December 31, 2011

Best of 17 Apart in 2011

We feel like we've only just gotten started with this here little collaborative blog. While we've only been posting since our launch near the end of July, we thought on this last day of the year we'd share what our most popular posts have been thus far in 2011 — or I guess you could say, of all time!

The following posts are ordered from most popular and we used a combination of Google Analytics and Blogger Stats to determine what content had the highest page views. In doing so, we learned our How-To and DIY posts seem to be pretty popular — along with a few big announcements including the launch of the blog, working the set of HGTV's Design on a Dime, and getting engaged!

So without further adieu, in the event you missed a few of these popular posts or just want to stroll down memory lane with us a bit, listed below are the top 10 posts from 17 Apart in 2011.

Top 10 posts in 2011:
1. How to make natural dog treats. This was a fun recipe we took on in an effort to use up some of the apples from our fall orchard trip and to try our hand making our own natural dog treats for our dog, Basil. Revisiting this post makes us want to make a new winter batch for 2012!

2. How to make natural candles from clementines.We made these candles on a whim after buying a case of clementines and remembering a similar diy post I'd pinned on Pinterest a while back. They turned out to burn amazingly well and we were even able to put our own little holiday spin on them by incorporating cloves in the final design. I'm still thinking these would make awesome decorations for a wedding or outdoor soiree.

3. How to make natural fruit rollups. We'd been wanting to make fruit leather for quite a while and had just enough almost overripe fruit in the middle of the autumn season to pull this one off. They stored in the fridge amazingly well and were tested and approved by my 2 1/2 year old niece! We'll definitely be tackling this one again in the future.

4. How to clean, whiten and mount deer antlers. One of our very first posts and still one of the most popular. The people are really interested in how to clean up and hang antlers! We're already ruminating over where to hang these guys in our new digs.

5. How to make natural apple vinegar. Our final recipe incorporating apple scraps from the fall orchard trip — we think this recipe takes the cake as far as simplicity and wow factor since it was SO easy to make and made us feel like pros when we tasted the final product 6 weeks after canning.

6. We got engaged! We're thrilled that you all consider our engagement big news! Keep up with future posts surrounding our wedding here.

7. Halloween: drilled pumpkin designs. This is the second year we've drilled designs into our Halloween pumpkins for a modern glow — we're so glad others found it interesting too and hope this simple trick comes in handy for others.

8. Behind the scenes of HGTV's Design on a Dime. Back in September I was lucky enough to work behind the scenes on an episode of HGTV's Design on a Dime for Etsy. Meeting Casey Noble and Joel West was a blast, not to mention hearing how much everyone on the show was a fan of Etsy.

9. The launch of 17 Apart. After writing for our separate blogs (E.A.T. & Contrary Garden) for years and both wanting to post about the projects we have going on, about a year and half after moving in together, we decided to launch this here blog where we can just put it all out there at once.

10. DIY Holiday Decor: Glitter Acorns. This was a simple and fun diy project that added a subtle and classy touch to our holiday decor. We're just about ready to package up these little guys and place them in hibernation mode with the rest of our holiday decor until we unearth them again next year.

It's been fun looking back over the past 5 months and remembering all the fun things we've gotten into. We'd like to thank each of you for following along and sharing in our journey — and to wish everyone a safe and happy New Year's Eve!

December 30, 2011

Look Who Santa Remembered...

Amidst all of our personal celebrations (New house! We're engaged!), Basil awoke on Christmas morning to a basket full of goodies from Santa himself...

Among tasty puppy treats and a brand new frisbee, Basil unwrapped (with a little help from good ole dad) a few presents Santa had found on Etsy:
  • A new handmade feed-sack collar from Handmade Green for Dogs that he will wear when occasions call for a clean collar — or in case he needs a backup for any reason.
  • A new antler chew toy from Wild and Wooley Treats. We've raved about antlers as natural and strong chew toys for Basil before — he was happy about it too.
Basil decided to place his toy basket, which is a vintage locker basket, out for Santa once he saw all of our own stockings lined up — smart dog. Did Santa remember your pets this Holiday season?

December 29, 2011

We're Engaged!

Amidst all of the excitement surrounding our new home, we have more big news to share; we're engaged!

Now onto the next burning question: How he Asked.

Nearing the end of our 7th anniversary back in October, Tim asked me to marry him, saying he'd like for us to be able to announce to our families that we are engaged between then and the holidays.

