Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Over on eHow: How to Make DIY Mulling Spice Bundles

As the draw holidays near, we've been leaning into the season. In that spirit, for our latest project post with eHow we raided the pantry to create a handful of mulling spice bundles — there's nothing like the smell of citrus and spice to invite immediate warmth and seasonal aromas throughout the house.

Mulling spice blends are typically used in warmed versions of wine and cider; they're accessible at most markets this time of year, but are simple to make at home using a variety of pantry staples.

The spice combination is really up to your personal preference, though typically include a mix of allspice, cloves and citrus — I've found that the clove and citrus really drive the scent and flavor, and add-ins like star anise and cinnamon add a nice visual touch. A handful of each bundled in cheesecloth and finished with a string of baker's twine make for a quick project:

Head on over to eHow for our full recipe and step-by-step tutorial for making a batch of these mulling spice bundles of your own. Give them as gifts, or use them to add a little seasonal spice to cider, wine or other favorite warm beverages this holiday season.

When ready for use, drop the bundle into a pot of simmering water on the stovetop to add a touch of immediate seasonal aromas throughout your space. For use in warm holiday beverages, I whipped together a seasonal blend for wine over on Lot18, click here for the recipe.

Cheers to leaning into the season from our home to yours!

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Recipe: Potato, Zucchini & Dill Savory Tart

Today we wanted to pop in to share one final recipe from our time spent vacationing in Italy. With access to an abundance of fresh and wild herbs on the grounds, we found ourselves looking for any excuse to incorporate them into the meals we'd prepare during the evenings, hence the fresh dill is truly the star of this potato and zucchini tart.

We'd tasted zucchini pizza and potato pizza while there, something new to us all. In the spirit of combining those two ideas into one, we enjoyed making our own version one evening to share on the terrace for dinner. Paired with the caramelized onions, pecorino cheese and fresh dill, this dish was an all around pleaser. An easy meal to put together, the prep for this tart pairs well with another set of helping hands to pitch in with slicing over a glass of wine (thanks Mom!).

This savory tart is best served warm and will hold its own as a hearty vegetarian entree when paired with a large salad, or act as a welcome starter or side when sliced smaller and paired with a meatier main.

  • Puff pastry sheet
  • 1 Onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 Potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 2 Zucchinis, thinly sliced
  • 2 Cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • Pecorino cheese, thinly sliced
  • Fresh dill leaves, roughly chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. Allow the pastry to thaw before rolling out over a parchment lined baking sheet.

Caramelize the onions by first melting the butter in a pan with 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions with salt and pepper to taste allowing them to cook while continually stirring until the onions begin to soften. Turn the heat down to medium low, spreading the onions out and stirring occasionally until browned. Remove from heat.

Combine the potato, zucchini and garlic in a pan with the olive oil, salt and pepper, sautéing until zucchini is tender, about 5-7 minutes. Incorporate the fresh dill, stirring to combine.

Prick pastry with a fork all over and line the cheese slices all along the base of the pastry, leaving a 1/2 inch border of crust. Spread the caramelized onions overtop and intermingling with the cheese. Spoon and arrange the cooked zucchini/potato mixture to cover the onions and cheese.

Place onto the center rack in the oven, allowing to bake for 18-25 minutes or until the pastry crust has browned and the cheese is just beginning to bubble. Remove the tart from the oven, allowing it to rest for at least 5 minutes before cutting to serve.

Dust with a fine grating of additional cheese and serve warm.

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Monday, November 9, 2015

Over on eHow: DIY Wine Bottle Christmas Lights

In our most recent project collaboration with eHow, we transformed a handful of glass bottles into a set of sparkling holiday decorations. These festive lights are a such a fun way to recycle different bottles from a special occasion or trip, and make a budget-friendly gift idea as the holidays draw near.

The trick to making these wine bottle lights is by drilling a large enough hole in the base of the bottle to slip the string lights inside. LED lights will stay cool, without worry of heating the glass and using a battery pack light string allows for placing the bottles anywhere you like, regardless of nearby access to an electrical outlet.

Once lit, they're easy to display in a nook that could use a friendly glow or spread out across the mantle or tablescape to create a welcoming and festive focal point. Just tuck the battery pack out of sight and watch them light up the room:

With so many new light string options on the market, mix and match the bulb sizes for a varied look and swap in different colors throughout the year for a fresh approach — orange lights for Halloween would work quite well, no?

Head on over to eHow for the full tutorial with step by step instructions for making a set of these sparkling wine glass lights.

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Over on eHow: How to Grow Wisteria in a Planter

After returning back home from our stay in Italy, we have officially caught a case of the wisteria-fever. Known for their cascading blooms, the farmhouse where we stayed had a mature wisteria vine covering the outdoor pergola like a beautiful living canopy.

We loved the look and feel so much, we were excited to learn more about wisteria and try our hand at growing a vine in our own space. Understanding wisteria vines can be known to grow rather aggressively and in some case, disrupt the ground and surrounding structures, we decided to plant a container version. This way, we have the flexibility to not only train the vine, but move it around the garden as we choose.

