Tag Archives: life

Cleaning House | Minimalist Challenge Musings

16 Mar
a few of the "things"

(yes, even the dogs participated in the minimalist challenge & got rid of some of their damaged toys)

The challenge…
Inspired by this post on one of my favorite blogs, I took the “minimalist challenge” after reading more about it and these cool guys, the Minimalists. The challenge, in short, instructs you get rid of one thing on the first day of the month, two things on the second day, three on the third, and so on. Donate, sell or toss–each material possession must be out of your house by midnight each day.

From February 1 through February 28, I got rid of precisely 406 “things” (quite positively even more, because in all honesty, once I started, I couldn’t stop). Oh and by “things”, I mean actual things, not 406 beads and spools of thread. I counted multiple items of the same kind as “1 thing”. I photo documented it on Instagram @katedwyer. Realistically, in the last 2 weeks of the challenge, I lagged behind a little bit (because it was hard to keep up during the week). I didn’t let it get the best of me and approached the weekends with a list of areas to tackle next.

Let me tell you, there is something profoundly therapeutic and about taking a moment, or precisely 406 of them, to pause, re-assess, categorize and move on.

The purge…
In just 28 days, I gave away bags of fabric and yarn to friends, mountains of art/craft supplies to a another friend who’s an art teacher, donated a ½ dozen bags of items to GoodWill, shredded 2 large shopping bags worth of old bills/financial documents, recycled 3 more bags of old documents and scraps of paper, sold $100 in out-of-print magazines & vintage craft items on eBay and another $100 in clothing & accessories to a 2nd hand clothing store in my neighborhood.

I sorted, purged, cleaned, and reorganized. But I didn’t just haphazardly sort & toss, I THOUGHT about it all as I went along.
Why did I buy that dress­ and wear it only once?
What made me buy 3 of those cute little change purses?
Why haven’t I worn this sweater yet?
Why did I buy that ______ (paper, yarn, fabric, etc.)?
Why am I waiting until I’m “smaller” to wear these jeans again when they aren’t even in style anymore?
Why did I get everything for that [insert crafty endeavor] project and never start or finish it?
Why am I stashing all of these little items away to give as gifts?
Am I hanging onto these rusty floral pins because they were part of  my mom’s craft stash?
And so on…

 Here’s what I learned…
I have a horrible weakness for textile/fiber supplies. I have even less control if we’re talking vintage items, y’all. I had more fabric, felt and yarn than I’d ever realistically use. Sure, I could hold onto them & knit sweaters for penguins but well, would I ever get around to that? Oh yeah, and I’d have to learn how to knit. 

I love a good bargain to a fault. It’s led me down a path of buying something I don’t love because it’s “so marked down” and a slippery slope of purchasing too many art/craft supplies that I won’t ever use. I do this less often now, but I also used to buy lots of these “amazing bargains” to stash away for future gift giving.

I am very sentimental. Material things are material things and unless it’s an heirloom item or something truly meaningful, I have to learn to let go. I shouldn’t buy something because it reminds me of my mom­–I have amazing memories instead.

 It’s okay…I’m an artist. Hoarding under the guise of resourcefulness, while a very common trait of most artists, is not worth the stress (financial, physical, spatial, etc.) it may cause in the long run.

I shouldn’t keep anything in my life that I don’t love. In my experience over the last month, I’m mostly referring to material things but there’s certainly a much bigger take-away here (the Minimalists talk about this very thing on their blog). Surround yourselves with only the things and people you love. Life is too short to be smothered, physically or emotionally, by anything or anyone you don’t adore.

Moving on…
In the last 2 weeks, I’ve continued to go through all of the little nooks and crannies of our apartment with a “minimalist eye”. If it’s not something I’d want to pack up & take with me tomorrow if we moved, I more often than not, get rid of it. It’s also made me be a smarter/leaner shopper. I’ve resisted clearance items and kept an unwavering focus on quality over quantity. I’d much rather one quality, well made, pair of shoes than 3 cheaper versions. 

So friends, there you have it. For 28 days, I recycled, tossed, sold, shredded, gifted and ended up more empowered to embrace change than when I started this journey on February 1. I realize this may sound a bit melodramatic, but all of that “stuff” had truly taken over little spaces in my life and frankly, it feels amazing to have a little extra breathing room.

 There’s plenty of time left in 2014 for you to take the “minimalist challenge” and I enthusiastically encourage you. Everyone has a basement, closet, corner, bookshelf, dresser, cabinet, shoebox, or drawer of stuff just begging for this challenge. Go YOU!

