October 31, 2011

7 Years Later & Still 17 Apart

This Monday we'll take a break from our regular Weekend Basics format to let you know we're celebrating our 7th anniversary today. Yes, our anniversary is on Halloween.

It's kind-of one of those funny stories in that Tim and I couldn't (and still can't) actually agree on our real anniversary date — because we could both agree we were an item by Halloween those 7 years ago we just went with it. With each October that creeps up on us, we have the age old debate about how it all really went down in our own opinions. It's infuriating and hilarious at the same time.

After 7 years, we're proud to say we've been able to keep the "silly" right along with the serious in our relationship (hence the lens cap on the camera in the picture above — I really thought it was off until we got the photo-strip later).

In the spirit of silly and looking back, we thought we'd try to dig up some of the earliest photos we have together to share here. It was fun digging around for them and trying to pinpoint which may have actually been the first photo.

1. My college graduation. Tim and I both still can't believe he dated me while I was in college (notice the oh s*** look in my eyes - Tim) The graduation was the first time he ever met my parents, so he was probably more nervous attending than I was to walk the stage. This is probably the oldest photo we have of the two of us.

2. Probably one of our favorite memories and photos — while on vacation in Mexico, we met "Coco" the photo-taking chimpanzee on the side of the road during a bike ride. After taking this more appropriate photo, the owner told Coco to give the camera the finger. I'll have to dig up that shot to share another time. Now every time we see or hear of someone getting mauled by a chimp we think back on this day.

3 & 4: More early shots of when I first moved to Brooklyn and a day trip to my mother's home on the river.

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We're planning to keep things pretty low key tonight and have dinner at one of our favorite places in town, Mama Zu (after handing out candy to our earlier trick-or-treaters). It's one of those places that's so good it doesn't even have a website for us to link to, doesn't take reservations, and is sort of a local legend. From the outside it looks like it could be a bit of a hole in the wall, but definitely a food stop we'd recommend if in or near the Richmond area.

We'd love to know - what are your best tips for leaving candy in front of the house when headed out on Halloween? Do you go the note route or turn the lights out all together? I'll let you in on a secret — when I first started dating Tim, he was the guy on the block that turned off all the lights and left the house on Halloween, for shame! It's taken me over the course of 7 years, but over time, I've been able to convert him into a jack-o-lantern making, candy buying, lights on house each Halloween now, haha.

October 29, 2011

A Kid, A Dog, and a Beach

We mentioned last weekend taking Basil on his first trip to the beach, not to mention out of state to the Outer Banks. We were excited to see how he'd take to the beach and he didn't disappoint.

Today we wanted to share a snippet of photos from the weekend — in particular the first time we went on the beach during a beautiful sun rise.

We took Basil's "crack ball" with us to ensure all would be well in the world. For some reason when we have this ball, Basil can think of nothing else and will do anything we ask. We use the chuckit brand balls for anyone wondering - they are a hard rubbery consistency that he has yet to break into and stay clean as opposed to tennis type balls.

Basil took to the beach immediately — running and plunging in the sand. He even stepped into the surf a couple times, gaining confidence with each step.

Meet our nephew, Benjamin. Basil and Benjamin are the same age (14 months) and made fast friends and by the end of the weekend were virtually inseparable. While Basil does well with all people and children, we like to call him a "man's dog" since he is most in tune with men — we think he must have somehow known that Benjamin was a boy which most likely added to their new "buds status." We've always kept a close watch on Basil around the kids, but it was amazing to see how gentle and loving he was with Teller's children — to the degree of happily letting his tail, ears, and lips be pulled in all sorts of directions when we turned our head.

Benjamin had no fear when it came to investigating the washed up horseshoe crabs on the shore. For anyone wondering Mary got him that lamb hat on Etsy from cutesy crochet. She was pretty proud of herself and yeah, it's pretty darn cute.

Mary's sister, Teller, with her son and daughter

It was a fun trip all around and one we hope to make again many times in the future — a quick getaway with family and new scenery can be a welcome way to re-energize for the week ahead.

