Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Holidays!

Like much of the nation, I love the holidays. They're a happy time when everyone is smiling and singing and telling stories about the past. One of the things I love most about the holidays are Christmas Trees and decorations. Simon and I bought our first live tree this year from Whole Foods. It stands about three feet tall and just barely fits in the corner of our living room even at that size. Over the past year or two we've collected some ornaments on different trips we've taken and as presents from relatives, but one of my absolute favorite part of ornaments are the memories that come with unpacking them each year. So, I decided to make a few of my own inspired by some I've seen around the web:

They aren't anything terribly special, one is filled with green, red, and white buttons I had in my button jar, and the other is wrapped in twine; but these two ornaments will always remind me of the very first Christmas Simon and I traveled as a family unit instead of splitting apart. I'll remember the first Christmas we had a live tree; and the last Christmas in our tiny, but wonderful, apartment. I'll think of condo hunting, starting my new job, and the fact that it was unseasonably warm and everyone was thankful for that. They will remind me that this was the year Greg, Seiko, and Britta were all in the states from abroad and how happy that made our parents and us. For just some buttons, twine, and glass, these ornaments are well worth the time and effort spent making them.

That said, I also want to put up a list of my New Year's Resolutions (which I'll hopefully stick to):

1) Get in shape. This time last year I was at the peak of my half-marathon training and had never been in better shape - I had side-abs. I want side-abs again.
2) Continue taking care of my teeth. I had to spend $1,300 this year in dental bills once my insurance maxed out. That will not happen again.
3) Drink more water. It's good for me.
4) Stop chewing on my lips. It's gross.
5) Bring lunch to work. Healthier and cheaper.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Brie and Apple Tarts!

I honestly thought I had finished baking with apples until next fall, but then I found this recipe while browsing Pinterest one evening. OMG, these are delicious.

Things began neat and orderly. I defrosted my puff pastry and started cutting my green apple.

Things quickly escalated into a gigantic mess. Thank god for my newly sewn apron!

 This was my first time working with puff pastry. I was pretty nervous at the onset because puff pastry has a reputation for being delicate and temperamental; but I really had no problems at all. As long as it fully thaws before you try to unwrap it, you should be all set. If it isn't fully thawed, it may crack and then you'll have a crack through all of your puff pastry layers with no way to repair them. Also: flour. Flour is important with puff pastry. When it eventually did thaw (about 40 minutes after taking it out of the fridge), the pastry got very, very tacky. 

Once I floured, rolled, and cut the puff pastry, I loaded it up with green apple slices, chunks of brie, brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon. 

Then, fold up the puff pastry around the filling and brush it with an egg wash. This. got. messy. Real messy. 

Once lined on the baking pan, bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. They turned out amazing. The puff pastry was flaky and golden brown, the cheese was completely melted and gooey, and the brown sugar and cinnamon cut through the bite of the green apple.  They made a really great snack and looking back on it, they were pretty easy to make...I mean...I could fill these with anything. Blueberries and bananas? Chocolate chips and bananas? All sorts of cheeses? delicious. delicious. delicious.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


A little over a year ago my aunt shipped me a large (I mean REALLY large) box of vintage clothes she had stored for years. This box appeared to be an assortment of store bought vintage pieces, homemade clothing, and stage costumes. Some of it was donated, some of it given to friends, and some of it was put aside with the intent of being made in to various sewing projects, the first of which I finished a few weeks ago! I turned a too-large and boxy yellow sundress in to an apron. Unfortunately, the original picture of the entire dress has disappeared, so I can't show a before and after. That said, here is the finished product:

The original dress had two straps which I combined to make a halter; a full back which I removed; and a lot of length at the bottom which I also removed and turned in to a tie at the back of the waist. The large hip pockets already existed and were my initial inspiration to make this an apron since they are the perfect size for cooking utensils. All in all it turned out pretty well. I was definitely lazy when it came to finishing the seams and make a clean, polished garment - but...I don't really care. It fits comfortably and looks good from the front. For a piece of clothing that is meant to get dirty and beaten up, I think it's pretty damn good!

And I've already tested it out with a delicious recipe I'll be posting at a later date : )

It was really good to get the practice sewing with my machine.  I'm going to try to work sewing projects into my life more often. It can actually be pretty zen sitting at a humming machine for a length of time.

Monday, October 31, 2011

No More Apples!

We used up the last of our apples to make a fantastic apple crisp.