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Trick or Treat | Handmade Howl-o-ween

31 Oct

Kate and I have a great relationship. She’s the maker to my baker. We have a lot in common, but we balance each other out.
Perfect case in point Halloween…. I love Halloween, I love the decorations, the costumes, pumpkins, Halloween candy and most of all throwing a Halloween party.

Every year I come up with the idea for “our” costume, a couples costume usually that entails hours of crafting and several yards of felt. Kate humors me and every year slaves over “our” costume and in true Kate fashion it always comes out perfect. Again, Kate and I have a great relationship. She tolerates watching the “Goonies” with me on the eve of Halloween, she spends hours hand sewing costumes we’ll wear for one night, and she does it mainly because it makes me happy.

This year she crafted my idea for Stevie and Ollie’s costumes too.. taking Stevie’s crate rest into consideration we came up with this…



No Boston Terriers were harmed in this photo shoot.

Stevie the lion and Ollie the lion tamer wish you all a Happy and Safe Halloween from our vintage circus to yours have fun!

Falling for Fall | Pumpkin Buttermilk Pancakes

30 Oct

Oh how we love this time of year when pumpkin makes an appearance in every corner of our lives from our oven to our pups’ dinner bowls. Pumpkin baked goods, pumpkin brewed craft beer, savory pumpkin dishes, pumpkin carving, roasted pumpkin seeds…and the list goes on…

We had some leftover buttermilk (from the best yellow cake recipe I’ve ever made….a future post, so stay tuned!) that screamed “Oh hi, PANCAKE opportunity!” to me as I headed into the refrigerator to get fixings for my weekend coffee.

So I made these amazing pancakes from Heather Cristo’s blog. Um, who can resist a recipe that has the word “best” in it? Clearly not me!

Verdict: They were really yummy! I’ve included some notes about the recipe, etc. below. 

Maker’s notes

Recipe | I added a 1/4 tsp of pumpkin pie spice to the batter (because we had it on hand).  I was hesitant to add more because I didn’t it to overwhelm the yummy pumpkiny goodness. It added a subtle spice & depth of flavor. Add more if you want to really taste it. I love a salty pancake and don’t usually add much (if any) sugar to things that I’m going to drizzle with maple syrup. That said, these were a little too salty. If I made these again, I’d cut back on the salt (to 1/2 tsp) and add a tablespoon of sugar (raw, white, brown, light brown…whatever we happened to have in the pantry).

These would be really easy to make vegan by making your own “buttermilk” (using soy milk adding lemon juice or vinegar) and adding a butter substitute for the butter.

Cooking | I cooked all of them before we sat down to eat, keeping them warm on a low temp in the oven on a cookie sheet lined with parchment.

Leftovers | I wrapped up the leftover pancakes and tossed them in the refrigerator.  We heated a couple of them in the toaster (Jess’s brilliance!) the next day & had them with a cup of tea as we stayed safe inside while hurricane Sandy danced with the power lines outside our house.

If you have pups, here’s a great use for the leftover pumpkin! Mix a tablespoon of pumpkin in with their food. They’ll love it and it’s great for their digestive health — it magically helps with diarrhea or constipation. Just make sure it’s the same kind of pumpkin you’ll have leftover from this recipe — canned plain pumpkin (not the pumpkin pie filling kind with added sugar & spices).

Happy making! Happy Fall!

Pup Updates & the Kindness of Strangers | Giving Thanks

13 Oct

As I type this post, I realize that it’s too late for Canadian Thanksgiving & too early for American Thanksgiving. But just as I did growing up every night at supper & with every thank you note my mom made me write (yep, I still write them today), we try our best to express our gratitude each & every day for the things we feel oh-so-lucky to have in our lives.

A month ago, while I was in Portugal for work, Jess had to rush Stevie (our eldest Boston Terrier) to the emergency vet care because he was yelping, walking with a hunched back & shaking like a leaf. After a few trips to the vet, some tests and a whole bunch of worrying, he was diagnosed with a chronic degenerative condition called IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease, presenting in the vertebrae in his neck). The vet sent him home with medication (for pain & inflammation) and orders for mandatory 24-7 crate rest. Yes, that’s right, crate rest, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He has to be carried outside <–> inside & to <–> from his food bowls and he needs to spend all day every day for the next 2 months in his crate. Seriously? Seriously! It’s strange & a pain (we live on the 2nd floor and our front stairs are steep & it means we have to take both dogs out separately if one of us isn’t home). But IVDD isn’t to be messed with as it could result in paralysis and/or very expensive surgery. So we’ll all be making the best of it.

