Thursday, May 31, 2012

four years

We're celebrating four years of marriage today and I'm counting the ways I'm thankful for the relationship we've been blessed with. Matt is my best friend and he's Ezra's favorite playmate. It helps that he fixes everything around the house, but that's just a bonus. I'm especially thankful for Matt's hardworking nature. He provides for us so I can stay home with Ezra and spend all day with our little guy. I love you, Matt!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

dinner at rue de l'espoir // the birthday celebration continues

A few months ago our church began a prayer group within our Sunday school class called "secret prayer sisters." Women who wanted to join were randomly assigned another woman in the group and told to keep her name a secret. We were to pray for our new 'sister' daily, send her a card of encouragement at least once a month, and make sure to remember her special days, like her birthday and anniversary. I was assigned my friend Kelli so I began praying for her and her family. My secret sister also prayed faithfully for me, and over the next six months (the group began in September and ended in March) I received little treats every know and then - a bouquet of sunflowers, a gigantic bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and gourmet popcorn kernels! After the big reveal, I learned that my secret sister was Amanda, a girl I had grown up with in church. Since my birthday didn't fall within the six months of the secret prayer sister group, she sweetly suggested that we go out to dinner in May. 
We went to Rue De L'Espoir on Hope Street and once again I forgot to take any photos of our food. Amanda ordered the butternut squash and forest mushroom ravioli with brown butter sauce and I had the a quiche with asparagus, sweet onions, and squash along with a side salad. The quiche was definitely the best I've ever had - the vegetables were tender and the egg was light and fluffy. My side salad was garnished with what I think must have been pepitas, and they added a nice nutty flavor and crunch. By the time dessert arrived (crème brûlée! turtle cheesecake!) I realized I hadn't taken any pictures so I did snap a few then, but the images came out so dark and grainy I won't bother sharing. So instead, here is a picture of Ezra waiting on the bench outside the restaurant as we waited for Amanda to arrive. 
We had beautiful weather, pleasant company, and excellent food - it was an all around great night. Thanks so much, Amanda! xo.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

menu of the week

Hello friends! I have to say, our weekend was pretty awesome over here- dinner at the Rue (more on that tomorrow), hours of yard work, an eggplant parmesan sandwich, a carnival, bubble lawn mowing, more yard work, and homemade chocolate peanut butter ice cream. A great balance of work and play with ice cream to end it all. How did your weekend go? I desperately need to go grocery shopping, so while I plan and shop for our meals this week, you can check out what we ate last week...

baked pastina casserole - A favorite Giada recipe that combines pasta, chicken, cheese, and gravy - that's pasta sauce for those of you who aren't Rhode Island Italians (or married to one!) - hearty and filling, this meal comes together quickly if you have cooked chicken on hand. This time I used some that was left over from another meal. Also, I never use pastina because I don't like straining those tiny little pasta shapes. Instead I use elbows or something else on the small side.

salmon burgers with yogurt-tartar sauce - This was my first time making salmon burgers and I had high hopes for them to turn out well. Unfortunately, dinner was a comedy of errors that began with me attempting to skin the salmon myself (I was only partially successful) and culminated in the propane tank running out so I had to finish the burgers on the stove. Thus, the salmon was overcooked and a bit on the dry side. Luckily we had the yummy yogurt tartar sauce to fix them up.

white cheddar corn chowder - Summer time calls for chowder, so I made this vegetarian version that we love mostly because of the cheddar cheesy goodness. Too bad I forgot to put the cheddar cheese in. Oops. We added it at the table instead.

pasta with black pepper and parmesan - I think I've written about this dish before, but if I have it's worth repeating - this is a great meal for those nights when you didn't defrost anything and don't have anything in the fridge. You basically boil pasta in chicken broth, reserve some of the broth, and add it back to the pan with the pasta, lots of black pepper, and parmesan. Man, is it peppery! But sooo good.

beans and rice - I've made this before but accidentally used cranberry bean instead of anasazi. No worries, folks, things turned out just fine. Wow, it looks as though I made a lot of mistakes this week! Good thing Matt's not too picky anymore.

image via Whole Living

Friday, May 25, 2012

hello weekend

It was my birthday yesterday so I had to post a pretty birthday cake today. Matt made the day special by having our families and a few friends over for dessert - he made this yummy confection and everyone was so sweet. Tonight I'm going out to dinner at Rue De L'Espoir with a friend... I think I might get the fig & pistachio salad. On Saturday there are more mystery birthday plans - hooray! I'm hoping they involve a certain carnival that recently went up by our house. Oh, and it just occurred to me that it's a long weekend! My birthday week is even longer! Yes, I'm claiming Monday as still part of my birthday week. We're going to Colt State Park with some friends from church for a little cookout and lots of ultimate frisbee. Fingers crossed that the sun is shining! 

