Archive | January, 2011

Lemon Drops and Chocolate Crostini

31 Jan
Last week I told you about the delicious pot roast we had , but there was a sweeter side to the evening as well.  Friends Sam and Mo never come empty handed and they rounded out our savory feast with lemon drop martinis before dinner and salted dark chocolate crostini after the meal.  While I love a good strong cocktail, I have a not-so-secret soft spot in my heart for all things fruity, sweet and tart and a lemon drop is all of those things.  It was a great way to wet our whistles and get us ready for dinner.

photo by Shawn Poynter

Lemon Drop Martini Recipe


  • 1 1/2 ounces of your favorite vodka
  • 3/4 ounce of fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of simple syrup
  • A lemon twist for garnish


  1. Pour the vodka, lemon juice and simple syrup into a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes.
  2. Shake well.
  3. Strain the liquid into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish the rim with a lemon twist.

photo by Shawn Poynter (click image to head over to Shawn's page)

The crostini were so easy to make- just brush a little olive oil on sliced baguette and bake in a 375 degree oven for 5 minutes to get it crispy, then take the crostini out of the oven, top it with dark chocolate, stick it back in the oven for five minutes or until the chocolate gets nice and melty and then pull them out and sprinkle ’em with sea salt.  I’m a big fan of salt on chocolate, so this was the perfect way to end a meal.


Make a Soothing Eye Pillow

31 Jan

I’m not sure if I’m fighting off sickness or just feeling the winter blues, but I’ve been feeling a little off this week. It seems like no matter how long I sleep, I’m still tired and cranky and puffy-faced.  I decided to try and remedy the situation with a homemade eye pillow.

I created mine from an old pair of tights, but any fabric that you can sew into a rectangular pouch will work.  I cut off about 6 inches of the tights, snipped of the toes, sewed up one side, filled it with about  a cup of beans (you can also use rice) mixed with a tablespoon of lavender flowers and 20 drops each of lavender and spearmint essential oils.

Now granted, it’s not the most beautiful thing in the world, but man is it great to lie back and relax with it over my eyes or walk around with it around my neck, breathing in the lavender spearmint wonderfulness.

Make a Travel Wellness Kit

28 Jan

I’m no great seamstress, but since getting a sewing machine for Christmas last year, I’ve been experimenting with some simple sewing projects with varying degrees of success.  One of my more gratifying undertakings was making a pouch for my sweetheart this Christmas.  I came up with this simple template that yields a pretty sharp little pouch, in my humble opinion.

I started making more of these pouches and since I seem to be doing a lot of traveling lately, I decided to make a little Travel Wellness Kit that I can bring with me during my wanderings.  I included cucumber face wipes (which save me from having to bring face wash and are a nice refresher during long car rides), and eye-depuffing stick (great for energizing yourself after a long plane or car ride), chap stick and Emergen-C (can’t get too many vitamins while you’re on the go).  I brought it with me during the fiasco that was last weekend, and I’ll tell you from experience that sitting in a parking lot and waiting for a tow truck is just more pleasant with a cup of Emergen-C and cucumber face wipes.

What you’ll need:

1 piece felt

1 equal sized piece of fabric

1 equal sized piece of fusible webbing


needle and thread


sewing machine (not necessary)

Travel necessities

1. Take a rectangular piece of felt and trim any piece of fabric to the size of the felt rectangle.  Trim the fusible webbing (you can buy this anywhere that sells sewing supplies- buy the roll instead of the tape) to the size of the felt as well.

2. Place the felt on an ironing board or other flat surface, place the fusible webbing directly on top of the felt and place the fabric directly on top of the fusible webbing.  Iron the felt to the fabric.

3. Place the felt/fabric on a table with the side you want on the inside of the pouch facing down.  Now fold the bottom of the fabric up so that 1-2 inches of the inside fabric is showing (this will be the flap that closes the pouch.  Pin the fabric in place and using a sewing machine or needle and thread, sew from the bottom up to where the flap begins.

4. Using a needle and thread, use a flip stitch to sew around the edges of the flap for a rustic finish.

5.  Turn the pouch inside out, fold the flap over to close the pouch and iron it flat (if you chose felt on the outside, cover it with another piece of fabric before ironing.

6.  Identify the center of the flap both horizontally and vertically and using a pencil, mark a dot on that spot on the outside of the flap and on the fabric underneath it.

7.  Cut a slit just slightly smaller than the size of the bottom on the spot you marked on the flap.  Use the same flip stitch to sew around the perimeter of the slit to finish it.

8.  Sew your button to the spot you marked underneath the flap.  Button the pouch to close it.

9. Fill it with your own travel necessities and enjoy!

Open Road: It Shall not Trouble Me in Bowling Green, OH

27 Jan

When I’m on a vacation, be it a month-long backpacking trip or weekend jaunt, each day I plan to leave a section of Walt Whitman’s Song of the Open Road. I might leave it in a B&B guestbook, tuck a note behind a hotel painting or write it on a dollar bill I spend at a hot dog stand. In any case, I’ll be tracking where I leave the poem here. I call it The Open Road Project.  Click on the stanzas below to find out where they’ve been left and track the poem’s progress here.

Last weekend was one of the most harrowing and hilarious weekends of my life.  My friend Steph and I decided to take a weekend trip to Bowling Green, Ohio to celebrate the 30th birthday of my dear friend Liz.  We packed up the car with presents and champagne and left Friday evening.  The plan was to arrive late Friday night, relax during the day on Saturday, make a big dinner Saturday night before the party and head out Sunday morning.  That was the plan.

