Friday, September 23, 2011

Remedy Quarterly


You know by now I love mail - especially fun mail. This little beauty arrived today: Remedy Quarterly.  I was immediately sucked into the incredible writing, pausing to read one article after another, standing in my doorway. My daughter thought this was pretty fantastic as well, since technically we were inching past nap time.

Even better?


This is mine.


Remember this photo? Yep. Kickapoo Juice, for the Remedy Quarterly article.

Happy Hour recipe for a happy Friday? Ok! Personally I think it helps to know the story behind the recipe but until you can get your hands on a copy I'll give you the Redux version to tide you over.

If you want to make them ahead try this cleaver little trick: Drinks in a Jar!

Kickapoo Juice (or Martini)

1 oz vodka (a shot)
2 oz orange juice
2 oz pineapple juice
1/2 oz pomegranate-cherry juice or cherry juice
1 tsp agave nectar or honey (agave blends a bit better)

For a cocktail/martini style: add a splash of seltzer
For a blended drink or granita: add ice and blend in the blender.

Happy Friday, happy hour and happy weekend! Cheers!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tutorial: How to make editable PDF files for printables & free 'World Domination' to-do list downloads

To Do list

I get a lot of questions about how I make my editable PDF files for invitations, labels and other party goods. I'll be honest, I haven't been that open about how to make them - not because I don't want to share, but going through writing a how-to for each person and answering all the questions can be incredibly time consuming. So, I've decided to put together a tutorial for anyone who is interested.  Post any questions you have below and I'll answer them all in one place for everyone to see!

As always I've used Google Docs for my file hosting so once you click the link go to the top right of your document and click File; Download Original, or there is a button named "Download" on the top right. Then go ahead and open your document, print, read, or edit as you like.

Without further ado, download the complete tutorial here.

I've made a to-do list/goals worksheet for you to work on as a sample - both versions are available at the end of the tutorial.

Not interested in the tutorial? That's ok! Go ahead and download the free worksheet in one of two formats:

Completely blank (no editable fields)

Or with editable fields. Remember, like all of my files - you might need to download a font if you want it to look exactly like the sample you see. In this case the font is "Jenna Sue" and you can get your copy here - do ahead and download and install it, then re-open the PDF and you'll be all set.

Again - let me know any and all of your questions below and I'll answer to the best of my ability. Otherwise, happy PDF making!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

I'm not exactly good at "wordless" but we'll try "mostly quiet" instead. Some images from our recent trip to pick up our 24 organic, freely grazing, local chickens for the year. Film shot with a gorgeous wide-angle lens and a vintage Nikormat SLR soon to be processed and hopefully expand upon the beautiful views.

Barn Friend

Old Friend

The Long Road

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Summer Celebrations: Beers and Baseball - A Free Party Suite


I've got a fun one for you today! A freebie and a reason to celebrate. The reason? There is none - which is the prefect reason to celebrate!

I hesitate to say this but, summer is starting to threaten to wind-down here in the northern hemisphere. The kids are back in school (or close to it) and events like "apple picking" and "turkey trot" have appeared on my calendar. Even more reason to have one last hurrah - a lingering, late night in the yard with friends or a mid-day treat with kids and splashing pools of water.

I've got a suite of invites for any such party - customize as you like and apply to any festivity. Have a birthday party, a baseball game "championship", a home brew tasting, a homemade root beer & floats social, a beer and brats cook-off...whatever you like.

Print out a few invites, pop on a few mailing labels and send away. In the meantime cook up some home brews or treats, slap on some custom labels, turn up the music and enjoy some laughter with friends. Use the labels for easily identifiable beverages, on favor bags or boxes filled with popcorn or peanuts, cracker jacks, or anything else your heart desires.

Heck, throw caution to the wind and put a label on a bottle of soad and another on a bag of peanuts - tie together with twine and pour the peanuts in the soda-pop for a Southern-style treat. Serve with great blues music, better barbecue and a game of horseshoes.


To download and customize your labels click here. Click "File" on the top left of the screen, then "Download Original, then open and instructions are in the file!

A few links for ideas and inspiration:
Caramel Popcorn Balls (on a stick!) from Dine And Dish and Matt Armendariz
Boiled Peanuts from Simply Recipes
Homemade Rootbeer from Nourished Kitchen
Homemade Cracker Jacks from Brown Eyed Baker

Friday, August 5, 2011

Weekend Reads

So many things have been catching my eye all around the web that it's hard to even figure out where to start - but here's a few (and a few more) that I love. So open every tab in your browser and spend a while won't you?

Adore, adore, adore the new Kinfolk Magazine - as soon as I read it I wanted it in print but the online only videos and features makes it a virtual delight as well. It's peaceful, endearing, beautiful and such a wonderful escape.