- such a sweet way to wrap a gift
- if you're a local, check out these free fun Fridays in Massachusetts throughout the summer
this dress might need to come home with me... after all, it is my birthday week
- the prettiest printable stationery, via creature comforts
ghere for a free dirty dozen download
- I want to make a little liberty quilt, too!
- can't wait to take this funny quiz with Matt
- this little herb garden in an egg carton is the cutest

Hope your weekend is an awesome one.

image via Bakerella

Thursday, May 24, 2012

tea with Rose // Tealuxe

Hillary and I decided to go to an old favorite of ours last week for our tea tour - Tealuxe. It's probably the most well known place to get a cup of tea in the state so of course we had to include it in the tour.

We met up on Thayer Street at about 9:00 and placed our orders - I chose an iced papaya and pineapple and had to wait a few minutes since it was custom made. Not a problem as I took the time to poke around the cafe while Ezra sipped on water.

I was tempted to get the 'half & half' but I decided that drinking tea blended with lemonade would be cheating since we're supposed to be on a tea tour. I refrained. 

The papaya pineapple was a bright blend of fruity flavors that almost tasted sweet even without the addition of sugar or honey. Getting it iced was a good call because the day was already warming up and we headed to the playground after so Ezra could run around. It was the perfect refreshment for sipping while I watched Ezra climb and jump and pick up every piece of litter he found. I'm not kidding. He picked up every piece in sight and wanted me to lift him up so he could reach the trash can. Someone get this kid's college application started because he's already doing volunteer work. Anyway, I would definitely get the papaya pineapple again. I might even buy some loose tea so I can make it at home. Maybe it will be the official beverage of summer 2012.

As you can see, Ezra snagged my tea and downed the last inch or so. I think he felt pretty cool drinking it, although he did add a few wood chips later on. Wouldn't be my first choice for a garnish but then I'm not eighteen months old. Read Hillary's post about our trip to Tealuxe right here, check out our other stops on the tea tour, too!

P.S. Hillary used instagram to capture this shot of Ezra looking all moody. I kind of love it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

gifts for the girl // a little birthday wishlist

My birthday is tomorrow and I caught myself mentally compiling a wishlist when I was at Target the other day. What girl doesn't love new accessories and pretty paper? For your child's teacher, a high school graduate, to thank the babysitter (or for yourself!) - these are all great to have on hand for last minute gift giving. Here are some of my favorite finds... 

Full disclosure: I bought myself the nail polish.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

a quilt for a baby yet to be

My latest quilt was made with a special woman in mind. My friend Alex's sister Mikaela asked if I could make one for her friend who's been going through a difficult time and I readily agreed. 

Mikaela chose a few of the quilt designs I suggested and then I picked the easiest one because we were working with a small window of time. Once the design was decided Mikaela and I went to Joann to pick out the fabric. She picked out all the prints based on what she thought her friend would like and I helped her edit for color, pattern, and value. My favorite prints are the ones by Denyse Schmidt.
Oooh, and I just love the backing! 
I used a simple tutorial from Film in the Fridge as a guideline. It all came together in under a week from start to finish. 

Simple straight lines of quilting echo the lines of the quilt. There are two lines on either side of the seams where the blocks and stripes meet.  
The quilt is bound with a simple navy and white polka dot and I love how it pairs with the backing. In fact, I love it so much that I might just go back to Joann to pick up some of these fabrics for myself!
I hope that this quilt brings joy and comfort to the woman who it was made for. It was an honor to pray for her as I sewed and quilted, and I hope she feels the love that was put into every stitch. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

menu of the week + a recipe

(image via Sarah Waldman)

This past weekend was pretty much perfect. I don't think I mentioned that we were supposed to be in Newport with my family (my parents have a timeshare there) but things got goofed up so no one ended up going - hence, the change of plans. Our weekend at home was just what we needed to recharge. Here's what we ate last week -

veggie enchiladas - After Mother's Day I had an entire pan left so these made another appearance. A little bit labor intensive (so much chopping!) but very good, especially when served with sour cream. Yum.

