Monday, February 28, 2011

No more secrets!

 I feel like a huge weight has been lifted!  I don't have to keep my sister's bridal shower a secret any longer.  Here are some highlights.  Some of you looking at this might recognize a few things.  I definitely borrowed the best ideas from all of the showers that I have been to...thanks for the inspiration!

We hosted a brunch at Pagano's Uva Restaurant & Wine Bar in Bradley Beach, NJ.  The staff was unbelievable!  They were so accommodating and the food was amazing.  I found out about this place when I was a guest here for a friend's shower.  As Jessie's shower took on a wine-theme, I knew this would be the perfect location. 

A big thank you to Michelle for making these!  We filled the bottom of each wine glass with amorini hearts and tied a ribbon around the bottom of the glass.  I looked great.  We also had Eiffel Tower wine stoppers as favors because that is where Brian popped the big question.

The centerpieces were so simple and beautiful.  Just a few roses in empty wine bottles.  Perfect.  To fill it in, we added some candles and chocolates.

I love the way the tables turned out!

In the back of the room, above the presents, was a screen and a mounted projector.  My mom put together a wonderful slideshow that looped throughout the shower.  It was nice to give guests something to talk about and it brought back some great memories for everyone.

The bridal party bought Jessie all of the serving dishes on her registry.  I saw this great gift-wrap idea on The Gifted Blog.  This paper garland that I made came in handy all over the place.  I've been seeing it all over the crafty blogs that I read but when I saw The Gifted Blog use it on gifts, I knew I had to try it.  I'll show how I made this garland soon.

At another friend's shower, they had a wine wishing well.  I loved this idea!  Each guest was told bring a bottle of wine for the bride and the groom, instead of the traditional kitchen gadget.  On the back of each invitation, I wrote a little poem that basically asked the guests to use the provided labels that I had printed  to write when they would like the bride and groom to drink the wine.  (I love Vista Print for this kind of stuff...great low prices and there are always additonal promo codes online!) 

The idea was a big hit!   So many people told me they are going to take the idea and do the same thing at showers that they are planning.  I like when ideas are borrowed and spread.  The wine cooler wishing well was a housewarming gift from me and Ian.  ...and the bottle cap collector made a great spot for cards from guests!

The guest book was a big hit!  I always wanted to make one of these so this was a perfect opportunity.  I scrapbooked each page and glued small envelopes where guests could write a little note and seal it with a sticker.  I thought it would be so special for Jessie to open and read each one.  I'll show how I put this together soon!

It was a beautiful day and Jessie was genuinely suprised...we know this because she did not think to wear her "shower dress" that she has been wearing every weekend just in case.  Great day with family and friends!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ten on Tuesday 2.22.11


Today I am showing TED Talks to my 7th graders to demonstrate what makes an effective--and an ineffective--presentation.  I am also gearing up for my own TED experience that's coming up!  So, here are my 10 Favorite TEDs on Tuesday.

1.  Turning Dunes into Architecture

2. Sixth Sense Technology

3. Bobby McFerrin Hacks Your Brain with Music

4. Spaghetti Sauce

5.  Stroke of Insight

6. The Opportunity of Adversity

7. Ze Frank's Nerdcore Comedy

8. Teach Every Child About Food

9.  Creativity and Play

10.  Teaching Life Lessons Through Tinkering

Monday, February 21, 2011

Picture Perfect Pictures Every Time!

I have always loved the idea of over-crowded photo and white photo walls in particular.  Ian and I don't have a ton of wall space since our quaint place is loaded with windows.  To work with what we got, we decided to hang our fast-growing tile collection in the sunroom.  Here's a glimpse.  I think we have about 35 tiles so far, mostly from the Moravian Tile Works in Doylestown, PA.  This isn't a great picture, but I'm learning.

In the living room, we have slightly larger walls where can hang things larger than tiles, but there is no wall that lend itself to a grand photo wall.  Then, when we finally re-did our guest room (future nursery) I found my wall!  I was truly inspired by this photo wall at one of my favorite blogs, Young House Love.  As I got started, my obsessiveness instantly kicked in and I panicked over the perfect arrangement.  And don't get me started on levels, spacing and nail-markings!  Young House Love came to my rescue again with this helpful tip.  Sherry not only offers some great photo wall designs, but also suggests using traced and cut-out patterns for your frames and a little painter's tape to plot out your perfect arrangement right on the wall before you get hanging. 

