Friday, August 30, 2013

Out With the New & In With the Old




from top:
Thursday's finds
Flea market gold
My hallway gallery

I've always been drawn to old things. There's an allure to the vintage, retro and "rusty gold" of the past. As a child I would ride my bike around the neighborhood on Saturday mornings looking for garage sales with pockets full of change and babysitting money. In high school I skipped classes whenever the opportunity presented itself just to go thrift shopping. Vintage clothing was just so much better than that crap in the mall.
As a young mom still finding her footing in her adult life, my home was full of hand me downs and castaways from family and friends. Flea markets and garage sales filled in the decorative blanks and my own eclectic style was born. I fell in love with milk glass and gathered masses of it. I rewired old lamps, refinished tables and cherished them all. Our home was cozy and reflected who we were: young, adventurous and still learning so much about ourselves.
The milk glass was packed away long ago when I tired of it. Life responsibilities limited my opportunities to treasure hunt. I began to work in decor/design and began to replace some of our hand me downs with new but timeless pieces. Furniture that still reflected who we were and could keep up with who we would still become. Alongside those items there still exists old cherished pieces that have been hunted, gathered and handed down.
A true blend that defines me: open to the future but designed by the past.
In an attempt to reclaim some quality of life lately I have been hitting the flea markets every chance I get. While I am a collector of sorts, I am certainly not a hoarder so most of these treasures go right into my Etsy shop. It is the thrill of the hunt, the vision of what these items can do and how they can compliment that excites me. Like the weathered old camp sign from upstate NY that I recently bought from an antiques dealer from Charleston. It is the perfect addition to my hallway gallery.

Do you prefer the brand new, the beaten up, or like me; the blend of both?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Peach Salsa




Once a week I head over to our local farm market and stock up on enough produce to get us through the next 6 days. I never go with a list. I buy only what appeals to me, fruits whose ripe aromas waft through the air and seduce me as I walk by. Veg that looks so vibrant and fresh I can't help myself but fill my basket with it. Of course there are the staples too: onions and potatoes maybe a head of garlic. The necessary parts to my meal planned week. 
Fruit always goes into our brown bagged lunches to provide that sweet little "after" treat or is hungrily grabbed and devoured when I arrive home in order to tie me over until dinner is ready. I'll take a juicy black plum over a slice of cake any day. Or a handful of red grapes alongside a few chunks of sharp cheese. Sinking my teeth into an apple every day all fall is something I look forward to all year. There is only one fruit that I adore but struggle to just pick up and take a hefty bite out of.
Peaches.
I don't know why, I can't explain it, but I walk by the fruit bowl filled will delicious Jersey peaches sitting on our countertop and I simply cannot be enticed to lift one directly to my lips. Sliced and prepared into a dish or dessert is a whole other story.
That bowl laden with overripe peaches ended up churning out one of our best meals last week. I had planned to make chicken tacos in another attempt to turn taco night into something more exciting and "different" for Charlie. All day at work I was sorting out in my head what we had in the pantry to liven it up with when I suddenly remembered that bowl of peaches that were on their last legs. I knew I had a couple good sized Jersey tomatoes on hand as well that could lend themselves to a fresh peach salsa.
Aside from our tacos being simply amazing,  this salsa has no oil in it which means it keeps beautifully in the fridge and was definitely devoured with some chips the following day. It's easy, fresh and delicious. It also spared a whole bowl of peaches from a dismal future in the trash can.

Peach Salsa
4 medium peaches diced
2 large tomatoes diced
1/2 sweet onion diced
2 garlic cloves diced
1 or 2 jalapenos seeded and diced
1 tsp of lime juice
1/4 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
handful of parsley leaves - Cilantro would be awesome but I have parsley growing in my garden so I used that.

Mix all ingedients together in a bowl and let sit at room temperature for about 15-20 minutes before serving. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Best Of Days










What a weekend.
There were thrift shops and early morning flea markets. An afternoon spent with my favorite aunt celebrating young love and an upcoming wedding. Dog walking and experimenting with new cocktails. A whole morning photographing and cataloging items for a huge shop update. Then celebrating my gorgeous niece's 4th birthday.
From start to finish it was simply perfect.
The kind of weekend you never want to end.