Completely, hopelessly in love with Schwood sunglasses - with frames made from rare and repurposed woods. The video where they used broken skateboard decks to make a pair of completely beautiful sunglasses won me over...alas the price point is not for my budget but I can admire fervently.

The world's largest stop motion film - the making of is pretty great as well.

This series - commissioned by an Australian travel agency - takes three men on a journey of 11 countries over 44 days, they pieced their experiences together in three very interesting short films: Move, Eat, and Learn. Learn, though maybe not as technically difficult, was my favorite - what's yours?

I won't even begin to lie - the first time I saw Donal Skehan my reaction was a cross between "What?" and "He's so young?" and "Is he really famous?", but I watch a video and let him endear me and then I tried a recipe. These.were.amazing. AMAZING. Fishcakes! Not something I ever thought I would rave about. We made extras and froze them - still as good as fresh. I'm making more of his recipes for sure!

Funny enough, I mentioned the fishcakes to Tami at Running With Tweezers - and one of her recipes is next on my docket. Thai red curry coconut soup. Please. May I?

Ashley from Not Without Salt never fails to impress me - and this gorgeous, gorgeous post on her favorite summer treat of grilled soft cheese, thyme honey and fresh figs didn't let me down. One of my favorite blogs on the web by far.

Jaw dropping simplicity - one ingredient corn pudding!

I love the idea of making a printer-proof file - especially for sensitive files - even better as a means by which to save paper and save the world just a little, so the World Wildlife Fund paperless PDF immediately appealed. Find out more about how to make unprintable PDF documents and download the software here.

√Čadaoin from City of Blackbirds mentioned this AMAZING resource - The Do Lectures -  for lectures all about creativity, ideas, change, food, technology, business - doing. It's pretty fantastic.

Jessica Hische is secretly one of my gurus and this guide to CSS and HTML for non-web designers is just another reason why...even if it is for Wordpress blogs (which I am not), le sigh.

Need some time management help? Got a smart device? How about the 5 best apps for time management? You're welcome.

And now, my friends, I'm off - I've got farms to go to, a weekend to start, and a husband arriving home from a job he loves soon. I'm smitten with this life!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Simple Pleasures

My husband started his new job yesterday. He came home beaming, excited and full of chatter, which is fine with me, I like a happy partner. While he was away I did a major clutter cleaning. There is something so refreshing about cleaning house to start a new adventure.

Screen shot 2011-08-03 at 3.11.16 PM

Today though, after a few more chores, I took a break to enjoy some of my favorite pleasures – open windows, baking fresh bread, eating avocados, huge "glasses" of water* and being with my little girl.

*Anyone know where to get an actual glass the is huge for my water? I'm trying to avoid the plastic ones but I adore water and pint glasses are simply too small...hence jars! Just one though.

Screen shot 2011-08-03 at 3.10.28 PM

Lunch was a sensuous and super filling salad, my very favorite one in fact (very similar to this one but not quite). One avocado diced, one raw ear of corn striped, a handful of fresh picked sungold tomatoes cut in halves - all into a bowl, a squeeze of half a lemon, some salt, some pepper, and drizzle of balsamic cream. Perfection.

Screen shot 2011-08-03 at 3.09.39 PM

But dessert? Well that was the kicker. Fresh blueberries, a splash of cream and a touch of cranberry honey from the farm we visited not long ago. My daughter declared it "wonderful" and stole my remaining berries but I was happy to share, her delight was filling enough.

Screen shot 2011-08-03 at 3.11.58 PM

Then, just when I thought I was pretty well blissed out, I got the mail.

And so, despite my best intentions to write something different I am sucumbing to gluttony and using my very short quiet time (oh naps, what will I do when you end!?!) to flip a few pages and take a few breaths. Sometimes I forget to put breathing on the top of my to-do list and sometimes it comes to me anyway...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Recipe: Blueberry Almond Bars for Norway


A long time ago, back in another decade and life I worked for a company that was headquartered out of Norway. As luck was in my favor I ended up traveling to Norway to train some higher-ups on design programs. Funny enough, and I suppose tellingly, nearly every memory I have is steeped in food and two of my very favorite come from that beautiful Nordic country.

Every spring when the first batches of blueberries come to the markets I think, particularly fondly, of blueberry pie. My co-worker, Robin, had invited me to spend the day with her family. We put on some comfortable shoes and started our trip - hiking high into the mountains surrounding Oslo. Each person we passed exchanged pleasantries. Nearly everyone denied knowing where any mushrooms could be found while clutching bulging bags by their sides, a sweet little game of foraging and white lies, and nearly everyone had a morel or two in their possession.