On the ring front, he told me he'd been looking everywhere for the right one without luck and invited me to partake in the hunt alongside him — which couldn't have been a more perfect idea in my mind (what girl doesn't wish she could help pick out her ring, right?).

So the ring hunt began. We knew we wanted an antique with some history. We looked on Etsy, at local antique jewelers, the NYC Diamond District, and dozens of online antique diamond jewelry dealers. We both got a much more robust eduction of all aspects surrounding what to look for in a diamond, including certifications. The funny thing is, after searching high and low, we went straight back to the very first one we fell in love with from a local antique jeweler — a 1930's deco era platinum engagement ring.

The real kicker was the inscription inside the band of the ring. It originally had two sets of monograms, one of them including M.E. which are my own initials (Mary Elizabeth) and the dates, 1926 - 1951. We gathered the ring must have been a 25th anniversary present to a very special lady back in 1951. Somehow, after looking at everything else out there, seeing that first one again really sealed the deal in our knowing it was right for us. Tim had the ring re-sized down to my finger size and at the same time had all parts of the original inscription buffed out except for the initials M.E. and the dates that had been in the original ring.

Once we decided on the perfect ring, Tim hid it from me and we made plans for how we would share the good news. We wanted to be able to tell all of our immediate family members at once so we concocted a plan to have everyone over on Christmas Eve to see the new house. Because coordinating getting everyone in the same place at the same time always proves to be a challenge, we framed it as an open house where our closest family could come and go as they please, but needed to be here for a 7pm "toast to the new house." Once everyone we had invited was there for the toast, Tim slipped the ring in my back pocket, handed out glasses of champagne, and began to thank everyone for coming. He said some words about the new place being one we want to make lots of future family memories in and then he announced that in addition to celebrating the holiday and the new house, that we wanted to have everyone close to us at one time there because we are also announcing and celebrating being engaged. Reactions ran from surprised to excited and we even got a couple finally's! The whole toast and about 20 minutes thereafter is a blur for me — I almost didn't even remember Tim's dad snapping the photo above.

As for next steps — right now we're just enjoying being able to say we're engaged but are looking forward to sharing more details along the way. Thanks for sharing in our good news!

We have been beyond thrilled with all your well wishes and response to seeing more about our upcoming wedding plans. While we'll be excited to share many details right here on the blog over time. In the meantime, you can follow a special collaborative Pinterest board we've set up to document all the details for our real wedding. This board will be separate from the wedding inspiration board in that it will keep track of all the final details rather than just collected ideas. We've also created a special wedding tag for posts here on the blog to allow for easier navigating of just wedding posts. Thanks again for all your support!

Keep up with 17Apart's Wedding:

December 28, 2011

Secret Fan Dog Park: Scuffletown Park

Well, we uncovered one of the rumored dog parks here in the Fan district that we mentioned in this post after a quick walk and a little exploring.

We'd heard it was located in an alley on Strawberry Street right across from the Strawberry Street Cafe so we set out to prove the rumor true or false.

Upon turning the corner at Park Avenue and Strawberry Street, we peeked down the alleyways in hopes of uncovering a dog park. What we found was much better...

 Instead of an alleyway dog run, we happened across a beautifully manicured area filled with fenced in plots of grass, bountiful flowers, tables, park benches, trash/recycling bins, dog bag dispensers, water bowls, rain barrels and brick walkways. We couldn't believe it and both agreed this pretty huge park was one we would have passed right by the alleyways of if we hadn't been looking for it.

For those of you that know your way around Richmond, this little gem of a park is well hidden in an open pocket of the Fan encapsulated behind the following streets: Strawberry Street, Park Avenue, Stuart Avenue, and Stafford Avenue as shown in the map below:

Scuffletown Park Fan Pocket — Map via Park's Facebook Page

We got the fairly early and ran into just one dog owner, John Patterson, who actually plays a major role in the upkeep of the park.

He introduced himself and his dog, Lucky Chuckie — we chatted for a while about the history of the park and how to get involved with the current goings-on. He explained how the fenced in grassy areas were off limits for dogs, because many mothers and nannies like to bring young children to the park for picnics for a clean area for children to play within the city. When we first came upon the park, we immediately assumed the fenced in areas were for dogs to play in, but it turns out the areas for dogs to run and play are the 3 bricked in patio runs — perfect for chasing and exercising.