What did you do this weekend?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Dog Days of Summer












Summer is coming to an end. I can feel it. I can smell it. I can see it in the haze of the sunlight. It has suddenly taken on more subdued, golden tones. It's pitch black again when I rise in the morning and the sky has darkened drastically now by 8pm.
I feel desparate and frantic, as if time is dictated by a giant hourglass and I am watching the grains of sand swiftly slipping by. There are so many things I still want to do. So many thoughts, ideas and plans that have yet come to fruition. I look at the calendar and all the upcoming obligations in work and life and I feel as if I'm gasping for breath in the pinch of it all.
I feel like my quality of life is so compromised in the Monday through Friday grind. Eat, sleep, drive, work, drive again, cook dinner, clean up then start the pattern all over again. My brain becomes mushy begging for a creative outlet and freedom and so I find myself sitting in front of the computer at 4am with a cup of coffee in hand. I scroll through Pinterest looking for images that will feed my soul and provide just enough inspiration to help me make it through another day.
Before I know it we are at the weekend. 48 glorious hours of freedom! Two full days to just be outside and breathe. This summer has been jam packed with food, oh, the food! and fun, and doing things we haven't done in way too long a time. I want to stay outside and never come back indoors.
There are still a lot of things on my summer bucket list and I am determined to cross them off before summer has slipped away for good. Still on my list:

~backyard camping with my best girl
~beach bbq'ing with friends
~an all day family bike adventure
~go on a long hike somewhere beautiful
~go to the beach! I have only been to the beach once this summer and that was in Maine!

What is still on your summer bucket list?

photos from top:
backyard bocce, family tennis matches, backyard football games, brunching with friends, swimming at my brother's house in upstate NY,  where you can find me most weekends

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Texas Caviar Rice and Beans





I knew I was in trouble when my husband announced that taco night was getting boring. Taco night is a biweekly staple around here. It provides a weeknight meal that is quick, easy and guarantees that even our picky 10 year old will partake without complaint. If I get stuck in traffic or have some kind of delay in getting home the kids are fully capable of preparing it and having it on the table by the time I come dragging through the door. The last thing my tired brain needs is trying to find a new quick cook dish that appeals to all four of our tastes.
Last weekend I finally had a chance to sit out on the deck and thumb through the backlog of my magazine subscriptions. As I flipped through the July issue of Southern Living I spotted a photo of a Tex Mex dish that immediately caught my eye. Texas Caviar Rice and Beans. Touted as an appetizer that could become a main dish, my interest was peaked. As I read further and saw that it requires no actual cooking, just prep work and assembly, I realized that it is something I could prepare alongside our regular old, boring taco night and still appeal to everyone in the house.
My madcap plan worked! Sure, it was definitely more labor intensive than just browning some ground beef and throwing spices on top, but it was such a hit it was worth the extra effort. The kids had their usual tacos while we ate more than we probably should have of this tasty dish. I liked how this recipe provides a base for you to add or eliminate and customize to your palette. For instance, I used what I had on hand in place of some of the ingredients. Dark red kidney beans in place of black-eyed peas, chopped green pepper instead of poblanos, white rice in lieu of basmati....I think you get the idea. In fact, I threw a scoop of the taco meat on mine to make it a little more hearty. In hindsight, it was hearty enough without the meat. I virtually rolled away from the table after this meal.

Texas Caviar Rice and Beans
July 2013 issue of Southern Living

1 (15.8oz) can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed ~ I used dark red kidney beans
1 (15oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 c finely chopped roasted red peppers
1/4 c finely chopped poblano peppers ~ I used fresh green pepper
Texas Vinaigrette, divided
2 (8.8oz) pouches fully cooked basmati rice ~ I used 2 cups of uncooked Minute Rice that I prepared in the microwave
1 1/4 c halved grape tomatoes
1c shredded pepper jack cheese ~ I used cheddar jack because it was on hand
3/4 c loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
2/3 c thinly sliced celery ~ I omitted because I didn't feel like prepping
1/3 c thinly sliced green onion
Tortilla chips ~ I LOVE the blue corn and flax chips from Simply Balanced (at Target)
Garnish: sliced pickled jalapeno peppers ~ I omitted

Stir together the first 4 ingredients and 1/4c of Texas Vinaigrette in a microwave safe glass bowl; let stand 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Microwave on high 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring at 30-second intervals.
Heat rice according to package directions; fluff with a fork. Divide bean mixture, rice, tomatoes, and next 4 ingredients among 4-6 individual plates. *note: I placed it all into a shallow, oval casserole dish to serve
Serve with tortilla chips and remaining vinaigrette.