Everything started out fine, until two hours into the trip my car lurched forward while we accelerated up a hill, the service engine light came on and we lost acceleration.  We managed to make it to an exit and pulled into a gas station 20 miles south of Berea, Kentucky, where I left the twenty-fifth section of Song of the Open Road as Steph opened the hood and checked our oil and fluids.
Whoever denies me it shall not trouble me, whoever accepts me he or she shall bless me.
Everything looked OK, so we decided to try and get back on the highway.  After about fifteen minutes the same thing happened, so we pulled onto the shoulder and waited it out.  We started the car again and this time it was only a few minutes before we lost acceleration.  Luckily, we made it to Berea, Kentucky.  After a fruitless visit from AAA and a good meal, we decided to stay the night and take the car to a service station in the morning.  We checked into a hotel and had a lovely time swimming in the pool, talking all night and drinking champagne.  It was a grown-up sleepover.
The next morning we found out I needed a new radiator and that we’d have to wait until that evening before it was ready.  We spent the day in lovely Berea, walking around the town and wandering in and out of antique stores, one of which was selling a magnificent faux fur coat which I picked up for $10.  We had lunch at the Main Street Cafe, where I left the twenty-sixth section of the poem.
Now if a thousand perfect men where to appear it would not amaze me.  Now if a thousand beautiful forms of women appeared it would not astonish me.
That section of the poem was fitting because we ran into the most kind and helpful people along our travels and were indeed so invigorated by the lovely day in Berea we decided to keep driving to Bowling Green on Saturday night and surprise Liz, who we’d already told that we likely wouldn’t be making it.  At 4:30 we were on the road and making great time.  We were set to make it to the party right on time.  When we were about an hour away in Lima, Ohio, we decided to stop for gas and a little snack to fortify us before we walked straight into a party full of people after a long drive.  As we were turning off the highway, the car stopped, made a popping sound and started pouring smoke from its hood. Steph and I had both been doing a good job rolling with the punches, but the sight your car stranded on the side of the road, pouring smoke and leaking fluids does not encourage easy-goingness.  But at least I had my new fur coat to keep me warm.  Two hours later, though, the car was towed to a station, Liz’s boyfriend had picked us up and we were on our way to the party.  Once we arrived we put on our party clothes (we were instructed to dress in the theme of the year we were born, thus my Madonna bride get-up under the famous fur coat) and danced our asses off.  We deserved it.
Sunday we drove back to Lima, where we got the car in good enough condition to drive home.  I was so nervous that we were going to break down that I forgot all about the poem until exit 41, about an hour from Knoxville, where I left it in the bathroom stall.

Now I know the secret of making the best persons, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.
Now that we’re home and safe and my car’s transmission has been pronounced dead, I can look back on the weekend and say I’m glad we went.  The car would have had trouble anyway.  Liz will only turn 30 once.  Steph and I are closer than ever.  I’m looking forward to getting a new car.  And I have my fur coat.
Where the poem has been so far:

Elam Blackman’s Kickstarter Project

26 Jan

I’m excited to tell you about my dear friend Elam Blackman’s Kickstarter project to raise funds for his new album, Friend. Elam is a great musician- his lyrics are interesting, surprising and heartfelt and he sets them to music in unexpected and beautiful ways. I for one cannot wait to hear his new album. Please click the image below to watch a video I made about Elam’s music.

Just $10 will get you a digital download of the album, which I can tell you will be well worth it.  Any amount helps.  Check out his Kickstarter page for more information and to check out the great rewards for supporting the project.

Pot Roast Sandwich with Red Pepper Ricotta

25 Jan

A few weeks ago we got a new slow cooker after the old one died a sudden and jarring death, leaving a gaping slow cooker sized hole in our hearts.  I love slow cookers, especially in the wintertime when I’m all craving is soup and stew and other warm, filling foods that I don’t have to chew.

We had friends over for dinner just days after we bought it, so we broke it in with a gigantic hunk of beef we’d bought and frozen from the Farmer’s Market this summer.  I used a  *pot roast recipe from “Fix It and Forget It Recipes for Entertaining,” a classic cookbook full of down-homey, stick to your ribby type dishes for the slow cooker.   After  enjoying cocktails and some *roasted red pepper dip on a wheat baguette, we ate it with pureed rutabaga, celery root and cauliflower and though each of us ate substantial portions, we hardly made a dent. (*recipes at the bottom)

Now friends, pot roast after it’s been roasting in its own juices for seven hours is delicious, but pot roast that’s been roasting in it’s own juices and then sitting and marinating in the fridge overnight is amazing. We happily broke it out for lunch the following day, using  the aforementioned wheat baguette as sandwich bread and the red pepper dip as a delicious condiment.  We piled pot roast onto the sliced baguette, grated just a little parmesan cheese on it and baked it for about 10 minutes before we took it out of the oven, topped it with the red pepper dip, and settled into meat and carb heaven.

Pot Roast Recipe

  • 4-5 lb beef roast
  • 1 garlic clove, cut in half
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 rib celery, chopped
  • 1/2 C sour cream
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 C dry wine
  • 3 Tbsp duxelles (I added this)

Rub roast with garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Place in slow cooker with garlic. Add carrots, celery, onion and duxelles.  Combine sour cream, flour and wine. Pour into slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low 6-7 hours.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip Recipe (from Food Network)

  • 4 roasted red peppers, patted dry and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 endive, leaves separated
  • Pita crisps (recommended: Stacy’s brand)

Combine peppers and ricotta, salt and pepper in a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a small serving bowl and surround with endive and crisps.

Do a Mantle Makeover

24 Jan

It’s surprising how one small change in a room can make a big difference in its overall appearance. Last weekend my beau and I decided the mantles were getting a little crowded.  They seem to be the receptacles for every knick knack in the house for which we can’t find another place and over the course of the few years we’ve been living in the house, a lot of errant objects have ended up there.

So we decided to do a little curating. I present to you our new and improved mantles: