After many months of working on different parts of our home, we have finally finished our dining room. It was difficult to figure out what to do with the flow of this space at first, because it is not a room in and of itself. The living room steps up into this dining room, and the kitchen is visible from both. Our goal with the design of the dinning room was to form a transition from the richer dark woods of the living room, to the lighter rougher textures that will one day be in our kitchen. Though this is a fairly small room, it included many individual projects such as the staining and upholstering of our chairs.
We had intended on simply purchasing a bar cabinet online, but when it arrived, the wood turned out to be significantly redder than we anticipated. Like with our chairs, I decided to re-stain it, and changed out all of the handles from black to a subtle gold. The cabinet didn’t quite fill out the wall, so a small plant and colorful framed art were perfect for filling up the empty space.
With the cabinet we now have a chance to display some of the items that we’ve had hidden away for ages, such as our wedding china.
We have also displayed other pieces that have some significance, such as the crystal glasses James used to propose, the framed number from our wedding table, as well as souvenirs from trips such as our honeymoon.
We were able to find this mirror with corners that echo the scrolls of the chandelier and the round backed chairs. In this piece we needed to use paint to bring the blacks and golds more in line with the browns of the room. We contemplated a frame at first, but decided on a mirror since it would reflect parts of our living room.
Our biggest infrastructure project so far has been the installation of central air conditioning. We decided to house the thermostat inside of this decorative metal box cut into the wall, and picked out similar decorative vents for the ceiling as well.
In order to create a separation between the dinning room and living room, we added a small railing which was a custom design built by Isaac’s Ironworks. We gave him reference material based off of the staircase in our old apartment building, and he made it exactly as we envisioned. When designing for our house, we’re always keeping in mind what we loved about our apartment, and the iron, the color of the hardwood, and the paint of the doors all create a sense of continuity with those memories. We are relieved to have another room finished in our home, and look forward to entertaining friends and family in this space.
Summer at the farmers market means an abundance of produce options. We’ve started to go somewhat regularly to stock up on produce for the week, enjoy a meal from one of the hot food stands, and browse around to discover unique items. On our most recent trip, I purchased a box of squash blossoms. I couldn’t wait to fill them with a creamy cheese mixture, serve with a flavorful tomato sauce, and share them with friends.
Ingredients (for blossoms): 30 squash blossoms, 1/2 cup ricotta cheese, 1/3 cup shredded manchego cheese, 1/3 cup goat cheese, 1 egg, 1/2 Tbsp ground cayenne pepper, 1 tsp black pepper, 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1/4 cup cold water
Instructions: bring a large pot of water to a boil and add all blossoms at once. Boil for about 30 seconds, then immediately remove the blossoms and add them to a bowl of ice water. After blossoms have sat in ice water for about a minute, dump them into a colander, then place them on paper towels to drain.
While blossoms are drying a bit, prepare the filling. Combine cheeses, egg, cayenne, and pepper in a bowl and mix until smooth, then scoop filling into a piping bag. To fill each blossom, gently open them to have access to the center. Place piping bag tip toward bottom and fill until filling reaches the opening of the petals. Cover the exposed filling by folding the petals over the top of blossom. Place all blossoms on a plate, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes so that the cheese will set.
To make the batter, combine 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, and a dash of salt in a bowl. Slowly add cold water to bowl while whisking with a fork until batter is thick but still creamy.
Add 1/2 inch of oil to a heavy skillet and heat to 375F. Take blossoms out of refrigerator, and lightly dust with flour. Dip blossoms one by one into batter and place in hot oil. Cook for about 2 minutes, then flip and cook the other side. You’ll see the batter crisping and setting on the bottom as your cue to flip. Set each blossom on a plate with paper towels as they cook.
Ingredients (for sauce): 1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 large sliced garlic clove, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper.
To make the sauce, add tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, paprika, salt, and pepper to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Let tomatoes simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve blossoms over warm tomato sauce as an appetizer or as a snack.
While visiting family in New England this past Independence Day weekend, we took a day trip to Boston to walk the Freedom Trail, and explore the city. Though we had both been there when we were younger, our experiences until now were very limited. This trip was our first opportunity to check off many Boston locations from our list, and we couldn’t have been more pleased with all that the city had to offer.
Since we typically fly into Boston when visiting the northeast, we usually only view the city from an airport terminal, but on this trip we finally got a view from the middle of Boston Common.
The gleaming gold dome of the Massachusetts State House sits just on the edge of the Common.
Not far from the current State House is the Old State House. This building housed the government of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, and was referred to by John Adams as the spot where Independence was born.
Faneuil Hall and the Custom House Tower are two of the most recognizable landmarks in Boston.
The imposing brutalism of Boston City Hall is very much out of place in the heart of the city, but the raw concrete and adjacent brick desert create a fascinating interplay of shapes that has influenced James while developing science fiction projects.
The City Hall that was used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries is certainly a much more pleasing structure.
If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll see a parade of ducklings while visiting the beautiful Public Garden.
Strolling the Federal style rowhouses of Beacon Hill is a great way to get out of the sun on a summer day, and it’s charming paths made this my favorite neighborhood in the city.
All the vibrancy of an immigrant community can be found in the narrow streets of the North End, a primarily Italian neighborhood.
Once we finished walking the entirety of the Freedom Trail we decided to continue exploring the city. Newbury Street is a wonderful place to shop, dine, or simply walk. I loved that the shops are housed in a variety of 19th century buildings, making it unique from other shopping centers I had ever visited.
While most of the historic sites are Georgian Colonial, the Richardsonian Romanesque Trinity Church stands out as perhaps the most beautiful. This church was not even on our list of locations to visit, but we were thrilled to run into it on our way to the library.
We have yet to see a game at Fenway, but we were able to take part in the atmosphere of Yawkey Way after a Red Sox win. This trip was one of many that we will take to Boston, and we look forward to having new experiences in the city, as well as revisiting our favorites.
We recently acquired a few recipe cards from James’ late grandmother’s collection, and it has inspired me to get better about writing out recipes on cards myself. To continue expanding my small collection, I decided to design my own, rather than purchase existing cards.
The cards we received from family contained some variety, so when deciding on my own pattern, I knew I wanted to make something unique with a floral motif for my own recipes.
The cards were first created digitally, incorporating an antique wallpaper pattern, and then printed. I then embossed a teapot and teacups using a set of stamps, and used a gold ink with clear embossing powder, following the same process as when we made our wedding invitations.
Once the design was printed and cut, it took just a few minutes to stamp and emboss a whole set of cards. I love the finished product, and am very excited to collect all of my recipes in one place.
Of all the great ways to prepare mushrooms, portobello fries is at the top of my list. The crispy outsides with the warm earthy inside make these ultra indulgent, and paired with a rich basil dip it can be a substitute for regular fries, or an appetizer for a dinner party.
Portobello Fries: 6 large portobello mushroom caps, 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 tbsp garlic powder, 1 tbsp pepper, 1 tbsp salt (I used pink salt here since it has a bit of a subdued taste compared to table salt), 2 eggs, 1/4 cup milk, 1 qt canola oil.
Add oil to a sturdy pot, and heat on high. Clean the mushroom caps, remove stems, and gently slice into strips. Mix eggs with milk and whisk in a bowl. In a separate bowl combine flour, garlic powder, pepper, and salt, and mix with a fork. In batches, add mushrooms to egg mixture and thoroughly coat, then transfer to flour mixture and coat, then add mushrooms to hot oil. You will know the oil is hot enough if you sprinkle a tiny bit of flour into the oil and it starts to sizzle. Fry the mushrooms for about 4 minutes, until crisp and starting to brown. Remove from oil and place on a plate to cool.
The dip follows a similar method used when making homemade mayonnaise, but with a few additions.
Basil dip: 2 cups fresh basil leaves, 3 garlic cloves, 1 egg, 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, 1 cup extra light tasting olive oil, 1 tsp mustard powder, 1 tsp zest, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 tbsp lemon juice.
Add the egg, basil, garlic, mustard powder, fennel seeds, salt, pepper and 1/4 cup of oil to a blender. Blend for about 1 minute, then very slowly pour in the remaining 3/4 cup of olive oil. Once you have poured in all of the oil, add the zest and lemon juice, and blend for an additional 10 seconds.
I have never enjoyed what I’ve always known to be ‘maraschino cherries’ – the bright red, sickeningly sweet cherries that tend to adorn perfectly good milkshakes and sundaes. However, when I started ordering cocktails as an adult and received these new dark red cherries, I decided to give them a try, and have looked forward to getting them in cocktails ever since. These are the real maraschino cherries, and there is quite a difference. They’re easy to make at home, and are the ideal compliment to cocktails such as a Manhattan or Old Fashioned, and a delicious boozy treat on their own.
These cherries are made with fresh fruit, contain no HFCS, and are flavored with just a few simple ingredients. The most important is Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, from which they get their name.
Ingredients: 1 1/2 pounds cherries, 1 cup Luxardo, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp bourbon vanilla extract, 1 cinnamon stick, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, 2 tbsp lemon juice.
Remove stems and pits from all of the cherries and set aside. In a saucepan combine water, sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon juice. Bring mixture to a boil, then add cherries, and reduce to a simmer. Let cherries simmer for about 5 minutes, turn off heat, add Luxardo, and let cool. Add cherries to jars, and refrigerate.