John also told us there is a local organization and group of neighbors who contribute to the upkeep of the park and participate in various events like potluck dinners, park cleanups and most recently their very own grand illumination — the park had been decorated with festive holiday lights and a large Christmas tree.  As with most parks that allow animals we were made aware of several rules if we decide to visit this park in the future:

  • Please keep your dog out of the grassed area
  • Clean up after him/her (bags are provided)
  • Dispose of any trash you may bring into the park
  • If you choose to smoke please extinguish and dispose of butts properly
  • Most of all have fun


As a bonus, across the top of the park was a large fenced in area of land being used as rent-able garden plots right in the middle of the city.

While all the plots appeared to be occupied and rumored to be incredibly hard to procure, we were fascinated nonetheless and look forward to watching the produce change with the seasons and learn from the urban gardeners doing their thing.

We're looking forward to bringing Basil back by Scuffletown Park, meeting more neighbors, and learning more about how to get involved as volunteers. We are certainly looking forward to finding other hidden wonders the Fan has to offer!

December 26, 2011

Our Search for a New Home: A Little Background

We hope everyone has been enjoying the holidays. While winding down from the business surrounding Christmas, we're taking a slower day today to gear right back up for continuing the move into our new digs. Tim and I were able to coordinate taking the week off of our regular work schedules here at the end of the year in order to get everything straight and hopefully move the majority of our old house over to the new. If we're lucky, we might just be able to get a few things organized and into place somewhere along the way.

While we take a little downtime today to rest, recover, and plan for the week ahead, we thought we'd share more of the background behind our move to the Fan district — in case anyone was as surprised as we are to find ourselves moving so suddenly!

To make a long story short... 
We've been actively looking to move further into the city of Richmond for 2 years since I moved back home from living in Brooklyn for 3 1/2 years. We've had a unique situation in that Tim already owns the house we have been living in, I had been saving over time for a home in the future — those two circumstances paired with a down housing market put us in a good position to start looking for the house of our dreams in a much more realistic price range without any pressure to move from Tim's house if the right one took a while to come along.

Over the 2 years we've been looking, we've gotten a realistic idea of what's out there, what historic homes in Richmond have and don't have to offer — and we gained the ability to recognize a diamond in the rough when it comes along. Once we set foot in this home, we knew it was for us and didn't waste anytime proceeding to make an offer. Now a little over a month after walking into the open house showing, we're already making it our own.

Views from the front and back of our Fan home

To make a long story longer...
Tim has lived in the home we've been in for over 11 years and while he loved the location, always wanted to move into more of a city house. I've always loved the city and actually lived in this same fan neighborhood for about 5 years throughout high school and some college. Obviously, living in Brooklyn also helped grow my own budding affection for city living. One of the things Tim and I have always agreed on is our disdain for the suburbs (while ideal living for many, they're just not for us).

For years, even while we lived apart dating long distance, we've imagined and enjoyed talking about how one day we'd have a home in the city where Tim wouldn't have grass to mow, where we can actually walk or bike to restaurants & parks, and the majority of our challenges would be in figuring out how to garden and cultivate in a truly urban setting.

The only issue as we see it with a smaller backyard is in not having the large fenced in space for Basil to run freely. Luckily, he has taken to the new space really well, we've found a surprisingly large grassy partitioned street to walk him down (the famous Monument Avenue) and we are in the midst of uncovering the secret dog parks of the Fan. We've heard rumors twice now of a hidden dog park off of Strawberry Street where dog owners congregate with the pups.

Given this background, from the time I moved back to Richmond from New York and in with Tim, we've been looking at open houses on the weekends and watching what was coming up on the market online over the past two years. Funnily enough, though we both love the Fan district, neither of us thought that's where we ultimately wanted to be and were looking more closely at other historic Richmond neighborhoods including Woodland Heights, Jackson Ward, and Church Hill.  We were looking so much that some realtors would eventually recognize us as we walked in the door saying we are always doing the "open house circuit".

It just so happened that one Sunday while looking at open houses, we were lucky enough to have both of Tim's children with us (as they get older and with Stephanie in College, it's rarer and rarer that we see them both at the same time). On a whim, we went into a few open showings in the Fan — on the tail end of the trip we came upon this house. It was an almost immediate feeling of being in our home from the time we walked in.

We thought more about it that evening and the next day decided to call our agent to schedule another walk-through later in the week. Before our agent could call us back, Tim received an email from the selling agency that another offer had been placed on the house — so we had to act quickly to put it lightly. Everything has actually happened extremely fast. From the time we first looked at the house to the time we closed, barely 30 days had passed. We didn't want to share the news until we knew it was a 100% done deal since we've been on the losing end of an offer on a house before and know how home transactions can fall through at any step during the process. It's been a bit of a whirlwind to say the least. 