Using all of Sherry's tips and suggestions, this is what we ended up with.  It's not done yet, but what I love that we can add onto it!  I am pretty happy with it so far.  

Since I changed from DiCristina to Burley, I have gotten into B's.  I blew up an article from National Geographic to make the center picture...another Young House Love inspired project.  I like the way it came out, but I'm going to try again and find an even better snippit.  I included two pictures of Ian and I when we were young to personalize it a bit.  The picture of the tress is from one of our favorite hiking trips.  The rest are prints from Etsy.  We bought the hydrangea from winterberrycottage because it made us think of our gorgeous hydrangea bush.  We also loved that it was printed on an a page from an old dictionary.  The bird print came from mincingmockingbird.  We just loved the colors!  I think we picked up the others at Ikea.  As long as we're giving shout outs to some great Etsy shops, I should mention that the bird's nest intaglio print (the image is actually incised and recessed into the natural paper) is from MasGatos

Then, as I was reading up on some of my favorite blogs, I came across what is arguably one of the greatest inventions since _______________ (fill in your favorite quirky invention here, because this will replace it...seriously)!  On another one of my favorite blogs, A Soft Place to Land, Kimba has found the perfect tool for hanging pictures!  Check out this video on her beautiful blog.  It's the Hang and Level, a tool that allows you to visualize where you're placing your pictures and mark where the nail should go on the wall.  It even comes with a level for when you're done hanging.  A-maz-ing!  After I enjoy my day off for a little but longer, I think I am going to skip on down to Target and see if I can find one of my very own!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Scavener Hunt Sunday 2.20.11

It's our second Scavenger Hunt Sunday! This week we found...

1. Chocolate
I never made crepes before...that is, before this weekend's cooking extravaganza. Chocolate syrup and raspberries made a great topping. Here's my crepe recipe.

2. Numbers
Ian has an incredible mineral collection...among many many other collections. The charm of this collection is the small assortment of birch boxes that each contain tiny samples of different minerals. They are labeled with handwritten script numbers and the names of each sample. We have since bought plastic containers that will help preserve the samples better, but these handwritten birch boxes are going to make great wall art in the near future!

3. Canned Food
This one stumped us! Then we remembered the Campbell's Golden Mushroom Soup we had in the cabinet. We have to thank Ashley Sisk at Rambling & Photos because her scavenger hunt criteria inspired us to make Grandma's famous chicken and gravy!

4. Music
We finally got our Bose speakers! We went back and forth about whether or not we needed such a powerful dock for our quaint place, but in the end we decided if we're going to do something, we ought to do it right. We have no regrets. This dock is awesome!

5. Stack
Our stockpile of wood. So perfectly stacked. This cord has kept us warm all winter and will probably take us right into spring. Cozy!

Grandma's Chicken & Gravy

If you read my last post, you know I've been in a a cookin' mood. Mix that with a need to complete Ramblings & Photos' Scavenger Hunt Sunday, and you get Grandma's Chicken & Gravy. I'm making no sense, so let me explain. I have been trying to think of a picture to take for the canned food requisite of the scavenger hunt. We don't use a lot of canned foods, minus cat food, so I was stuck. I have also been a cooking kick. I thought about the canned foods that I did have in my quaint cabinet and it hit me...Campbell's Golden Mushroom soup! This is the staple ingredient in Grandma's most famous dish, loved by all DiCristinas, old and new. It's a classic. So, I thought I could complete the scavenger hunt, share Grandma's scrumptious recipe, and make one of our favorite dinners.

Grandma always told me to slice the chicken into 3 or 4 filets, if you will. I have never been able to do this so I just resort to small bite-sized pieces.

I dreadge the next step (please excuse the corny joke). If I could skip the dredging, I would make this dish a lot more often! Flour...egg...Italian bread crumbs. Easy as that.

Pop it in the frying pan with some piping hot olive oil and brown on both sides. This usually takes a number of batches because I don't like to crowd the chicken. After is batch, place them on a towel-lined plate to absorb some of the excess oil.

While this is all taking place, it's a good idea to get the rice going. Grandma traditionally uses white rice which she butters up until its yellow! Delicious, no doubt...but I use a wild whole grain rice. There's something about the wild rice and the mushroom that makes it more earthy.