When we finally reached our destination, a small grove tucked amongst the trees, laden with full blueberry bushes, Robin handed me a basket and a tool. The tool was essentially a box with metal fingers on one side and a handle on the opposite side - a blueberry or huckleberry rake. You slide the rake fingers through the blueberry bushes and the berries popped off into the box while the bush stayed in tact. We got to work picking  berries and filling our baskets. My basket full I stood up and looked around: there I was, picking wild blueberries looking out on an astounding view from the top of a mountain in Norway. Astonishing.

We made our way back home, over felled logs that served as bridges and through the dense trees. There Robin made a fresh pie crust while we listened to the music from the newly acclaimed "Oh Brother Where Art Thou" soundtrack and chatted. Blueberry pie for dessert, bluegrass in my ear, the sun setting over the Oslo skyline. Beautiful perfection.


My other memory was but a moment. I woke early one Saturday morning, popped into the pastry shop just down the street and picked out a few treats - some for breakfast and some for a snack. I made my way the the train station and boarded a train for Bergen, a town clear across the country. You have to keep in mind that I was fresh out of college and alone so this entire trip was a big deal for me, but even more so to take a day trip across the entirety of Norway by myself. I was a little scared but a lot excited.

Sitting in my window seat I was treated to what I would later find out is acclaimed as one of the best train journeys in the world, and for good reason. The landscape faded from urban to craggy gray rocks, then burst into lush verdant green hills dotted with bright houses, finally ending deep in the glacial bedrock of the fjords. From there we navigated through the fjords by boat, admiring the smallest towns in the world at the foot of some of the largest mountains and ice I had ever seen. Ultimately I traveled back to Oslo that same night, by train, and thus was the completion of my journey.


By the end of my train ride I had met some truly fantastic people but at the beginning, when it was me, alone, perched at the edge of my bravery, I ate one of my snacks. It was the most amazing almond cake I've ever had - as much a cookie as a cake, it was thin, light, and perfectly balanced between crisp and chewy. The top of the almond cake glistened with a shiny egg wash and was dusted with confectioners sugar, one almond standing in the middle. It was decadent.

I returned for my almond pastry a few more times - taking them with me as I explored the Vigeland park sculpture gardens and on the plane with me home.

Almonds and blueberries. They remind me of Norway. They take me back to a place where I felt fulfilled, excited, and began to feel truly confident in myself - in part because of the empowerment of the journey but also because of the people. Norwegians, in my experience, are incredibly kind, warm, and inviting. They opened their homes to me, shared their incredible artwork and treated me to a host of inspirations, culinary delights, and gorgeous memories.


As you can imagine, and as I think we all were, I was incredibly saddened to hear of the recent tragedies that befell Oslo. At first I couldn't tear myself away from the reports but then I realized that I wanted to honor the welcoming kindness that I remembered and not waste time thinking about fringe outsiders with malicious intents...and so I reflected on my favorite memories and decided to create something positive in honor of the Norwegian people, something that married the flavors and memories in my heart. So, without further ado, I give you Blueberry Almond Bars, a little bite of heaven. Enjoy them with full hearts and pass on the message of openness, tolerance, and kindness that inspired them.

Blueberry Almond Bars

Crust (adapted from pecan bars crust from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)
1 cup flour
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons (3/4 of a stick) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup crushed almonds (If you like you can toast the almonds but it is unnecessary)
1 teaspoon almond extract

1.5 pints (24 ounces or 6 cups) fresh blueberries
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
Zest of a medium lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons butter
 1 cup slivered or crushed almonds

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Line a 9 inch square baking pan with foil and butter or spray with cooking spray.

Place all filling ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a fine crumb. Pour into baking pan, spread evenly and press down firmly to create the crust.

Bake crust for 20-25 minutes until slightly browned.

In a medium-large pot combine all filling ingredients EXCEPT almonds. Cook on medium-high while stirring often for about 5-7 minutes - the filling will become very, very thick (peel from your spoon thick).

Once your filling has thickened remove from heat and pour over baked crust. Spread to distribute evenly. Cover evenly with slivered or crushed almonds and bake for an additional 20 minutes - when you remove from the oven the filling will be bubbling along the edges.

Let cool completely for about 2 hours. Use foil to lift bars from the pan onto a cutting surface, cut into bars and enjoy!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

To every season: growth, change and gratitude


Many of you already know this – my husband was laid off a little while ago. It's been a madhouse of re-adjustment since then - adapting schedules and needs, opening our minds and changing plans. Despite everything we have tried to be positive and grateful. We have so much to be thankful for, so many new opportunities to consider and an unbelievable support system. Job hunting is ever humbling and no need to add to that challenge. Though I am positive that my husband is talented, highly creative, and an asset to any organization the job of convincing others is not mine to do...


