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Fabric Envelopes

14 Feb

Happy Valentine’s Day! IMG_2418

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New England Summer = Lobster Roll

4 Aug

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Its become a tradition in our house to kick off Summer with a Memorial Day trip to Yankee Lobster for what Yelp reviewers consider the best fresh lobster rolls in Boston. However, what was once a rare treat for me has become a more frequent (read: expensive) craving; I think I am on my third lobster roll of the season, having enjoyed #2 at Sullivan’s on Castle Island and #3 in the Ikea Cafeteria (obviously lowering my standards). I figured it was time to learn how to make them myself… Continue reading

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream

26 Jul

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Last week’s heat wave and my unwillingness to wait in line at our current favorite ice cream shop (Christina’s) on a nightly basis inspired this post. You may have noticed that  the strawberries pictured above look extra crisp and detailed. Well, after much deliberation, we took the plunge and bought a digital SLR camera. This post details instructions for making fresh strawberry ice cream at home and also my adventures in not getting food all over the camera. Continue reading

Kentucky Derby Party

25 Jun

The first Saturday in May did not mean much to me prior to my time in Kentucky. Now, I can’t imagine letting the day pass without observing the traditions I picked up in the Bluegrass. We have loved sharing the pomp and circumstance with our new friends in North Carolina and now Boston. We look forward to a yearly tradition.

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The first, and arguably most important, consideration when planning a derby party is the mint julep. I have used this recipe for the “Perfect Mint Julep.” This is a recipe that must be started the night before the party to allow the flavors to marry. In general, I use Maker’s Mark for the Julep’s as its a bit less expensive, but still good quality. The day of the party, all you have to do is pour the pre-made juleps over ice and add a sprig of mint and a straw!

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We also like to have an assortment of bourbons for guests to try. These were arranged on our dining table beside our mint julep garnishes. I was excited to find a use for my grandmother’s crystal sugar bowl and creamer (nuts and mint, pictured below), since we don’t drink coffee.

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The drinks were kept on our dining table (behind the couch, pictured below) and the food was arranged on our coffee table. The Derby is also called “The Run for the Roses,” so red roses in julep cups were used to decorate the table.

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Our food spread was also traditionally Southern. The menu consisted of NPR-sactioned pimento cheese on sandwiches and cucumber slices and Kentucky hot-brown bites. Hot Browns are a traditional Kentucky sandwich (open face turkey with bacon, tomatoes, and mornay sauce) that originated at the Brown Hotel in Louisville. Fun fact: the fictional Daisy and Tom Buchanan (of the Great Gatsby) were married at the Brown Hotel.  The linked recipe used crescent rolls baked in my mini-muffin tin and was (in my opinion) SOOO delicious! For dessert, we my mother-in law’s bourbon balls. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients: 1 cup chopped walnuts, 5 tablespoons Bourbon, 1/2 cup of soft butter, 16oz confectioner’s sugar, and 18oz semi-sweet chocolate (I use Ghiradelli)

Steps: Mix butter, sugar, nuts, and bourbon. Roll into small balls and refrigerate overnight on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. The next day, melt chocolate in a double-boiler and dip the balls. Allow the balls to sit in the fridge until the chocolate hardens.

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The party itself was really fun! We were nervous about inviting too many people into our small apartment, but overall it went smoothly. I recommend betting as a means to get people that don’t particularly care about horse racing to get into the action. Betting can be confusing, so we minimize this by having guests pick their horses our of a hat ($1 per horse). The person with the winning horse takes the pot!

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Irish Soda Bread

14 Mar

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Its almost St. Patrick’s Day and like most other holidays, I like to celebrate through my taste-buds. Good thing this recipe for Irish Soda Bread is low fat!

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Modern Synthesizer Cover

3 Mar

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Our apartment’s bedroom also doubles as my husband’s recording studio. He recently purchased a new synthesizer and within minutes of setting it up, Cher (our cat) decided it was a desirable place to nap. We wanted to protect our investment, but because the “studio” takes up about 50% of our shared living space, we wanted to be mindful of design. I decided to make a custom cover for the synthesizer using leftover fabric from our dining chair reupholstering project. Instructions after the jump…

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Cross Stitch Valentine!

