Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Over on Etsy: The Poison Apple Halloween Cocktail

With Halloween around the corner, we've been getting in the seasonal spirit, concocting up a handful of sweet ideas. Yep, we've really been getting our "creative juices" flowing, har har har...

OK, all puns aside, we recently teamed up with Etsy to create this Halloween cocktail recipe we've dubbed The Poison Apple and have been excited to share more about here on the blog:

The secret potion? Through a little experimentation, we found that a healthy dose of Chambord will sink to the bottom of a martini glass when dropped into the other mixed cocktail ingredients — hence creating that eerie poison effect.

The black cocktail rim sugar from Dell Cove Spices on Etsy was the final touch that really made the drink come together.

Add a little dry ice and we've got an instant spellbinding effect.

Head on over to Etsy for the step-by-step recipe tutorial and more pics of this fun Halloween concoction! What are you favorite Halloween treats to whip up this time of year?

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Weekend Basics: Pumpkin Patching it!

Over the weekend we took the chance to hit up the pumpkin patch with my sister's children, which is shaping up to be a fun yearly tradition.

There are many local pumpkin patches and farms to choose from here in Richmond, and we've enjoyed spending time at Gallmeyer Farms this time of year. They're open everyday until dusk and all the activities are free for the family to enjoy. We purchase pumpkins by the pound and almost always leave with a haul of fresh produce from the farm, this year being no different.

It was a big group of us this year, with the addition of Teller's 4th child, Chelsea, along for the fun. My mother, aunt, Tim and I teamed up to take the kids out for the afternoon, and I think we enjoy going to the pumpkin patch just as much as they do.

There's the giant hay maze, playground, hayrides and of course, the pumpkin patch.

Tim and I tasked each of the children (except for Chelsea) with finding their own pumpkin. We wheeled them over to the patch in wheelbarrows and explained that they could choose any pumpkin in the entire field they liked, so long as they could pick it up and lift it into the wheelbarrow — basically, whatever their little arms could handle. Here I am explaining this challenge:

They each took this personal mission very seriously.

This face cracks me up — little Virginia is trying her best to smile holding up the first pumpkin she found:

...even though she later settled on a rounder, bumpier pumpkin:

Benjamin also found his right away, but was a sweet big brother, very concerned with helping Sophia find a pumpkin she liked — which he even offered to pick up for her:

This poor little gal was the most stressed about finding a pumpkin she could pick up, or maybe just deciding on one she liked in general. I can relate, as sometimes I get overwhelmed when needing to make a decision with endless options:

Just look at that little pout:

Eventually we happened upon her perfect pick, which she happily lifted and I carried the rest of the way. Whew, tough decisions, let me tell you!

Virginia ended up with the very bumpy pumpkin, while Sophia and Benjamin both wanted a little green coloring mixed into theirs, thinking they could make witch faces with them. It's always amazing to me how different each personality is and it's fun getting to see them emerge at such a young age.

We also challenged them to find the largest pumpkins in the field so we could take a picture next to them. We did pretty well finding a string of four biggies in a row:

Looking back at last year's pumpkin patch trip, it's fun to see just how much each of the kids has grown over the past year.

After the patch we headed home, bringing Virginia back with us. She'll be staying with us this week, so we're excited to have a little house guest and have been planning fun activities to take on while she's here — one of which will now involve deciding on how we'll decorate the bumpy pumpkin!

Discover More Pumpkin Decorating Projects:

Script Pumpkin

Carve Pumpkin Designs With a Power Drill

Carve a Constellation Pumpkin

Golden Doily Pumpkins

Painted Letter Pumpkin

Cookie Cutter Pumpkins

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fancy That!

Original image by Tori Watson, Marvelous Things Photography

Today we're back again, sharing all the smaller things we're into (or fancying, hence the series name) that might not fit into a single post for one reason or another. Sometimes there might be a long list of randomness, other times it might be a single gem — whatever the case, here's what we're into right now.

- Tumblr to follow: Wood Is Good

- What's been cooking around here? Quick & Easy Bok Choy Stir-Fry

- A pictorial road-trip through New England in fall

- 4 fall craft ideas

- 17 Pumpkin decorating project ideas for the weekend

- Stunning vintage leather chair

- Now this is a chandelier right up our alley.

- 15 owls that are masters of camouflage.

- Loved seeing Virginia named Esquire's food region of 2014!

- Menu Pumpkin — fun DIY idea for a dinner party or gathering

- Hoo Hoo

Next week we'll have our niece, Virginia, coming to stay with us for a few days. Over the weekend we'll be pulling together a shopping list and culling all the kid-friendly projects we've pinned that might be fun for a 5 year old after school this time of year. Any suggestions welcome and hope you have a great weekend!