And so, as always, I have turned to a talent I have always had but often take for granted: industriousness. Some of the work has already been done and for that I am glad. Some is left to be done, and for that I am excited to be challenged. We were lucky, in some sense, that when faced with the blow to our budget we were not painfully impacted - we have worked diligently to reduce unnecessary spending and live within our means. Those crazy Luddite tendencies: turning off cable or switching to pre-paid cell phones, those eco-friendly choices - no paper towels or napkins and homemade laundry detergent  - it all adds, or rather, subtracts from, the bottom line.


One of the first things I considered after re-working our budget was food. We are knee-deep in a plentiful season of beautiful food - a time I usually take to stock up for winter and preserve the freshest, closest, most delicious harvests. Living only a short distance from a set of cooperative organic farms couldn't be more ideal and so, relying on the community I have worked to know, I called a farmer I adore. I asked her, Meg, if there were more work shares available and explained why I was asking so late in the season. Ever true to form Meg not only opened her farm to us, she gave us a bit of relief and a re-affirmation of why I believe in knowing your neighbors, your farmer, and your community.


Friday came and my husband was out the door by 5:45 am, picking soft-neck garlic in the furthest fields. He came home sweaty, dirty, and happy. Happy. In a time when we are explicitly expected to be stressed. The physical labor balanced out the tedium of resumes and portfolio building and the man that came back to me was more whole. A little vitamin D, a kind gesture, a few hopeful opportunities on the horizon, a lot of dirt under the nails and some of the best broccoli I have ever eaten - this is what food, community and an open heart bring: completion in incomplete times.


Meg sent an email out asking for help from the community at large to finish the garlic harvest, and so I went. Not as early and with the hard-neck variety of garlic waiting. A slather of sunscreen, a full water bottle and a bike ride later I was out in the fields listening to trains go by and brushing dirt from the roots of plum speckled German garlic bulbs. I too am completed by this. The quietude and camaraderie, the conversation and stewardship; the opportunity.


To everything there is a balance. There are upsides to unemployment and we are working to cultivate the positive: to appreciate time together as a family, wearing sandals in summer, riding bikes and splashing in a pool for a break, making homemade meals and working farmed lands. The monetary helps but it is not what matters. Going forward with a new frame of mind, finding a career that fulfills as well as supports, that is important work in itself - for that we are grateful.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Turotial: Firestarters: Useful reuse for backpackers to homeowners


Our neighborhood has an email system in place that serves as everything from announcement board to freecycle notices to debate central. Some good, some bad, like everything. Last year a neighbor asked if anyone wanted partially used candles - which I ended up taking. At first I used the candles to melt down and re-form into new candles in custom etched glass holders. Eventually though, I ran out of uses for red and yellow candles. Always red and yellow. Bags and bags of red and yellow candles. Why? Church? Anyone have ideas?

Around the same time as I was making candles we finally got the fireplace in our house working - and it was quite the wonderful winter treat. We spent many winter nights, lights off, fireside, sitting and talking - disengaged from technology and distractions. This coming winter we'll be ordering wood by the cord in preparation for more cozy nights.

Then, just recently, our local farm informed us we would no longer be able to bring back our egg cartons for reuse. New regulations prohibit the reuse of the containers, and though they are recyclable, it seemed like such a waste after all that wonderful reuse we had done.

Thus, the recycled egg carton firestarters entered our lives. Made easily and quickly with supplies we all have they are an easy way to start a fire. They ignite quickly, are light as a feather, and cost nothing - perfect for camping and backpackers to home fires and easy for kids to help assemble.

What you'll need

Cardboard/recycled paper egg cartons
Dryer lint
Shredded paper/newspaper/scrap
Bits of twigs/tinder/kindling or dried leaves
Old/scrap candles
Sharp knife or scissors
Matches or a small pot to melt the wax


You can build these one of two ways - the egg carton still in tact or already cut apart into individual cups. The easiest way, by far, is to cut the carton apart first. If you assemble while the carton is still in place two things will happen - first, you'll need a very sharp knife to cut the pieces apart and you may run into a twig you'll also need to cut through; second - you'll need more wax to hold everything in place because the process of cutting things apart acts much like ice cubes in an tray - it can pop the filling out.

So, if you like the easy way, cut the egg carton apart into individual cups before you begin.


Layer your scrap paper, lint, twigs/leaves in the cups. Lint ignites very quickly, scrap less so, and the twigs the slowest. You can layer any way you like - it all works together quite nicely. If you don't have twigs or lint, just use what you have.


Melt the scrap candles in a pot on medium low and pour a bit over each cup to hold everything together. You can also use a candle that you light and melt over each cup but the fully melted preparation is easier and more effective. You don't need a ton of wax - play around with how much you need and use the least possible - though the wax will burn off you don't want a ton of wax in your fireplace at the end of the season.


If you need to, go ahead and cut the egg carton apart. That's it! Your fire starters are done. Pop in your fire pit, light the corner and await the lovely warm marshmallow toasting glow!