14 Feb

This year I decided to send my valentine wishes in my most beloved craft medium: cross stitch. Love is in the air. In my February issue of Martha Stewart Living, I noticed a nod to a back issue which provided instruction for cross stitching one’s family. I tracked down the patterns and voila! Cross stitch is a really easy craft (if you can count you can cross stitch), so I recommend giving it a try.

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I just trimmed it and put it in a frame to present to my valentine. He’s one lucky guy!

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Fat Tuesday Jambalaya

12 Feb

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Happy Fat Tuesday! I love the opportunity to align my cooking with occasions, and for the past several years I’ve been attempting Mardi Gras favorites on this night. Given that its a week night, easy and healthy (I like to confine my indulgences to the weekend) meals are a necessity. I found a great recipe for Jambalaya on cookinglight.com that I actually make pretty regularly with a few tweaks; its 426 calories for a 1.5 cup serving compared to over 600 for a restaurant version. It pairs nicely with Abita Purple Haze (Louisiana beer) and king cake. Read on for the recipe…

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New England Snow Cream!

9 Feb

So, it snowed. A lot.

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And when life gives you snow, make snow cream! After going on 36 hours in our 400 square foot apartment and countless episodes of The Wire (Season 2, if you’re keeping up with our TV on DVD watching), I needed an adventure. An expedition to find the freshest snow cream ingredients commenced.

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DIY Wedding DJ

2 Feb

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One way to save some wedding dollars is to be a DIY DJ. Jason and I originally elected to go the ipod route to stretch our small-ish (by today’s standards) budget further. We ended up, however, really enjoying the process of adding and deleting songs from our playlist to create the vibe we wanted. I don’t think we could have communicated what we were looking for to a DJ because it was more of a “I’ll know it when I hear it” kind of endeavor. Above all else, we wanted EVERYONE to hear something that would bring them to dance floor.

Of course, crafting a playlist that  would have people itching to dance by cake time  was not without its challenges. Phrases uttered in our apartment in the month leading up to the wedding included: “No one wants to dance to that obscure stuff ” and “I will be embarrassed if people think had anything to do with picking that song.” But, by the big day we were 100% committed  to each and every lovingly (and painstakingly) selected song.

Before we get to the songs themselves, I want to give some tips on DIY DJing, in general.  First, it doesn’t matter how great your playlist is if no one can hear it. Invest in some speakers.  We purchased  this PA system from Guitar Center; it came with speakers (and stands) with enough power for the size our reception space, a microphone, and all the necessary connecting cables. The cost to buy this was less than the cost to rent them.

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Next, if you’re the one getting married, you don’t want to be manning the DJ booth. Delegate! We appointed one of my bridesmaids to emcee (an experienced party planner) the festivities and a good friend to adjust the music when necessary. We wanted to make these tasks as simple as possible and made 3 separate playlists to coincide with distinct portions of our wedding (welcome cocktails, dinner, and dance party), minimizing the amount of interaction our “DJ” would have with the ipod.

Finally, we crowd sourced song selection (to a degree) by including a “requests for the DJ” line on our RSVP cards (pictured below).

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Welcome Cocktails Playlist: 37 minutes

Jason and I wanted the first songs played at our wedding to covey the fun we have together and remind our guests that this reception would be a party. We chose toe-tappers that most people would recognize. These songs were meant to be playing as guests entered the reception while Jason and I were having a few more photos taken outside (we had already done family and bridal party shots before the ceremony). Of course, things always take longer than you expect and we were late to join the party. The playlist was a little too short and had to be re-started. This didn’t end up being a big deal as most guests had not arrived in time to hear the first few songs on the playlist.

1.You Make My Dreams Come True: Hall and Oates

2. You are the Best Thing: Ray LaMontagne

3.  Brown Eyed Girl: Van Morrison

4. Aint no Mountain High Enough: Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell

5. Ain’t Too Proud to Beg: The Temptations

6. Friday I’m in Love: The Cure

7. There She Goes: The La’s

8. This Will Be Our Year: The Zombies

9. Wouldn’t it Be Nice: The Beach Boys

10. I Want to Hold Your Hand: The Beatles

11. To the End: Blur

12. You Can Call Me Al: Paul Simon

Following this playlist, our “emcee” announced our entrance and Jason and I had our first dance to Queen’s Best Friend.