Mary snapped this quick video on her phone of Basil's first steps on the beach. Aside from the shaky and loud quality, you get the picture of how beautiful it was with the sun rising and wind blowing:

Yes and even though I had to make note of my Phillies shirt in this video and they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs it is good to know the team that beat them went on to win the world series. Congrats to the St. Louis Cardinals!

October 27, 2011

AIM: Antiques in Manchester

Earlier this week we mentioned we were finally able to stop by AIM (aka Antiques in Manchester) after hearing much buzz about it around town.

AIM is a self proclaimed open air upscale antique mall — open to the public every Saturday in the heart of Manchester right underneath an open walk-through. We noticed it right away with their great signage and colorful vintage furniture displayed at the opening.

The market underpass was lined on each side with rows of local antiques and vintage dealers offering really unique finds. Tim and I have visited our fair share of antique malls and I have to agree this one had a little more of an upscale/tailored feel to the offerings.

For those of you unfamiliar, Tim actually runs two vintage Etsy shops of his own — Behind the Screen Door and Vintage Crack. Because we both have an affinity for thing of the past, we're always so curious to what we might come across and also enjoy learning more about what other people like to collect and pass on throughout their journeys.

We loved the outdoor setting and were able to bring Basil right along with us. As the weather gets cooler, I think an outdoor fire-pit and hot cider/coffee vendors could make the underpass feel even more cozy and seasonal.

While we made a quick stop this go round before heading down to the beach, we're looking forward to visiting this market much more and probably won't have empty hands the next time we leave.

We'd definitely recommend stopping by one weekend in here if you're looking for something fun to do and for anyone interested in the possibility of participating in AIM as an antiques or vintage dealer — it looks like they have regular openings at only $10 - $15 to set up. Find all the details on the AIM website and check out their Facebook page for more updates.

On a related note, we just got word of another event coming up in the Manchester area we wanted to help spread the word about: A new local artist support entity, aRtVA in RVA, has been created to promote independent artists and craftspeople in Richmond, Virginia.

aRtVA will be hosting their debut event as a holiday shopping market that will take place on Sunday, December 4 from 12 pm to 5 at The Bankuet Place in Manchester. The show is designed to showcase a selection of up and coming Virginia based artisans as well as talented craftspeople and their handiwork in a bazaar style setting. In addition to artists and craft vendors, seasonal food and wine are also in the works. We'll be excited to attend this new local event and hopefully get some holiday shopping done to boot.

Those interested in participating as a vendor should contact aRtVAinRVA@gmail.com or check out the aRtVA Facebook page for an additional info and an application by tomorrow, Friday, 10/28/2011.

October 24, 2011

Weekend Basics

This past weekend was one of fun and firsts.

3, 4, 5 & 6:
We've been at the beach this weekend! The Outer Banks of North Carolina is my favorite beach — it's not only been Basil's first trip to the beach, but also his first trip out of state. We're actually staying out in Corolla right near the Curritcuck Beach Lighthouse and had fun stopping at various food stands and greenhouses on the trip down trying to challenge ourselves to buy food locally sourced for the weekend.

We found a little local Richmond, VA "love" here in the Outer Banks in the form of OLLI Salumeria (not from a farm stand, ha). Thrilled to find one of our favorite salame brands being carried while on a quick vacation, we snagged spicy Calabrese and garlicky Molisana varieties to enjoy while preparing dinners — it just so happened our slices were in the shape of hearts.

2: Early Saturday, we finally got the chance to visit AIM, which stands for Antiques in Manchester. We've been hearing a lot of buzz about this open air market where Richmond based vintage and antique dealers have been setting up booths each Saturday. Because we were headed to the beach straight after our visit, we didn't bring any new finds home with us this go round, but you can bet we'll be back.

For those of you with dogs (and can I go so far as to say children? Might be a stretch to compare, I know...) know how fun different "firsts" can be. Watching Basil on the beach was such a blast, especially seeing him kick up the sand in pursuit of a ball chase and dodging the waves curiously.

October 19, 2011

How To: Drilling Pumpkins

One of my favorite traditions is carving pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns each October — there's just something magical about the end result in my book. This year was no different and we can say with confidence we have carved the pumpkins without any major pitfalls this year!