lemon chicken tagine - We hadn't had chicken in a while so we headed to Baffoni's in Johnston and picked up eight chicken breasts. Matt thought they tasted game-y but they seemed normal to me. Regardless of the chickens themselves, I thought this recipe left a little to be desired. The lemon flavor was bright and dominant, which I liked, but the chicken turned out a bit dry. I served it with toasted almond whole wheat cous cous.

broccoli cheddar frittata with potatoes - Since we started eating less meat last summer I've had to become more creative with meal planning and I've found that eggs are very versatile, filling, and forgiving. Even if my cupboard is bare, if I have a half dozen eggs and my cast iron pan I'm pretty much all set. While I love to cook and bake and have been doing so on a regular basis for just about four years, I'm just beginning to feel comfortable cooking without a recipe in hand. I'm embarrassed to admit that, but I'm feeling brave so let's get things out in the open. With that said, here's my frittata recipe -

2 cups chopped broccoli
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 large eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Steam the broccoli either on the stove top or in the microwave until tender. Set aside. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat (I used my 9 inch cast iron pan). Add the potato, onion, and garlic. Season the potato mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Saute over medium-low heat until the potato is golden, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the broccoli and stir to evenly distribute. Preheat the broiler. Whisk the eggs, cream, Parmesan, an cheddar in a medium bowl to blend. Stir the egg mixture into the potato mixture in the skillet. Cover (I don't have a lid so I just use a piece of foil) and cook over medium heat until the egg mixture is almost set but the top is still loose, about 6 minutes. Take the foil off and place the skillet under the broiler. Broil until the top is set and golden brown, about 4 minutes. Use a butter knife to cut the frittata into eight wedges and serve with a small spatula.

baked barley risotto with butternut squash - anything with butternut squash is delicious in my opinion. It really tastes good no matter what you do to it. This recipe is nice because once you get it going you can just leave it on the stove and wait for it to finish. Use that time to prepare a salad or play with your toddler before dinner.

quinoa black bean burgers - I'm so glad I discovered Sarah's blog because I've gotten so many healthy, tasty recipes from her. Now this black bean burger recipe is one of my favorite things ever. Like I mentioned last time we had them, I didn't care for the large pieces of raw onion so this time I made sure to chop them extra fine. I served them on Barwosky's organic hamburger buns.

Tonight I'm making salmon burgers for the first time. I was excited to use the grill but now it's drizzling. Bummer. Here's hoping that the sun comes out again!

Friday, May 18, 2012

hello weekend

(illustration by Danielle Kroll)

Yesterday felt like the start to my weekend because Matt ended up home sick. Sounds like a bummer, but he ended up being mostly okay so we were still able to spend some quality family time together and took Ezra to zoo and went for a bike ride. Ezra looks so funny in his helmet! I'll have to post pictures soon. Today is looking to be pretty good, too - this morning we (Ezra and I, that is) went out to tea with Hillary and then visited the playground at India Point Park. When Ezra wakes up from his nap I plan on taking him to the Providence Children's Museum. Then later on I'm finally getting that massage - remember when it was cancelled?- I think I need it more this week anyway. Tomorrow morning while Matt heads out to do a shoot I'm going to take Ezra to the first outdoor farmers market of the season, and then we're having a little Morrocan-inspired lunch at our house with a few friends. I love this weekend already. What are you doing this weekend? 

- this it the funniest pin cushion ever
pretty things at the National Stationery Show (the card with the balloons!)
- why didn't I think of that?
- my friend Ashley is having a giveaway of her homemade sugar scrubs - go here to enter!
- definitely putting mushroom ragu on the menu for next week
- this bouquet is pretty much perfect
- finally, a braid I think I might be able to pull off
- check out this free printable of Isaiah 40:31 (scroll all the way to the bottom of the post, after ogling all the chalkboard walls)
- once again, I wish I could go to Dandee's craft camp... I'll just have to host my own some day!

See you next week! I have a new menu, a special quilting project, some family photos, and the next stop on the tea tour in store!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

the best breakfast // a twist on the Dutch baby

I've written about my love for Dutch babies (the pancakes, not infants from the Netherlands) in the past, so when I tried this twist on one of my favorite breakfasts I knew I had to share. Inspired by a recipe in Joy the Baker's new cookbook, I added some toppings to my typical recipe. In case you're wondering why I didn't just make Joy's version, I decided to stick with mine because hers has double the amount of butter and 1/3 cup of sugar in the batter. While I love butter and sugar just as much as the next person (maybe even more so!), I didn't think I needed to add those ingredients to something Ezra and I would be eating first thing in the morning. One thing I did add to the batter from Joy's recipe was a couple tablespoons of toasted coconut. Delicious.