I've never made a crisp before and for some reason I expected the recipe to be way more difficult then it turned out to be. As in many of the other dishes, we started by peeling, coring, and slicing the apples.  We then threw them in a non-stick pan and coated them with sugar, flour, cinnamon, and water. The water seemed/still seems strange to me. It left a puddle all around the final dish - yes, the puddle was deliciously sugary and sweet; but it made the dish too sweet for me. Next time I may cut the water (and sugar) in half.

Then comes the crisp! The topping consists of brown sugar, quick-cooking oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and butter. It really was more of a "streusel" then a "crisp"...but maybe those things are one in the same and I just don't know it?

And that's it! Simple! Baked at 350 for about 45 minutes and nom away. This dish disappeared REALLY quickly.

What I've learned from cooking with apples:

1) the apartment smells wonderful when there are apples in the oven
2) apples keep for a really long time, making them a great ingredient for busy work weeks
3) prepping an apple is easier than I thought - coring takes 2 seconds and peeling requires very little effort
4) most of the apple dishes I found were sweet - I need to find some that are more savory
5) mushy apples are great for sensitive teeth

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Baked Apples



I just used up all of the apples we picked a few weekends ago. The below recipe is #3 out of the four we ended up making.

And I'm telling you...this one will become a Simon and Laura family tradition.

The recipe is for Baked Apples from I want to make it clear that I did not seek out, nor did I seek out "skinny" recipes. I found the recipe on Pinterest and it just happened to be from this site.

The recipe is simple: mix together a crumble of brown sugar, walnuts, margarine and cinnamon; core some apples and stuff them with the crumble. *Next time, I will make much more crumble than suggested by the recipe - as the apples bake, the crumble shrinks down, leaving the apple only half full of deliciousness.

Place the apples in a crockpot and pour in half a cup of apple cider or apple juice. This keeps the apples from burning and also provides a delectable juice to pour back over the apples when serving them. Cook for 3 hours on high heat and voila! Juicy, tasty, soft apples that fall apart when touched by your fork and are filled with sugary sweetness. 

Simon's friend was shocked that we weren't eating them with vanilla ice cream, and he's right, these definitely call for some. 

These apples made a wonderful warm and filling treat on a cold fall night. They are completely satisfying. Luckily enough, they kept pretty well, too. We stored the leftover juice apart from the apples, but even so, the apples continued to get mushier and mushier as the days went past, but not so much that it became a problem.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Apple Latkes!

I have to start this by admitting that these apple latkes were okay. They were certainly good, tasted fine, but the textured was really mushy and it completely lacked that "oh man I HAVE to eat more" factor. A few years ago I made sweet potato latkes that were phenomenal - I guess the memory of them left me with high expectations. I went off of this recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

Begin with apples:

Core and peel:

Grate the apples, coat in lemon juice, strain, and mix with flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and eggs:

Melt a lot of butter and pan fry until brown on both sides (about 2 minutes each). Smitten Kitchen gave good advice by suggesting putting a new pat of butter between each set of latkes:

Cooking went well. They fried up nicely and smelled delicious. We ate them with plain yogurt which cut the sweetness of the latkes nicely. I think they would have been better if I strained more juice from the shredded apple, but the flavors still wouldn't have drawn me in to eating more.

I think they're worth a shot, and it was definitely interesting to experiment with. If nothing else, they really convinced me to make the sweet potato latkes again!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Apple Mania!

Simon and I went apple picking last Sunday and had wonderful success despite going somewhat late in the season.

 Here is our stash:

We bought a peck worth of apples; the farm gave us a choice of that or a bushel...which ignited my unrelenting signing of the classic Guys and Dolls song

 We also bought an apple corer, aka the most amazing fall kitchen gadget that ever existed. It's easy, fun, and virtually injury-proof.

It also works extremely well:

The first of many brand new recipes I attempted was apple chips. I'm used to buying these at the supermarket in a big plastic bucket or bag and they are always too chewy, too moist, and feel as though they've been soaking in sugar. I used this recipe (at the very bottom of the page). All you have to do is wash and core the apples, slice thinly (she recommends a mandoline slicer - but these are NOT injury proof tools and I've yet to invest in one - so I just used a knife), and arrange on a tray.  

Before baking at 200 degrees for 2 hours, I sprinkled the slices with cinnamon sugar as the recipe suggests. That's it. Literally. Core, slice, sprinkle, bake.  Sooooo easy!