At the end of the 2 months, Stevie will get re-evaluated & hopefully his neck will have healed enough that he can be more of his normal dog self — going for walks, snuggling with us on the couch at night, etc. Sadly he won’t ever be able to jump again or do some of his best tricks (like his “stick em’ up, bang bang, play dead” show stopper) & we’ll have to watch him to make sure he doesn’t jump on the couch or bed or on the dining room table filled with pies at our next family holiday (much to our utter amazement, we watched in disbelief as he boinged straight up off the floor & landed squarely on the dining room table at Jess’s parent’s house one Christmas). But we are so lucky that he’s still part of our little family and that the IVDD was caught very early.

We celebrated Stevie’s 5th birthday with pupcakes for all (remember this recipe?) and a small sigh of relief. Being in his crate certainly hasn’t changed his appetite…

As if the above wasn’t enough stress for two concerned pet parents, Ollie, our younger Boston Terrier (who’s always been a little “special”…SHHHH!) gave us a scare a little over a week ago. I got the call from the dog walker that I’d been fearing every time I saw her name appear on the screen of my phone (up until this call they were very benign check-in emails & texts…always a relief!). She’d lost Ollie during a hike in the Middlesex Fells.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Fells, it’s piece of conservation land (reservoirs, ponds, hiking trails, etc.) just North of Boston that’s over 2,500 acres large — taking up space in 5 towns. I knew when she called me at 11:30am that she’d already worriedly traced her steps several times (before she even told me so) before she called me. She reassured me that luckily, it was a beautiful sunny day and there were lots of people out & about in the Fells. He still had his harness & tags on and was trailing a 10 foot leash so surely he’d attach himself to another group of people & someone would call us in a couple of hours. She said she’d go back & look some more & her husband was leaving work early to continue the search.

I called Jess (who was also at work) & basically lost my sh*t on the street in front the office where I work, hiccuping details through tears. And then, we both went into crazy pants solution mode. Jess: texting/calling everyone she knew who might be able to help; me: posting a picture of Ollie with the few details I knew on Facebook. We both called nearby animal shelters, vets and pet hospitals, animal control agencies, local police, etc. It became a full-time job. (I’ll insert insane thanks here to both of our jobs/bosses. We are very very lucky.) Jess went to the Fells with a friend & her dog to continue the search. Work peeps & other friends joined, too. I stayed at work to wait-for-someone-to-call-me-oh-we’ve-found-your-dog, make phone calls, wait-for-someone-to-call-me-oh-we’ve-found-your-dog, make & print posters, wait-for-someone-to-call-me-oh-we’ve-found-your-dog. But in that time of panic & complete & total solution mode, something really amazing happened — social media, did what she’s so good at doing, she put our cause on blast. I had complete and total strangers messaging me on Facebook, asking me if they could spread the news on listservs, message boards, etc. We had new (like we’ve-only-hung-out-once) friends going to the ends of the earth to spread the news even further before taking off to help in the search. I had friends emailing me saying that THEIR friends were going to the Fells to search for Ollie. There were texts and phone call offers of help. Friends who don’t even have pets were buying treats & joining the search. People, some of our nearest and dearest friends included, quite literally dropped what they were doing and joined the “bring Ollie home” party. It was totally and utterly amazingly overwhelming.

Now…the happy ending. At 5:20 PM I packed a thick folder of flyers into my bag and left for home. Jess was on her way to meet me there & we were going to come up with a new plan/approach. Ollie is small (about 20 lbs) and mostly white and I was sick to my stomach thinking about the dark, the woods and…the coyotes. I got off the T at 6:00 PM and took out my phone to respond to (yes, even more) friends offering help. That was when I got the best text ever from Jess: “Ollie’s been found”. I practically skipped the whole way home. Our dog walker’s husband had found Ollie near one of the reservoirs and he was okay.

I anxiously waited for Jess to get home with Ollie. I gave him a hug (REUNION!) & then carried him straight to the tub. He was smelly & dirty and very scratched/scraped up from his unsupervised “adventures” but he was HOME! Look how tired he was…

People are still “checking in” to see how Ollie is doing. Thank you technology, friends (new & old!), co-workers, family & concerned strangers — our hearts are still exploding with relief and gratitude.

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.

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.
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