Tropical Dutch Baby
serves one hungry mama and her toddler

3 large eggs
1/2 C flour (you can substitute whole wheat flour without a problem, although the pancake won't rise as much)
1/2 C milk
1/4 t salt
1/4 C unsweetened coconut
1/2 t vanilla
2 T butter
1 C chopped fresh pineapple
1 sliced banana

Heat oven to 400°.  Spread coconut on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for a few minutes, checking periodically to make sure it doesn't burn. Stir if necessary to prevent the edges from browning too quickly. Remove from the oven and allow the coconut to cool. Whisk eggs in a medium bowl to combine.  Add flour to eggs and whisk until smooth.  Add milk, salt, 2 tablespoons toasted coconut, and vanilla and whisk to incorporate; set aside.  Add butter to a cast iron skillet (I use a 9 3/4 inch skillet, but something close will do) and transfer to the oven until melted.  Remove from oven and carefully tilt the pan to swirl the butter over the bottom and sides of the pan. Quickly scrape the batter into the skillet.  Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the pancake with the remaining coconut, pineapple, and banana. Enjoy. 

Note: My oven takes fourteen minutes to preheat, so I put the coconut in while it's warming up, keeping a close eye on so it doesn't burn. Then I make the batter. Once the oven has six minutes to go I add the butter to the skillet and stick it in the oven. It's perfectly melted by the time the oven is preheated so I just take the pan out and pour the batter in. Your oven is probably different than mine, but I just figured I would share what works for me. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

what's cookin' // a gift idea

Do you ever have trouble figuring out what to get your mom or mom-in-law for Mother's Day? I do! Candles and pretty notebooks are nice and all but they just don't cut it around here. I know our moms hope for something a bit more thoughtful and personal, so after my dad got me and my mom the class at Johnson & Wales for Christmas I had a "eureeka!" moment. We (Matt, Chris, Becky, and I) would get a certificate for a class for my mother-in-law for Mother's Day. 

To make the gift a little more special (and so there would be an actual gift to open instead of just an envelope!) I made her a simple apron to go along with the certificate. I think this apron might be my new favorite gift... it was so quick (took me about an hour and a half from start to finish) and it's perfect for so many occasions - make one to give to a friend for her bridal shower along with a set of mixing bowls, bring one to a housewarming party along with a nice wooden spoon or rolling pin, or even to a recent high school or college graduate who's going out on her own for the first time and will be eating away from home and out of the dining hall. Maybe include your favorite cookbook. Or just make one for yourself. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

a Mother's Day luncheon

In honor of our mothers and Matt's grandmother, we hosted a little lunch on Sunday afternoon. When I saw all the Mara Mi products at Target I knew they were the perfect starting point for the day. I picked up a cute tablecloth, dinner napkins, and cocktail napkins and bought lush pink peonies and and pale orange tulips to complete the table. 

Using leftover tissue from the tissue poms of last week (it's made of the clippings from making the ends of the poms pointy!) I created a streamer banner to accent my chevron wall art. Definitely leaving it up until Matt can't take it anymore. I love the texture and the bright pop of color it gives to the room.

The menu for the day was sort of southwestern and sort of Cinco de Mayo. I don't know. I made sweet onion and potato quesadillas with goat cheese from this cookbook and my sister-in-law Becky brought a spicy layered dip served with blue corn chips. Southwestern salad started off the sit down portion of our meal, and then I served buffalo style chilli and veggie enchiladas. And in case you're interested, starting at the left and going clockwise, that's my mom, my brother Brendan, my brother-in-law Chris, my nephew Jacob, Chris's wife Becky, Matt's grandmother ("Mama"), my mother-in-law Cheryl, my father-in-law Pat, Matt, Ezra, and my Dad, also Pat. (My dad is Patrick and my father-in-law is Pasquale.) Okay, moving on...

For dessert we had fresh pineapple and strawberries, Mexican brownies, and a delicious flan that Becky made. Now wait. Please look at my little hippo sugar dish and zebra creamer! Aren't they so cute? My mom got them for me at Anthropologie years ago. Ezra loves the zebra and shrieked, "Neigh! Neigh!" every time someone used it or passed it around the table. We had a lovely day with our families, and I'm very blessed to have my mom and mother-in-law in my life. Ezra has two wonderful grandmothers and a great great-grandmother, too.