Texas Vinaigrette
Whisk together 1/2 c olive oil, 1/4 c fresh lime juice, 2 tbsp chopped cilantro, 1 tbsp hot sauce, 1 garlic clove, minced; 1/2 tsp chili powder and 1/2 tsp ground cumin. Add kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Makes about 1 cup.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Bourbon and Coke





I certainly don't have many fond memories of being sick as a child. Those memories read more like war stories: best forgotten about and only shared with a very select audience. Mainly my parents; and occasionally my children. On one side there's a pretty accurate recollection with the other occasionally painting the picture of me as more of a damsel in distress type. I'll let you figure decide who hears what version.

There are a few times as a child that being sick paid off. Like the time I had the flu so bad and my father felt so sorry for me that he arrived home from work one night with the Annie record. Once I was on the mend, I would put that album on the turntable and sing along like an orphan who had to sing for her supper. I'm pretty sure I imagined I was an orphan too. It was way cooler and much more dramatic than being that little red head who gets scooped up by a millionaire and suddenly her life is just peachy keen.

Aside from the occasional gift that catered to my theatrical side, the best memories of being sick involved a magical spoonful of the most delicious medicine ever. EVER. If you were a kid in the 70's like I was then you probably were lucky enough to get a spoonful of coke syrup when you had a bellyache. Coke syrup was so sweet and so delicious...I would pray that my symptoms warranted a hefty spoonful no matter how ill I felt.

When I found a recipe in the most recent issue of Garden & Gun magazine for a reengineered Bourbon and Coke I took note only because I happen to be married to a bourbon fan. When I saw that this recipe called for coke syrup in it I tore it out immediately because I happen to be a coke syrup fan. The idea of mixing that delicious serum into an alcoholic beverage was mind blowing to me. Who comes up with these ingenius ideas?

You guys have no idea how good this drink is. BEST BOURBON AND COKE EVER. I kid you not. And the credit goes to the coke syrup. Hands down. You will want to make this. Again and again and again and....well, you get the idea.

Reengineered Bourbon and Coke
from Garden & Gun magazine

For the syrup:
1/4 cup of Coca-Cola
1/4 cup of sugar

For the cocktail:
2 oz. Maker's 46 or other bourbon
1/4 oz. Coca-Cola syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Lemon twist, to garnish
(or lime if you love them like I do)

To make the syrup, bring the Coke to a simmer in a very small saucepan. Add the sugar and stir until it dissolves. Allow it to cool, then refrigerate until it is ready to use. 
To make the cocktail, combine bourbon, syrup, and bitters in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously, then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist and serve. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Home Sweet Home






In early July I had an opportunity to make a lateral career move to Massachusetts. We have long wanted to leave NJ and live in Maine but have convinced ourselves that Massachusetts would be more likely due to our jobs. Seemingly, out of nowhere, Massachusetts it was.
This opportunity opened up and within 48 hours required a decision. It was one of the most exhilirating, overwhelming, unexpected 48 hours of my life. Ultimately we agreed that a lateral move was not tempting enough to outweigh the risks involved: husband banking on a job transfer that was, at that moment, non existent and off loading our home in such an uncertain market. Becoming distant landlords was not appealing either.
With a heavy, heavy heart full of disappointment I turned it down. I know deep down that when the time comes there will be no questions of my husband's career or how we handle our home situation. The pieces will fall together because I believe that when we find path we are to take it has very few unknowns. There may not be blaring signs to navigate our way, but we will instinctively know how to travel it.

Spending a week in Maine at the end of July changed the game somewhat too. In 2005 we went to Vermont to look at real estate. Our pockets were full from off loading our prior home in the market boom and we were not so sure we were willing to put our money back into NJ. Two viable homes were found and we waved goodbye to our realtor and headed off to Maine for some R & R and some serious decision making.
As we crossed the state line into Maine and I stared out of the passenger window I began to laugh. I laughed at us. Our foolishness. How could we think we could live in Vermont? We had just crossed the line into the only other place in the United States that felt like home. There is something about Maine that I cannot shake. My heart aches for it when I am not there and when I am there I never want to leave. It is truly my happy place.
Fear kept us from making that move in 2005. My fear of leaving my two brothers who I love and adore, our joint fear of regretting our decision and realizing it was a mistake. And so we stayed.