Wisteria can be grown from seed, but may never bloom so is often planted from a grafted vine. We found an organically grown starter vine from The Maple Lady nursery on Etsy. Within a few days, the live plant arrived at our doorstep ready for planting in its new home here in Virginia.

I'd love to imagine that the vine will survive the winter and eventually grow enough to train into a canopy over the back fence door. Time will tell, and as usual — we'll be sure to keep you posted on the progress.

Head on over to eHow to find our full tutorial with step-by-step instructions for how to plant a container wisteria vine!

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Weekend Basics: Our Halloween Festivities

It seems like we blinked this year and now it's November. Classically my favorite month out of the year — it always sneaks right up, signifying the busy holiday season is here. Before plunging head deep into the holiday spirit, we wanted to take the time to share a quick recap of our weekend and Halloween festivities.

First up, this year's pumpkins! October was a little busier than we'd hoped for, so instead of making our favorite trip with the kids to the pumpkin patch, we'd picked up a few choice varieties from Ellwood Thompson's to rest on the porch leading into Halloween when we carve them into Jack-o-Lanterns:

When it came to this year's decorating choice, I'd seen and loved the idea of "masking" our pumpkins here & here. Using this concept as inspiration we picked up a couple of fancy masquerade style masks to pair with two of our medium to smaller sized pumpkins. For a glowing effect, we hollowed the pumpkins and carved a crescent-shaped slit positioned directly underneath the mask eyes.

To add a little variety, I carved the shape of a mask into the larger Jack-o-Lantern using a linocut tool, which allows for more precision when cutting freehand and scooping deep into the pumpkin flesh without breaking all the way through. The end result is something that looks like a glowing drawing.

One of our favorite traditions since moving the Fan has been walking over to Hanover Avenue to get a glimpse at all of the over-the-top Halloween decorations. It's a true event on this street, where the road is temporarily closed and neighbors participate in friendly decorating competitions.

We typically stroll Hanover Ave during Halloween morning as a way to see everything going up while the streets are still quiet. Check out a full recap of these walks with details of the crazy decor in last year's Halloween post.

This year we met Stephanie and a group of her friends closer to 5pm when things got started as a way to share the fun that happens in our neighborhood with them.

After strolling the neighborhood, we hunkered down back home to hand out candy and delight in watching all the little trick-or-treaters that came our way, one of which turned out to be our nephew, Benjamin!

He'd asked for a Minecraft Zombie costume this year. Admittedly I'm not as familiar with Minecraft so took to Pinterest for help. After landing on this inspiration shot, we were good to go with a couple of cardboard boxes, checkered paint and a few strategically placed arm and eye holes. Not bad! We were so tickled that my mom drove him down to the city for a little house call in his homemade costume — definitely one of our favorite highlights to wrap up this year's Halloween.

As for our other favorite guy, as you can see from the video we snapped below from our Instagram account — he's still on the fence about spiders, and doesn't yet see the humor in Halloween:

A video posted by Mary & Tim Vidra (@17apart) on

You can't win them all! Thanks for checking in on us today — here's hoping you had a wonderful weekend and a great start to November.

More From our Past 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

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween Party Recipe: Haunted Punch

Popping in today to wish everyone a Happy Halloween and share this frightfully festive recipe for a haunted punch sure to delight ghouls and goblins of all ages.

While a simple recipe of fizzy soda and cranberry concentrate, the real novelty of this "haunted" punch are the life-sized icy floating hands. They bob and swirl with each ladling of punch for an eery effect.

The trick to making these icy hands is using food-safe vinyl gloves as molds to freeze overnight. The recipe can also easily be kicked-up a notch with your favorite bubbly for an adult-version or gathering.

Head on over to for the full recipe and tutorial for whipping up a spooky concoction of your own this season.

Some of you may remember that Halloween marks the anniversary of when Tim and I first started seeing eachother — some 11 years ago (eek!). We're spending the day at home today, carving our pumpkins and preparing for the trick or treaters dropping by later this evening. Here's wishing you happy and safe festivities, however you may be celebrating this weekend!

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Recipe: Caramel Apples

Now that we're in the throws of autumn, Mary and I are soaking in the cooler mornings, changing leaves and the fall offerings cropping up everywhere we look.

In the spirit of the season and with this year's apple picking trip, I recently whipped up a batch of caramel apples in collaboration with's lifestyle blog and had fun pairing this classic treat with grown-up toppings for a gourmet twist.

Crushed pistachios, dried banana chips and giant flakes of Maldon salt were among my coatings of choice — and I realized just how much room for creative choice and personal taste there is when making caramel apples.

This batch of 8 apples took a little over an hour to make from prep to finish once all the ingredients and kitchen supplies are gathered, so the project could make for a simple weekend activity to partake in with friends over drinks.

Make it a kid-friendly activity by subbing in their favorite toppings (chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, or heck, even sprinkles).

Head on over to to find my full recipe and tutorial for whipping together a batch of these deliciously grown up caramel apples of your own — and we'd love to know, what's your favorite apple topping combination?

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