This is what a successful apple chip looks like. They were delicious and made the apartment smell wonderful while baking. I made one mistake in that I didn't spray the pan with nonstick spray thinking the nonstick pan would be enough; unfortunately, the sugars in the apple sealed many of them directly to the tray and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get them off. I'm going to return to this recipe with however many apples I have left over because the chips we did eat were wonderful. The apples were crisp since we baked them at a low temperature for a long period of time; and they weren't overly sweet.

I definitely recommend trying this out.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Simon may have given me a ring for our 5 year anniversary, but I gave him a churro maker.

That's right, I brought his favorite part of Spain in to our home to make delicious delicious fried goodness (it's really just a giant play-doh pump).

So a few weeks ago, Lauren came over and we tried our hands at churros by using the translated directions which came with the gadget. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough of the main ingredient - flour. Instead, we bought the only flour available in the area: gluten-free wheat flour from City Feed. I'm all about people eating healthy, natural food...but this did not make for good churros. We faced the challenge head on and went ahead with the churros.


Simon is doing it wrong. 

This is more like it. mix the flour with water and salt, put in the pump, and squeeze out into hot oil. 

 So far, so good.

Some glitches to fix for next time:
1) use white flour: the dough would be softer, lighter, less dense
2) don't wait for them to get brown in the oil. The churros will continue to darken after taken out of the pot; ours became a little too dark

Some wine always helps

We ended with some melted Spanish chocolate for dipping and put out a plate of sugar for rolling. Our conclusions were that the kitchen gadget works well and that we should definitely try again with white flour.

Offbeat Derivations

While scavenging the wedding blogosphere, I came across a wonderful post on Offbeat Bride. A contributor had gathered love quotes - which didn't induce eye-rolling - for her wedding and she chose her favorite 52 to put on the site. Her juxtaposition of time-honored literary sources, cult classic films, and popular media struck a cord with me.

Here are a few of my favorites:

"True love is the greatest thing, in the world-except for a nice MLT — mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe." -The Princess Bride

"As You Wish." -The Princess Bride

 "'cause I know there is strength
in the differences between us
and I know there is comfort
where we overlap"
-Ani Difranco's Overlap

"Who, being loved, is poor?" -Oscar Wilde

"I love you. You annoy me more than I ever thought possible, but… I want to spend every irritating minute with you." -Scrubs

"We need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet… I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You're saying 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness.'" -Shall We Dance?

"When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible." -When Harry Met Sally

"I would rather share one lifetime with you than face all the ages of this world alone." -Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, and Fran Walsh in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring

"All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love." -Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace

"We loved with a love that was more than love." -Edgar Allan Poe's Annabell Lee

"He felt now that he was not simply close to her, but that he did not know where he ended and she began." -Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina

"You know you're in love when you don't want to fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams." -Dr. Seuss

"Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same." -Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights

"Nobody has ever measured, even poets, how much a heart can hold." -Zelda Fitzgerald

"Gravitation can not be held responsible for people falling in love." -Albert Einstein maybe some of them make you want to roll your eyes... : )

Monday, September 26, 2011

Paper Flowers: la segunda parte

I haven't been terribly crafty recently. I keep falling victim to the TV or to reading the incredibly long, and incredibly addictive, George R. R. Martin Game of Thrones series. I have managed to make some more paper flower prototypes...and this time...they're yellow!


Not too long ago, my newly appointed maid-of-honor, the lovely Lauren C., came over to our place to help us experiment with making churros (post to come later this week). While she was here, the three of us brainstormed the best way to color book pages: paint? spraypaint? if so, how? before shaping the flowers? after construction?

Lauren then came up with the obvious answer: use the RIT dye I bought to dye buttons! I already have the leftover dye and I know that I like the shade of yellow it produces. <- this is why she's my MOH.

Total success. It almost became a disaster when I forgot about the fact that PAPER flowers dunked in to LIQUID dye must DISSOLVE. In my blissful ignorance I attempted to get a stronger yellow color by submerging the flowers for far too long - resulting in some frantic separating, reshaping, and flattening of the petals. I think a quick dunk would have done the trick. Or maybe numerous dunks over a longer time period with the flowers drying between treatments. 

The color difference is phenomenal. I did have to use a more white book page for the yellow dye to take; but I'm super happy with the results.  

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Paper Flowers

While searching the blogs I've come across a number of beautiful paper flowers, particularly ones made out of book pages. Using these tutorials, I've made some prototypes with various kinds of glue (Elmer's and hot glue) to see what holds best. I think hot glue is winning...also, hot glue is super fun to play with; and don't we want to have fun while crafting?