One of the best coincidences (maybe fate) about the new place we're in is the fact my 100 year old (still living and kicking) grandmother grew up on the same street right here in the fan. It's actually where she met my grandfather who also lived on this street a few houses away from her over 80 years ago. Tim and I are still trying to pinpoint the exact homes where my grandparents grew up, which we might have look into title records for, but are realizing that we may be as close as 1 block away from both the homes. Granny may have known the folks who used to live in our new home and may have even played inside this house with children living here.

All in all, we're thrilled to have finally found the home we've been dreaming about since we first started dating and are loving every minute of getting acquainted with the space between our new walls. Our goal is to have everything from our other house moved over to the new space by the end of January so we can focus on getting that house in shape to rent and this place in shape to begin the cosmetic and other work we hope to take on over time.  It's one of our biggest projects yet, but we're looking forward to sharing more as we embark on this new journey.

December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas from 17 Apart

Here's wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas from all of us here at 17 Apart. Throughout the day we'll be celebrating the holiday with our families and enjoying being in our new home.

While things are still a bit bare bones as we move from one house to the other right in the middle of the holidays, we were able to add a few festive updates to make it feel like Christmas around here.

While cleaning up our back patio, I clipped a few excess branches from a beautiful holly tree we have in our backyard with a little help from my supervisor, Basil.

Mary then took the branches and worked a little holiday magic on the fireplace mantles. We actually have 4 fireplaces in our new house (incredible!) and were able to really dress up the 2 on the lower level.

As one one of our housewarming gifts, Mary's mom gave us these two little Christmas trees made from reclaimed barn wood slats right here in Virginia.

They each stand just over 5 feet tall and make a really simple but endearing update. It looks like the slats were cut in the shape of trees, braced on simple barn wood stands, and strung with a single strand of white lights.

While we're still getting things going over here, we're enjoying the new space and taking time out from our regular activities to celebrate with family and friends. Wishing each of you the best as we bring a close to 2011 over the next week from our family to yours!

December 24, 2011

17 Apart is Moving to a New Home

Big news for 17Apart! We're moving to a new home in the Richmond neighborhood known as the Fan, which is much closer to city living than our current home. We officially closed on the new house on Tuesday and are slowly making our way in. The home will be turning 100 years old this January and has incredible historic charm.

For now, we wanted to share our good news with each of you and wish you a warm holiday weekend. We're looking forward to sharing all the details behind our move, and give a more robust look into where we'll be nesting from now on as the holidays wind down.

Basil is also wishing each of you a happy holiday from his new favorite spot in the house:

December 20, 2011

Avocado Pits Update & Sprout Robot

We've got avocado progress coming right along over here at 17 Apart! Since our last update a little over 2 weeks ago, both pits have been splitting open from the bottom and cracking apart near their heads. The outer skin on the smaller avocado has been flaking off on it's own.

Not having successfully grown these plants before, we weren't even sure if the cracking was a good sign or not, so I decided to consult my avocado planting experts (hello Youtube tutorial videos!) and boy did I learn a lot. In the majority of the videos with successful plants, the growers shared their "secret" of gently peeling off the outer skin of the avocado pit once they've soaked for a week or two. Evidently this is supposed speed up the rooting and sprouting process immensely — why didn't I watch these videos sooner??

After watching who knows how many tutorials on growing avocado plants (it got strangely addicting), I didn't waste any time grabbing my pair of tweezers and peeling the outer layer of skin remaining on both pits. The skin on the smaller pit came right off with ease while the skin on the larger pit took some gentle scraping to peel completely off.

After yet another refresh of the water, now we continue the patient waiting, watching and watering of our newly "naked" avocado pits. See how we got started growing these pits here.

P.S. In other garden related news, have you heard of Sprout Robot??? It's a gardening site Tim came across via Richmond Food Collective where you simply enter in your zip-code and personalized planting recommendations are auto-generated with instructions based on your location. If you like, you can even sign up to have organic heirloom seeds mailed to you on a subscription basis — they'll even tailor your order based on the size of your planting area — like patio, small, or family size gardens.

While Tim and I aren't yet signing up for the subscription, we're having fun consulting the site to what times are best to plant what varieties right here in Richmond, VA! We love how it's based on zip-code instead of larger area regions — breaking everything down so simply!

December 19, 2011

Weekend Basics

1: It's wintertime! I've been steadily digging into the firewood pile as Basil and Mary request weekend fires. Basil curls up on his bed right in front of the fireplace and doesn't move for hours — it's pretty funny.