When thinking of the decor for our dining room table, I knew that I would want to use table runners, as opposed to full tablecloths, to show off the oak wood. I also knew that I would create my own runners, since the selection at a fabric store is so much wider than what would be available prefabricated. Initially I went to the fabric store thinking that I would make one or two runners to switch out. However, once I started walking the aisles I wanted to grab a lot more options. Ultimately I settled on three unique fabrics to have a good variety, and to be used with different dishes and seasons.
Each runner followed the same general layout: a strip with pointed ends and tassels. I cut out rectangles in each piece of fabric, hemmed around the edges, and then folded the tips in to create the points. Then, I sewed on a decorative edge for a couple of them to give a bit of extra contrast, and created simple tassels for each using string and yarn.
For the first runner, I selected a light blue fabric with an off white pattern that I thought would work well with our main set of casual dishes.
For the second runner, I picked out a light green fabric with a beige leaf pattern. This one compliments our wedding china, which I love to take out for special events, or small gatherings with friends. I decided not to give this one an edge since the pattern has a lot of detail on its own.
For the final runner, I used a light linen fabric with a beautiful embroidered pattern. I gave this one a blue rope edge to give it a bit more color, and created gray tassels to compliment the colors of the stems in the pattern.
Although this one has a lot going on in the pattern, it is perhaps the most neutral of the three for our dining room table. With just a couple of center piece items, this runner makes our table feel complete without being too heavy and cluttered.
Although I may use table cloths in the future for some events, I am very happy to have these new runners to alternate with our decor. Each runner was very simple to make, and I’m so excited to have these options when entertaining.
I love mini desserts – not only are they cute, but you also don’t have to worry about cutting up pieces to serve like you would with an entire cake. For a recent gathering with friends, I volunteered to bring the dessert, and made these little blackberry tartlets. The filling was decadent and creamy, with the hint of acidity from orange zest and a splash of liqueur. The crust was buttery and sweet, and the fresh fruit and bright colors were perfect for springtime.
Ingredients: 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 8 oz cream cheese at room temperature, 1 cup sugar, 2 1/2 cups fresh blackberries (plus more for decorating), zest of 1 orange, 2 tsp Cointreau, 1 tsp cornstarch, 2 tsp brown sugar, 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, 1 stick melted butter
Instructions: Combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter in a bowl, and gently mix with a fork. Make sure that all crumbs have incorporated the butter, and that the mixture isn’t too dry. If you see dry crumbs, add more butter as needed. This should make eight 3 inch tartlets.
Scoop the graham cracker mixture into tartlet pans, and push down on bottom and sides, packing in the graham crackers tightly. It helps to use a tart tamper to really press down and even out the mixture. Once all of the tartlet pans are filled, place them on a baking sheet and freeze for at least 2 hours, or refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
In a small sauce pan add the 2 1/2 cups of blackberries, 3/4 cup of sugar, orange zest, orange liqueur, cornstarch, and brown sugar. Heat over stovetop on medium-low, and let simmer until most of the blackberries have broken down and you have an almost syrup like consistency. Set aside to cool.
Add heavy cream to a mixing bowl, and beat on high for about 5 minutes, until peaks form in the cream. Set aside. Add cream cheese, remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, and vanilla extract to a mixing bowl, and beat for a couple of minutes until ingredients are incorporated and cream cheese is fluffy. Add cream cheese mixture, and cooled blackberry syrup to the bowl of whipped cream, and gently fold in to mix all ingredients together.
Remove tartlet pans from refrigerator, and remove crusts by gently tapping bottoms while holding upside down. Fill each tartlet with blackberry cream, and top with fresh blackberries. Place tartlets back in refrigerator, and chill for at least 30 minutes. When ready to serve dust with powdered sugar, and garnish with small mint leaves.
Over the past few months we have been working on smaller home decor projects until we’re ready to tackle the bigger renovations. These small changes, such as stenciling a simple design over our door, redoing our chairs, and putting together a guest room have made a big difference in their respective spaces. We recently completed another small upgrade, this time in our master bedroom, with the addition of new end tables styled differently for each of us.
For James’ table we chose a wooden tray and an armillary sphere as the primary pieces. The sphere gives the setup a bit of height, and the tray grounds the items so they don’t look haphazardly laid on the table. We looked for pieces in shades of brown, bronze, and ivory that coordinate well with the entire room design.
For my table we selected an ivory and gold color palette. The tray is a vintage mirror that we found at a flea market, and the gold containers belonged to James’ grandmother.
We added decorative frames to both tables, each holding a photograph of us together, and a different crystal water carafe on each side. These changes, although small, help to give the room a feeling of warmth and coziness. We’re very eager to eventually see the entire room come together, and fully enjoy the space.