Last year we realized creating designs throughout the pumpkin with a power drill was not only a beautiful and creative way to decorate pumpkins, but it's actually really simple and makes those thicker varieties much easier to work with.

I'm sure the process for carving pumpkins is pretty standard, but today I'll share how we like to go about it:

Cut a circle around the stem with a sharp knife and gently pull from pumpkin. Clean up topper for pumpkin and scrape innards completely clean from inside the pumpkin. This is the perfect opportunity to save the seeds from your pumpkin and any excess "meat" to incorporate into recipes later.

While I'm pretty laid back about most things, I am a stickler for a very clean and thinly walled inner pumpkin. One of the ways I achieve a super clean look is once all the guts and seeds are removed, I use a fruit scooper to literally scrape strips of the pumpkin meat from the inner walls. this allows for easier carving, a clean look, and makes me feel like I'm getting every last morsel of good pumpkin to use for later.

We were left with the following — which we separated and saved for our own recipe use:

Once pumpkins are completely cleaned and prepped, it's time to get down to business. When drilling a planned design, it's a good idea to mark your pumpkin in each area where a hole should go. I used a sharpie marker to make sure the ink didn't bleed. Tip: it's really easy to wipe any mistakes away with a little dab of nail polish remover — the marker will vanish and leave the outside of your pumpkin intact.

Once marked and happy with your design, bring out the power drill! You can use different sized drill bits to achieve a variation of hole sizes fitting your design. When in doubt, use a larger size drill bit since the smaller sizes are tough for the light to get through when lit up. Simply place drill bit against side of pumpkin over your marked areas and drill completely through to the inside of the pumpkin. Repeat as desired.

I must note it's a good idea to do the drilling outside since little pieces of pumpkin will fly everywhere — Tim was in charge of drilling here at 17 Apart.

Simply clean up any pumpkin pieces from the inside of the pumpkin and wipe inside & out with a wet washcloth to ensure each drilled hole is clean and clear. At this point, you are ready to test out your new jack-o'lanterns! We like to place between 2-3 tea-lights in the bottom of each pumpkin.

Top the pumpkins with your topper stems and admire your work!

For design inspiration, I searched for drilled pumpkins on Pinterest and decided to go with 4 simple designs: a patterned circle, varied lines vertically and horizontally, and an argyle or diamond shaped design. You can really try anything and get creative here.

...and for good measure, here's a view a little later in the evening when it truly gets dark and the designs really pop:

October 18, 2011

How To: Make Apple Vinegar From Scratch

When you go out and pick two bushels of apples you better have a plan for using them up — especially in a timely manner!

October 17, 2011

Weekend Basics

1: A little project we've been working on over the last week is finally shaping up. More on that later in the week.

2 & 6: Bacon, Gruyere and green onion scones with honey butter.

3: Almost 2 years ago we created a chalkboard wall panel in our kitchen with a small can of chalkboard paint and a paint brush. The upper half usually includes a pretty well kept grocery list while the lower half belongs to all the little ones in our lives. They love it, and we love having all their little "reminders."

4: More cooking on my part — would you expect anything different? This recipe called for homemade meatballs which you'll find more about over on E.A.T. later in the week.

5: We broke into the pumpkins we got last weekend can't wait to share all the things we've been up to with them.

October 13, 2011

How To: Make Homemade Fruit Leather

We're thrilled to let you know we successfully made our very first batch of fruit leather — apple raspberry fruit leather to be exact! We mentioned several weeks back wanting to take on trying our hand at making our own version of natural fruit rollups, but hadn't found the right time until now. Throughout my generation of childhood, fruit rollups were all the craze; every time my mom would wheel us through the grocery store (we'd hide out under the bottom of the cart eating the free cookie from the bakery at Ukrop's), I'd secretly wish it would be one of those times she'd allow us to get either fruit rollups or fruit by the foot to pack in our daily lunches.

Now that I'm a generation older and have much more information on the health risks concerning processed foods and high fructose corn syrup, you can imagine how excited I was to find a recipe for making completely natural versions of fruit leather.

I found two recipes for making natural fruit leather online I've been saving for the right time. The first I found came from A Sonoma Garden and the second from Simply Recipes. We made a variation recipe of our own using tips from both sources.