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Dinner Mix: 100 minutes

We had a cocktail style reception in which our guests could help themselves to passed appetizers and heavier appetizers at two stations. We wanted to encourage people to be up and down, grabbing food and mingling (and breaking it down if the mood struck), so we kept the playlist upbeat. Toward the middle, we snuck in a few romantic slow songs but then planned the playlist to progressively build from the half way point so that guests would be ready dance after dinner.

1. God Only Know: The Beach Boys

2. I Only Want to Be With You: Dusty Springfield

3. I Feel Fine: The Beatles

4. My Sweet Lord: George Harrison

5. Baby: Gal Costa

6. Let Me Go Home: Camera Obscura

7. If There’s Such a Thing as Love: The Magnetic Fields

8. Your New Cuckoo: The Cardigans

9. Lisztomania: Phoenix

10. Lost in the Supermarket: The Clash

11. Mint Car: The Cure

12. You Might Think: The Cars

13. Be My Baby: The Ronettes

14. Stand By Me: Ben E. King

15. Sea of Love: Cat Power

16. Dreams Come True Girl: Cass McCombs

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Jason dances with his mom during dinner

17. Kooks: David Bowie

18. I’ll Take You There: The Staple Singers

19. Satisfied: Cee Lo Green

20. Crazy on You: Heart

21. You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet: Bachman-Turner Overdrive

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Spontaneous dancing occurred during Bachman Turner Overdrive by the folks the requested it on their response card.

22. Bang a Gong (Get it On): T. Rex

23. Don’t Bring me Down: Electric Light Orchestra

24. Tonight She Comes: The Cars

25. Alright: Supergrass

26. Come One Eileen: Dexy’s Midnight Runners

27. Should I Stay or Should I Go: The Clash

Following the dinner playlist, our emcee announced our maid and matron of honor and best man for toasts. Then we cut our cupcakes!

DANCE PARTY MIX: 120 minutes

Yes! Finally, the dance party has arrived. We were truly committed to getting as many people as possible out on the floor so we tried to include a variety of genres. We were largely successful!

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People were on the dance floor before we had even finished our cake.

1. Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough: MJ (obvious choice for the first song! Recognizable to everyone and brings people to the dance floor like Kelis brings boys to the yard).

2. Freedom: George Michael

3. Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours: Stevie Wonder

4. Only the Good Die Young: Billy Joel

5. Do You Love Me: Contours

6. Joy to World: Three Dog Night

7. What I Like About You: The Romantics

8. Our House: Madness

9. I Want You Back: Jackson 5

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10. Call Me Maybe: Carly Rae Jepsen (Jason rejected this one but I stood my ground. The proof is in the pudding: everyone danced)

11. Love At First Sight: Kylie Minoque

12. Like a Prayer: Madonna

13. Love Shack: B-52s

14. Rocket: Goldfrapp (This song was less well-known. People left the dance floor. I guess you need to build in time to refresh the drinks)

15. Mr. Blue Sky: Electric Light Orchestra

15. Build Me Up Buttercup: The Foundations

16. You Shook Me All Night Long: AC/DC

17. Can’t Help Falling in Love: Elvis Presley (our one slow song…its the one that played while I walked down the aisle)

18. P.Y.T: Michael Jackson

19. Rock Your Body: Justin Timberlake

20. Hey Ya! (Radio Mix/Club Mix: OutKast

21. Crazy in Love: Beyonce

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22. Family Affair: Mary J. Blige

23. Ignition (Remix): R. Kelly

24. You Never Can Tell: Chuck Berry

25. I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch): The Four Tops

26. The Twist: Chubby Checker

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A fine example of twisting.

27. Honky Tonk Women: The Rolling Stones

28. Dancing With Myself: Billy Idol

29. Good Life: Kanye West

30. Yeah: Usher

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A full dance floor!

31. Toxic: Britney Spears

32. Just Dance: Lady GaGa

33. I Don’t Want To Be a Player No More: Big Punisher

34. Don’t Stop Believing: Journey (I made an announcement that this was the last song. Everyone spontaneously got into a big circle on the dance floor and swayed. No one was left sitting down. Who needs a DJ!).

* ipod heart photo from fanpop.