2 & 5: Hot chocolate on a stick from The Ticket Kitchen. These playful stirring sticks arrived on our doorstep from Mary's "Etsy Secret Santa." Simply stir the chocolate stick into a steaming mug of milk and you're all set for an experience both modern and nostalgic in the best of ways. Good ole' Secret Santa :)

3: We found our Cinderella's slipper! It's been 2 1/2 years, but Mary and I are finally ready to tackle a project involving our salvaged claw foot tub (read more about it here). All this while, we've had the tub sitting in our garage, with only 3 of its feet intact. Over the weekend, while taking a stroll through Caravati's, a well known Richmond architectural salvage warehouse, we came across what we think is almost a perfect match in a bin full of tub feet — while it's much shabbier than the rest of our tub feet, it retains the same shape and even had the "B" we've been waiting so long for.

4: Our winter market is open! It was great to see so many people bundled up and making it out to support local food in our neighborhood. Basil mingled with four legged friends wearing jackets while Mary and I picked up some cheese from Rona at Bonnyclabber Cheese Co and chatted with Victoria of Pizza Tonight (who has 2 weims of her own). We even ran into the famed Brittany of Eating Bird Food who was also out looking for local good eats!

6: Teaser! A view we're looking forward to sharing more with you about later this week.

December 13, 2011

E.A.T. Vintage Wagner Ware Cast Iron Pan Giveaway

In case you missed it, I'm excited to share I'll be giving away one of my vintage Wagner Ware #3 cast iron skillet pans, a $42 value from my Etsy shop, Behind the Screen Door.

I've come across quite the collection of these timeless cast iron kitchen staples in my travels and they are among customer favorites in the shop. I love foraging for vintage, made in the U.S.A., cast iron pans and season each one myself — bringing them back to life before they arrive in a new kitchen ready for use.

Mary and I use cast iron pans in our own cooking and they really just don't make 'em like they used to. These classic pieces of cookware really can last a lifetime if properly taken care of — and for those a little beat up or misused, there are ways to bring the life and love back into them by cleaning and re-seasoning. I just love the look and feel of a freshly seasoned pan coming back to life after being out of commission for what was most likely years on end.

Find full details on the skillet along with how to enter right here on my food blog, E.A.T. Good luck!

P.S. Find our favorite recipe for cooking simple lamb chops in our cast iron pan here.

December 12, 2011

Weekend Basics

Christmas hard candy from our friends and home brewers, Corinna and Clay Grogan. This stuff is addicting — they were nice enough to share the recipe with us, see below for details.

2: Holiday festivities ensued - it was too hard to squeeze all of Mary's nieces and nephews into one photo block, but you get the idea. Last year, the oldest child was terrified of Santa, this year she was the first one to get to him while her little brother was the one in tears.

3: Heard of salsify? We hadn't until this weekend when I picked some up from Farm to Family for a winter vegetable roast. Find the details on how I prepared these fibrous vegetables here.

4: After picking a crate of clementines at Wholefoods Market today, Mary got busy with a new diy project — she's good like that and I got to eat the clementines. More on that project later in the week.

5: We sat down and tackled our collective holiday card list this weekend! It's becoming a little tradition of ours (3 years now) to order our cards from a new seller on Etsy. This year our greetings came from the newly launched shop called MadeByCori. The cards have a wreath design on the front reading, be joyous, and the interior of the cards contain the definition, joyous: full of happiness and joy.

6: It's officially "chili" weather in our neck of the woods. I pulled out an old favorite recipe combining pork, red beans and a blend of spices — oh and coffee! Yes, this is chili with a kick! This will show up next Saturday in my Hills and Heights Saturday "Soups and Stews" series.

Christmas Hard Candy Recipe
  • 1 cup Karo Light Corn Syrup
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon or peppermint oil
  • Food coloring – red or green
  • Powdered sugar
Line cookie sheet with foil. Mix corn syrup, sugar and water and boil to hard cracker stage (candy thermometer reads 300°). Add cinnamon or peppermint and food coloring , mixing well (quickly). Pour into foil lined cookie sheet to let cool. While still warm, sprinkle light dusting of powdered sugar. After candy has completely cooled – break into small pieces.

Corinna's secret for success: the cinnamon oil can be quite strong when adding to sugar mixture, I tend to mix the cinnamon into the candy outside for ventilation.

P.S. Have you seen this collection deemed the most powerful photos of 2011? If not, there's some pretty powerful things that happened across the world — all in a single year.
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