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Over on eHow: How to Cut & Recycle Wine Bottles Into Modern Glass Vases

Ever wondered how to cut glass bottles to recycle into everyday useful pieces like vases, drinking glasses or even candles? So did we — so we tested the process on several different bottles, then detailed what method worked best in our latest project post for eHow.

The result of our endeavors were these recycled glass bottle vases. We used a mix of glass wine bottles, sparkling water bottles and even an old olive oil bottle from Italy we'd saved over the years. Recycling bottles in this way can be a fun way to preserve a celebratory bottle of champagne or wine from a milestone event, transforming them into useable pieces for your everyday decor.

For the more special bottles or ones with fun graphics, we chose to leave the labels intact. Those that didn't carry sentimental meaning, we removed the labels and share a few tips for doing so easily over in the full tutorial.

Outside of vases, you could cut glass bottles in all sorts of shapes and sizes to make drinking glasses, wine tumblers (<--- see what I just did there), or even candles with the addition of poured wax. We've also seen the neck portion of cut bottles used as pendant light shades, like these — pretty neat-o!

Head on over to eHow to see more pictures of our new vases with step by step instructions for making a set of your own.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Basil's Blanket Season (aka Call Me Crazy)

Happy hump day! Well, we can tell the autumn weather is truly starting to set in now that "Basil's blanket season" has returned in full swing. What's Basil's blanket season? Well, it's the 5 months out of the year that Basil gets spoiled with his own throw blanket while lounging about — tell me we're not alone on this?

This position above is what I like to refer to as "the cold weim ball." I can always tell when he's cold, because he'll crouch up into this tight ball and sometimes even push his nose down into the bed, trying to keep warm — doesn't looks so relaxed or cozy, no?

I have to admit, I get a lot of flack from my extended family and friends for wrapping Basil up in a blanket, and I even used to get a little flack from Tim...that is, until I showed him the following test:

Here's the test — we toss the blanket over him when in the "cold weim ball position" and walk away...

After about 5 minutes, without fail, we'll hear him let out a big puppy dog sigh and see him begin to stretch on out:

Now this is the look of a comfy, cozy dog:

It's hard to argue that the blanket doesn't make a difference — just look at those eyes rolling back in his head...

Hey wait, are you guys talking about me? Yawwwwwwn....

Oh, hello there, camera! Let me take a minute to show you exactly how comfy I am with my blanket:

What a ham!

Oh, Basil — how you continue to brighten our days.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sage Butternut Squash Gratin Recipe

It is officially fall in our neck of the woods, which means the food focus shifts from outdoor grilling and quick meals to slow cooking and comforting casserole dishes. After receiving a big old butternut squash in our CSA box last week I got to thinking about how to use it. I'd been planning a home cooked meal since Brandon would be in town for the weekend and knew he'd be craving something other than school food. We're all big fans of gratins and scalloped potatoes, so I decided to use my favorite gratin ingredients to whip together this savory and flavorful butternut squash gratin. The result turned out to be an amazing dish that will be a go-to fall favorite in our house for years to come.

Ingredients: (serves 4-6 as a side)
  • Butternut squash, 4-5 pounds, long skinny neck cut off and skin peeled
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage (I used fresh dried sage)
  • White pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
I was able to use some of the freshly dried sage my mother had dried and preserved from her summer herbs in this recipe (see how she did it in this weekend roundup post). I'm bringing it up because I feel it really added depth to this dish, even though store-bought sage will sub in fine. Both Stephanie and Brandon commented and picked up on the depth of flavor the sage brought, which makes a dad proud.

In this recipe we are just going to use the neck of the butternut squash, so you can reserve the bottom portion to use in other recipes. An inexpensive mandoline definitely comes in handy here. Slice the squash to even 1/8 inch thick rounds. Spray or butter a lidded casserole dish thoroughly and it's time to start building up the layers!

Start by layering a portion of the squash on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle a layer of cheese and sage leaves. Top with another layer of squash, sprinkling that layer with white pepper. Alternate this layering method until you end with a layer of the remaining cheese.

Preheat oven to 350° and heat the heavy cream on stovetop over medium heat until almost at a simmer. Remove from heat and pour into casserole over the layered squash and cheese. 

Top with lid and place in the oven for 50-55 minutes rotating the dish 180° halfway through the cooking time. This is where things are gonna bubble, melt and meld together in the most delicious of ways.

Note: If your casserole dish does not have a steam hole (which allows steam to escape) then cover it, leaving the lid a little ajar so steam can escape.

Remove from oven and allow to sit 10 minutes before serving, taking in the aromatic smells of butternut, sage and melted, bubbling cheese...

Your serving spoon should slice right through the thin layers butternut, retaining all the creamy goodness that helps make this dish so amazing.

Everyone's going to clamor over this side, so don't make plans for reheating leftovers, cause every last little bit of cheese will be scooped and scraped from the pan.

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