This passage from the book of Proverbs is a beautiful reminder of what mothers should aspire to:  "Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!” Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise." Proverbs 31:28-31

P.S. See the Mother's Day brunch (when we told our families that I was pregnant!) we hosted two years ago right here.

Friday, May 11, 2012

hello weekend

(image via {frolic!})

After a very wet week I'm excited to enjoy the warm weather this weekend. I have an obsession with sheep shearing so hopefully we'll have time to go to Watson Farm tomorrow morning to see the little lambs get their spring time hair cuts. Then I'll be celebrating a friend's upcoming nuptials at her bridal shower. On Sunday we have big plans for a Mother's Day luncheon at our house after church. I'm planning a southwestern inspired menu complete with chili, enchiladas, and flan! 

- dining al fresco gets me every time... this picnic party is no exception
- what a neat frosting trick
- these illustrated herb basics are helpful and pretty, too!
this pretty braid makes me want to grow my hair out
- a swanky birthday party with vintage flair looks like a perfect celebration
- a new twist on grilled cheese - chard and gruyere!
- love this funny Mother's Day card - download it and send it along to your husband!

Have a lovely weekend! Especially all you moms out there... 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

framed tissue paper poms // DIY wall decor

Good morning! The sun is finally shining in Rhode Island so it's automatically a good day around here. I'm back with the tutorial on making your own wall art with tissue paper poms, but let me begin by saying that I use the word 'tutorial' very loosely. First, gather your materials: tissue paper poms poms (see my tutorial here), a piece of cardboard to fit the area you wish to decorate, and a hot glue gun. If you choose to create something like Ezra's window treatment, just roughly cut the cardboard as the fluffy edges of the poms will hide any imperfections. If you'll be framing the poms as I do here, cut the cardboard to the exact size of the frame opening, but a little (and I mean little) bigger is okay. Either way, it's a good idea to place the pom poms on the cardboard to get an idea of how you'll attach them before you begin gluing. 

Now for the hard part. Heat up the hot glue gun. Once it has reached the right temperature pull the trigger and squeeze a squiggle of glue onto the center of the bottom of the pom. Quickly place the pom on the cardboard where you would like it. Hold it in place until the glue is somewhat hardened. If you pull the pom away from the cardboard it should stay put. Repeat with the other poms. Now fluff!

Push the pom-covered cardboard into the frame from the front and it should stay. If there's a little extra cardboard along some of the edges just force it through the frame opening. This will actually help it stay in place. Cross your fingers that it does. Mine did.

Pat yourself on the back for completing a piece of art that's absolutely perfect for welcoming your mom and mother-in-law to brunch on Sunday. Then bandage up the finger you burned on the hot glue.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

tissue paper poms // a photo tutorial

A while back when I posted the photos of Ezra's nursery several of you asked for a tutorial for making his wall of poms. The first time I made poms was for our wedding in 2008 using Martha's tutorial and I've made them countless times since (for Laura and Ed's wedding, as gift toppers, for Ezra's first birthday party, and for Ari's shower). They're pretty much a party standard around here because they're so simple to make. The biggest difference between the floating poms and the wall poms is that one side remains unfluffed. Keep reading to see my modified version of how to make tissue paper pom poms as wall art...

1. Begin by stacking layers of tissue paper on top of one another. Here I used ten sheets.
2. Fold the stack in one inch increments, accordion style...

To do this, fold on one side, then flip the stack over and fold in the opposite direction, like so - 

3. Once you've finished folding, find the middle of the folded paper and staple an 'X' to secure.

4. Trim the ends into your desired shape. I prefer to cut them into points, but you might try a rounded end or leave them as is.

5. Spread the folds out with your fingers and carefully pull out one layer of tissue paper at a time, separating the layers and fluffing them as you go.

I fluff one side and then do the other side, but you might want to alternate. Either way, you'll end up with the same look. 

6. Give your pom a once over to make sure it looks round and full on all sides, adjusting the tissue paper layers if you need to.

7. Flip your pom over and you'll see that the bottom is flat. This allows you to attach the pom to a surface to create wall art of some sort, like the piece over the windows in Ezra's room.

Many thanks to Matt for setting up his camera and tripod to help me with these photos. And yes, I am wearing my pajamas. Tomorrow I'll share how I put the poms to use as a welcoming spring time wall decoration in our breezeway. Until then...

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