like using something sticky because I like knowing my edges are sealed, just in case.
  2. Draw the image of your stencil on the frisket (or whatever you’re using). The negative space will be what gets painted so keep that in mind as you create. Start with something simple.
  3. Using your craft knife cut out the parts of the image that you want to appear in paint.

Stencil time!

  1. Position & stick your stencil on the notebook – lightly but enough so the edges of the stencil stay in place. If you created a stencil you need to tape down, use a couple small pieces of masking tape or painters tape to anchor it down. I left one of the bottom corners lifted up a little in the photo below to show you just how lightly I stuck my stencil down.
  2. Squirt/dab a little bit of paint on a scrap piece of paper. Dab the sponge in it and then tap it lightly a few times on the scrap paper to remove any globby bits.  Then dab your stencil with it (you want to lightly tap, overlapping each time, vs. rubbing). If you need to use a little bit more paint, go for it. It’s best to start light & add a little more (so the paint doesn’t bleed under your stencil).
  3. Remove your stencil & let the paint dry. Lifting the stencil is my favorite part!

I know I made these instructions a bit thorough! But don’t worry, this project honestly only took me less than 10 minutes to complete.

It’s a simple project for any maker level.

Happy making!

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