Tag Archives: DIY

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.

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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.

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 🙂

Ollie Turns 3 | Pupcake Celebration!

3 Jun

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that as much as we love baking for humans, we also love baking for our pets. We also have a self-proclaimed insane tradition of buying our pups a balloon on their birthdays. Ollie is terrified of balloons and so…it was decided, we’d get him some pupcakes to celebrate his day instead.

There are a few local cupcakeries that also sell a pup friendly version of their sweet delights, but 1) we love baking 2) we had all of the ingredients in our pantry/refrigerator 3) it’s cheaper…but most important of all, 4) we know exactly what’s inside. And no mystery ingredients means no potential allergens (Stevie has a wicked intolerance to all things poultry). Yay!

Now onto the important stuff…

Pupcakes for Ollie

Ingredients

1 cup whole wheat flour
rounded 1/4 cup whole oats
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup all natural organic creamy peanut butter (no sugar added!)
1/4 cup unsweetened organic apple sauce
1 cup shredded carrots (I finely chopped a couple of handfuls of baby carrots in the food processor)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup honey*
1 egg

*If you don’t want to add the sweetener, just substitute the same amount of the apple sauce. Dogs don’t need the extra sugar but we made these as a once in a blue moon treat so I sweetened them a bit with honey.

Steps 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees & spray a muffin pan with non-stick spray or line with paper liners.

2. With a whisk, mix the flour, oats, baking soda & cinnamon in a medium bowl.

Baker’s tip for measuring honey: Spray the measuring cup/spoon with a little bit of non-stick spray before pouring the honey into it. The honey will slide out — no messy honey fingers or lost sweetness.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients & mix well (I used a wooden spoon, but the same whisk you used in step 2, is fine).

4. Spoon the batter into the muffin pan, filling cups a generous 2/3’s full. (I got 8 pupcakes out of my batter.)

Baker’s tip for baking partially filled muffin pans: If your batter doesn’t fully fill all of the spots of the muffin pan, pour a little bit of water into each empty cup (not too high or it will be tricky to remove from the hot oven — 1/3 full or so). This will ensure even baking. Just remember to use extra caution when removing the pan from the hot oven!

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until a cake tester/toothpick comes out clean. (Our oven is a little unpredictable so I rotated the pan after 15 minutes to ensure even baking.)

Stevie loves to help!

6. Allow to cool completely on a wire cooling rack…and…let the celebration begin!

Very patient pups! (Sorry there are no action shots of them eating…they went completely & overwhelmingly crazy for these birthday treats.)

Notes

  • This recipe could easily be made gluten free for dogs with gluten/wheat allergies — just be sure that the oats you’re using are gluten free (Trader Joe’s Whole Oats are affordable & labeled gluten free).
  • Be creative when baking for your pup but always do your research to make sure your ingredients are dog safe! For example, while it might be tempting to add raisins to this recipe, please don’t. They can cause toxicity/death in dogs. Add a handful of fresh blueberries instead. YUM! Here’s a helpful list of people foods to avoid giving your pup (source: ASPCA). When in doubt, call your vet or leave it out.

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?
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