After this summer's lost opportunity and a wonderful week back in my home away from home, I have realized that settling for a life in Massachusetts while my heart pines for Maine isn't the answer either. Why can't it be Maine? There are no reasons it cannot be. My vision has been too narrow. Too scared of failing or financial insecurity. But I think now that Massachusetts wasn't the answer because it isn't the answer. I need to dream bigger and then make that dream my reality. It can happen.

All of these conversations back and forth have been bothering my sweet daughter. Towards the end of the week of our vacation she just wanted to get back home. As we discuss making a life in Maine she literally kicks and screams to the point that our conversations about our future now remain private between my husband and I.
I asked her why she is so adamant about moving. Doesn't she want us closer to home on a daily basis instead of commuting for hours on end? Doesn't she see how rude and awful people are around here? She knows I have been nothing but disappointed in her school and even downright disgusted at times too. She hasn't ever met any little friends that I feel comfortable are the right sort of friends for her to bond and spend her time with. Doesn't she want a more simple life too?
But it isn't about where we live to her. It's about our home. And how much she loves it. After one angry outburst she reapproached me and asked if it was possible that we could move the entire house to Maine with us. Literally pick it up off the foundation and settle it in a new location. My heart melted and as I wrapped my arms around her I told her that I wish we could too.
Truth is, I love this structure just as much as she does. It is our haven, our retreat from the world that drives us all so mad at times. While I know we will create the same memories and joys anywhere we are, there is something warm and welcoming within these walls.
It is truly home sweet home.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Simple Pleasures ~ Tomato Sandwich





New Jersey gets a bad rap for a lot of things. Sure we have extraordinarily tanned beefcakes that wear sunglasses 24/7 lurking on our boardwalks and in our nightclubs. We have Housewives and a stretch of hideously ugly highway called the NJ Turnpike. We may drive impatiently and wave our hands in the air when we talk. And speaking of "tawking", we do indeed pronounce quite a few words with the "aw" sound.
Cup of cawfee, anyone?
But behind those warts and blemishes you see on the surface, we have miles and miles of pretty beaches that are beefcake free. We have quaint Victorian seaside hamlets on one side of the state and pretty farmland on the other. We have mountains in addition to our beaches and we are within a short drive to either NYC or Philadelphia. And let's not forget that we churned out both The Boss and Bon Jovi. 
At the end of the day those things are neither here nor there because you know what we have going for us besides iconic singer/songwriters and quite a few celebrity natives?
We have the best bagels outside of Manhattan, an amazing little meat called pork roll, the most delicious sweet corn that is simply known as Jersey Corn, and tomatoes that are so outstanding we wait longingly for them to come into season in early July and then savor every single one we consume.
I remember every summer as a child watching my mother place a small salad plate of tomato slices in front of my father at dinner. He would sprinkle a little salt, a little pepper and give each slice a little swipe of mayo. He would then proceed to eat an entire plateful as the side dish to whatever Mom had cooked that night. My father also grew up eating tomato sandwiches all summer long. Two thick slices of a soft white bread gently swiped with a little mayonnaise, piled with thick slices of beefsteak tomatoes and seasoned generously with salt and pepper.
I definitely inherited Dad's love of tomatoes and while they are my husband's least favorite vegetable, he cannot help himself but enjoy quite a few of my tomato sandwiches each summer. I am not a fan of mayo, but a fresh slice of tomato has enough juice to moisten the bread for my taste. This morning it dawned on me that I had some tomatoes on hand as well as some thick sourdough bread. So we both brown bagged it to work today and compared notes this evening on how delicious our first tomato sandwiches of the summer were.
Truly a simple pleasure.

P.S. Whatever you do, do NOT refrigerate your tomatoes - they will never, ever taste the same as fresh ones at room temperature!
P.P.S. That pretty milk glass plate is one of a set of eight that just went into the shop! You can find the link in the sidebar and head on over there.  

 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Maine




















We returned home last weekend from the most amazing week in Maine. I fell in love with Maine in the summer of 2000, coincidentally the same summer I fell in love with my husband. Since then I have dreamed of living there and after this recent vacation am more determined than ever to make it happen.
It really is the most beautiful place.