It just so happened we were at the bottom of the basket on the red delicious apples we picked during our trip to the orchard last month. Since red delicious varieties aren't typically used for cooking, I thought incorporating them into fruit leather would be a good use for their sweeter taste. We also picked up two cartons of raspberries on our weekend outing to the farmer's market.

AgriBerry Farms raspberries and Showalter's Orchard apples

When making fruit leather, it's best to use fruit that has reached full ripeness and on the verge of over-ripening. This makes the fruit sweeter and less tart so you don't have to add sugar later on if you don't want to. It's also good to note that you can really use any kind of fruit or combination of fruit when making the leather, and it's up to you whether or not you want to peel the skin.

I think my favorite part about this recipe is how little to no measuring is involved. You can truly use as little or as much fruit to make batches of leather and you really can't go wrong. The following process lays out how Tim and I went about making our own natural apple and raspberry fruit leather.

Apple and Raspberry Fruit Leather Recipe
  • Apples, peeled and chopped into small chunks
  • Raspberries
  • Water, 1/2 cup for every 4 cups fruit
  • 1 lemon
  • Pinches of allspice & nutmeg
  • Sugar, optional
Peel and chop apples into small pieces. We reserved the apple cores, skins, and any other excess we had for another project we have in the works. Stay tuned — it's incredible how much you can save from a single piece of fruit. We left the raspberries as they were, no need to peel or chop.

Place apples and raspberries (or any prepared fruits you prefer) into a large pot; 4 cups of fruit makes roughly one baking sheet of fruit leather. Pour in 1/2 cup water for every 4 cups fruit you add to the pot. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to lowest setting and simmer for about 5 minutes or until fruit has broken down and softened considerably.

Vintage timer from TheVintageParlor

Once fruit has softened, mash by hand with a potato masher until fruit mixture thickens. At this point, add lemon juice, spices and sugar to taste. If deciding to add sugar, go slowly with about a teaspoon at a time until you reach desired taste. The juice from the lemon will not only add a hint of citrus taste to the leather, but will help bring out the brightness of the color. While we used pinches of allspice and nutmeg to season our leather, you can swap in any of your favorite spices to experiment with.

Continue to simmer on low heat for another 5 minutes, then transfer mixture to food processor (blender or mill will also work, feel free to get creative) and pulse until you get a really smooth puréed consistency.

Gently pour fruit purée onto parchment paper lined baking sheets, making sure the puree spreads evenly and thin at about 1/8 an inch thickness throughout the baking sheet (the thickness will go down a great deal during the drying process so don't worry if you think your spread looks too thick going in).

Place baking sheets in oven on the top racks at your oven's lowest heat setting — between 120 and 140 degrees if your oven will go that low. Now let sit and dry. We checked about every hour for 5 hours, then turned oven completely off and let sit inside overnight.

You'll know your leather is ready when it's still a little tacky to the touch but smooth and not clumping back up on your fingers — it should be sticky but firm. Once you think the leather is dry enough, try test peeling it back off the parchment paper. It should peel up freely and easily like pictured below. If it begins to peel easily like this, stop there since you are ready!

Next, simply roll the parchment paper over itself to form a long roll and slice in even sections with a sharp knife to form each fruit rollup:

Now your fruit rollups are ready for eating or storing. We placed ours in an airtight container and have been keeping them in the fridge to use as snacks.

They make a great natural snack for kids (and big kids) since they keep in the fridge and freezer. I've already taste tested one on my 2 1/2 year old niece when she came over for a quick visit and she ate it quicker than I've seen her eat anything then asked for another — I'm taking that as the child stamp of approval and am going to take it upon myself to claim some "cool aunt" points for this one!
I could also see making the leather as a fun activity to do with children, not to mention feeling good about letting them eat it, knowing exactly what kind of natural ingredients went into the recipe.

Making the fruit leather was a ton of fun and so much easier than I would have imagined. Like I said before, it's great because you can use any fruit or combination of fruits you may have a little too much of on hand, it's a great use for fruit that's getting to be just past its prime, takes minimal ingredients and little to no measuring.

We hope you'll try this or a variation of your own out and be sure to tell us how it goes if you do!

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