Once the chicken is done, I wipe out the pan (just like Grandma told me to). I throw some shallots, garlic, and baby bellas in. Grandma skips right to the gravy, but I'm a firm believer that more is more. Grandma adds sherry, which is definitely the best way to go! In the past, when short on sherry, I've added marsala. Tonight, with neither in the cupboard, I went with some cabernet that I was sipping on.

If Grandma taught me one thing, it's to not give exact measurements. Just eyeball it. Add a couple of cans of Campbell's Golden Mushroom soup. For each can, add one can of water. About a year ago, every food store in my area stopped selling this product! When I did see it at an obscure shop, I loaded up on a dozen or so cans. I thought they discontinued the soup but I think it's only in my area. Grandma helps me out and buys me a few every time she makes it to the store. Love her! Let this simmer and then add the chicken. I usually let this set for awhile so the chicken can soak up all that tasty wine-infused gravy!

When the rice is done and the chicken has picked up all those yummy flavors, serve it and enjoy!

Between the Sunrise & The Sunset...the Wind Blew

Saturday, February 19th was one of our windiest days at Quaint Oaks; a sustained wind of 25 - 35 mph with gusts up to 60 mph. It sounded as if trains were coming and going all day and night. In bed we would lie and ponder the powers of nature and how, if it wanted, it could rip the roof right off of our house, or blow a tree into it crushing the structure and splitting it in half. If that happened, our lives would be changed. So, lying in bed...we listen to the wind, and ask it to remain beautiful, and to not become vengeful.

From Sunrise...

To Sunset...

The trees danced to the silhouette of the blue sky.

We lost 1 ash tree, victim to the ash beetle, who bores through the bark of the tree to eat the inside. This one was too weak to withstand the wind. It fell around 11:00pm Friday night.


My wonderful husband offered to make french toast for breakfast, and I wanted to let him, but I desperately needed a chocolate picture for Scavenger Hunt Sunday. I thought and thought about how I could incorporate chocolate into a quick breakfast recipe...crepes! I have never made crepes before, but how hard could it be???

In a bowl, I whisked together 1 cup of flour, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup of milk, 1/2 cup water, vanilla extract, and 2 tbsp of melted butter.

I warmed the pan over low to medium heat and coated with some butter. Then, a poured about 1/4 cup of batter into the pan and swirled around to get a nice even round.

After just a few minutes, when the bottom just starts to brown, flip and cook for another minute or so on the other side. Then, slide it onto a plate and embellish! I added a smidgen of butter and some cinnamon sugar mix.

Finally, fold into quarters, add some sweet chocolate syrup and raspberries, and serve!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Mediterranean Quesadillas

Happy Saturday!  I don't know what's come over me but I am itching to cook this weekend.  Maybe because it's a three-day weekend.  Maybe because it is sooo windy outside that it feels oober-cozy in here.  Maybe because I just finally got around to reading this month's Rachel Ray Everyday and Food Network Magazine.  Whatever the reason, I am very excited to try a couple new things in the kitchen.  Healthy?  Not necessarily.  Tasty?  Most definitely.  

This past week, Ian and I were hungry for a snack.  I had some left over tortilla shells and cheese so I whipped up some uninteresting quesadillas.  Nothing special, but easy and delicious.  Ian said, "we should try to create some non-traditional quesadillas."  I took that as a challenge and excitedly accepted.  

As we walked around the food store, I considered different cheeses and flavors.  I saw the feta and knew we had to go Mediterranean!  Check it out...

So many ideas ran through my head.  Olive tapenade, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, basil, balsamic vinegar.  This is what I ended up with.

I started by cooking up a chicken breast. 

While that cooked up, I spread kalamata olive spread onto our wraps.  It looks kind of gross but it's delicious!

Once the chicken was done, I let is rest so that it would stay nice and juicy.  I placed two wraps into the pan and then started filling with the ingredients.  Mozzarella cheese, chicken, baby bellas, sliced red onion, feta, and more mozzarella cheese.  The smell was unbelievable!

I use a 10-inch pan because it fits two wraps perfectly.  How gorgeous is a crispy browned tortilla?  I love the way it cracks when you slice into it, and then the knife just sinks into the gooey cheese.

And then, voila!  I added some hummus for dipping.

I was actually a little nervous that I went too far with too many flavors, but everything came together perfectly!  Next on the menu...cauliflower and pasta?  mozzarella sticks?  meatball subs?  I love three-day weekends!  

PS, the Truman Show is on.  Arguably one of the greatest concepts for a movie.  Classic!