I won't say what these will eventually be used for, but I'm pretty sure people can guess which future event they'll be used for.

They are really simply to make. The rose is merely cutting a spiral and rolling it up. At first it looks totally wrong but if you plop it down on a table and let it settle into itself, it really becomes a beautiful bloom.

These ones are more time consuming. Each petal is an individual sheet out paper which are ultimately glued together. I really think the final product is beautiful and worth the effort.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Button Dyeing

Rit Dye is known for its product's ability to color fabric. A lesser-known use for the dye is to color buttons; that's right: buttons. How convenient for little ol' me who recently acquired this giant mason jar of more buttons than I know what to do with. The process is incredibly easy; it's a matter of combining hot water, dye, and buttons. The website provides exact measurements; but I adjusted the amounts as I went.

The box is a powder dye which is far more concentrated than the liquid, so it requires less to achieve the desired color.

I only dyed a small amount of buttons this time around. And, I used only plastic cups and tools (spoons to fetch the buttons) which I didn't mind throwing away after I was done.

Voila! They are more pastel than I initially desired - very Easter-y. The buttons are beautiful. All the different cracks and scratches resulted in various shades of saturation. These three are my favorite:

All in all, the whole project took about 20 minutes. My buttons are now residing in the bottom of a wine carafe, surrounding some glass-blown yellow roses.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Tweet tweet

I made a bag!

A beautiful tote bag.

This is a small accomplishment of which I am very proud. It's the first thing I've sewn with a real pattern and using actual sewing techniques; rather than making it up from my own little imagination.

Gather Here, a small shop in Inman Square, holds really fun lessons in sewing, embroidery, knitting, crochet, and crafts. A few friends of mine attending an embroidery class and fell in love with the wicked awesome shop owner/instructor and the beautiful fabrics like the black bird/cherry blossom pattern above. I gave it a shot on their recommendation and fully intend to return for everything else I can possible weasel my way in to.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Paper Hearts

As the post below states, Simon and I are engaged! yay!! He proposed on our 5 year anniversary and the ring could not be more beautiful. I am happy beyond belief : )

We're going to do a long engagement, hopefully getting married sometime in Spring 2013 - which is great, because I would love the wedding to be mostly DIY; and two years gives me plenty of time to try out some crafts.

Mostly, I'd like to tie in some vintage books in to the overall decor of the wedding. One idea I've had is to punch out paper hearts and scatter them around whatever we end up using as centerpieces. And what luck! Martha Stewart makes a heart-shaped paper punch!

Super easy and surprisingly entertaining to use. The little heart shaped punch comes in two pieces, a base and a punch, in between which you place the paper. Each piece has magnets which attract each other to prevent the paper from slipping or moving during the punching process.

The intended purpose of the punch is to make a negative design on the paper to be used - which is why it comes with a small border of dots. I, however, am just saving the would-be trash...and vacuuming up all the little dots.

See! beautiful! I have the amount of about 1/3 of a sandwich bag right now. I love the way they look, and it makes for a pleasant craft while watching TV. I hope to fill the sandwich bag and use them in the wedding in one way or another.

* I am using an old copy of my favorite text - Jane Eyre - of which I have numerous editions. It's sort of a twisted and dark love story, so the text on the hearts is certainly not gushymushysquishyloveydovey text.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A co-worker of mine just bought an i-pad, on which, he had an app which I had never heard of: Epicurious. Apparently, this is a well-known recipe/foodie webpage which had somehow escaped my knowledge of the interwebs. I've had a lot of fun searching its archives and finding new recipes.

Recently we've tried two recipes from Epicurious: Glazed Grilled Salmon and Blueberry Lemon Corn Muffins.

The salmon was challenging. Unfortunately, one downside of our apartment is that we have no yard-space, which means, no grill. We LOVE grilled food, especially in the summer months. We can't even use a stove-top griddle because our burners are varying sizes and not a single one is level. In a desperate attempt to re-capture our previous summer's diets, we decided to try salmon in a pan. At first everything looked great..

But then we quickly learned that the eat was too high and the glaze burned beyond belief. With some heat adjustment, we were able to flip the fish and get the other side cooked to perfection : )

We quickly steamed some frozen brussel sprouts and ended up with a delicious meal.

The Blueberry Lemon Corn Muffins are a new favorite of mine. Straight to the top of the list! I adore these muffins and their perfect combination of sweet, tart, and savory from the blueberries, lemon zest, and cornmeal. They were very easy and cooked to perfection.

We also lucked out and bought some super delicious blueberries.