CRAFTS: How To Make a Mosaic House Address Plaque

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Since 2008 I have been in the "social media village", and I have always been surprised and delighted-as well as surprised and dismayed-about what content resonates and what doesn't. One thing I have learned is that whatever you think-expect the opposite!

In keeping things on a positive spin-one piece of content that surprised and delighted me was my mosaic table video from a couple years ago on my youtube channel. Mosaics look harder than it is, and the level of difficulty depends on you and the design you want to tackle. I started years ago, teaching myself by going to this antiquated place called...the library...and reading many books-and getting lots of grout on them!

After using more traditional square tiles on various projects, I became more confident in my skills. I began experimenting-realizing that if you can glue it down and it was flat enough-you can put it in a mosaic. I began breaking plates, saving old jewelry, scouring sale bead bins at Walmart and breaking glass tiles used for stained glass. My first big project trying this approach was the table I decided to take a video on and walk through the steps.

Many people have been inspired to jump in to crafting with mosaics with the help of my video-and I've been enjoying the conversation that has been popping up in the comments area. Many followers have begged me to make more videos. Well, this blogging thing is sort of a second third fourth job for me, so finding time to do these videos is tough-and add a mosaic in there and it's dang near impossible.

But cry no more followers! Cry no more.

Here is how you can make an amazing mosaic house number plaque that makes your own house pretty or makes a great house warming gift for a close friend. The key to having this piece stand up to the elements is an aluminum baking sheet! This metal doesn't rust and won't crack in the cold weather. You need to use silicone glue to adhere your tiles to the metal, and you should rough up the surface with some steel wool for good measure before glueing things down. The rest is simple mosaic skills and a good design.

Easy peasy-and it's cheaper than therapy-I mean-when is it OK to break plates with a hammer?



For other how-to videos from yours truly, subscribe to my youtube channel! I so appreciate the support and the small ad revenue I make there helps to waylay the costs of maintaining the blog.

RECIPE: Brothy Beef and Veggie Perline Pasta

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School has started at our house. 

Yeah. Good times.

It's even more challenging because my daughter just started high school (gulp) and her days are very long-long meaning 8-5 (Yup. I have to wake up at 5 am now. I "slept in" this past Saturday...meaning 8 a.m! I felt like Rip Van Winkle!). It basically means dinner doesn't get started until 5:30. The few days I have had to do pick ups posed challenging. But I had enough in the pantry and fridge to whip up this bad boy! It was really yummy, for as easy as it was.  My daughter cleaned her bowl, said it was very good and that it was her new favorite.

This from my angsty, new high shooler? A compliment?

I bask.

Brothy Beef and Veggie Perline Pasta

Ingredients:
broth base
1 Tbsp. of olive oil 
1/2 cups of chopped red onion 
1 tsp. of granulated garlic 
1 carrot, chopped 
1 stalk of celery with leaves, chopped 
1 plum tomato, roughly chopped 
1 tsp. of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp. of ground pepper 
4 tsp. of Better than Bouillon (beef flavor) dissolved into 4 1/2 cups of hot water
1 cup of water

phase 2 
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 carrot, finely chopped
1/4 cup of frozen peas 
1/2 cup of chopped baby spinach 
1 pound of fresh Perline pasta stuffed with cheese or prosciutto 
1/4 to 1/2 a tsp. of kosher salt and ground pepper to taste

Directions






In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil until hot. Add the red onion, granulated garlic and cook until softened and beginning to brown. Then add the carrots and celery and cook until things are beginning to caramelize. Add the plum tomato and scrape the bottom of the pan to bring up any brown bits off the bottom. Add the parsley and the ground pepper and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes until the tomato begins to release its juices.



Add the beef bouillon that you've prepared scraping up the bottom as you stir and add a cup of water too. Bring pot up to a boil and then lower the heat slightly and have a rolling simmer for about 30 minutes. After 30, strain the pot contents through a fine sieve into a bowl, pushing the veggies against the side to get all that luscious juice. Discard the organic material. Set the broth aside for a few minutes, and return the pan back to the stove. Now you are ready for phase 2 and assembling the dish.




Add another tablespoon of olive oil and begin cooking the finely chopped carrot until it begins to sweat, then add the peas. Toss the peas until they begin to defrost and cook for about 3-5 minutes then add the beef broth back into the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook the carrot and the peas until the peas are tender, about anther 5 minutes or so. Add the salt and fresh ground pepper, and adjust seasoning.






Meanwhile while you've been simmering your broth, heat another pot of water to cook your Perline pasta. If it's fresh it should only take about three minutes. Cook according to package directions, then drain and bring pasta to the pot of broth and add it with the chopped baby spinach. Give everything a stir and let the spinach cook for about 1 to 2 minutes. Serve hot with a little extra Parmesan cheese on top.

The Italy Trip Series: How To Make Caffe a la Nocciola

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Italy is known for its rich espresso and coffee delights. I grew up with coffee being a social ritual. In my family it is enjoyed as much as water and wine. I thought I knew all about Italian coffee, until this last visit to the homeland. I was delighted to discover Caffe a la Nocciola, a tasty treat known in my mom's hometown of Naples.

We had a wonderful morning visiting the old part of Naples, near the bay, with the large misty mountains of Vesuvio and Soma on the horizon.

 


After a visit to a local cafe to rest and enjoy cool breezes off the water-with a spritz and Italian ices, we walked back in the heat. If it is something Italians know, it's walking a lot in the heat, and stopping for treats and refreshments all along the way. So we made another stop...



On the way back we stopped at the famous Cafe del Professore. Our local friends swore by this place being THE PLACE for coffee. My dad is a critical connoisseur of espresso-and it got a big thumbs up from him. The place is small, and it was packed. People were just churning in and out, and the aroma of roasting coffee beans was intoxicating.

Enzo, one of our close local friends, mentioned this nocciola version of espresso, and evidently this was the place to try it. Lord I was hooked. It has a creamy-nutty flavor with hints of cocoa. It brings just enough sweet to the coffee.

Enzo and LauraDonna promised to show me how to make it, and as a gift gave me a bottle of the cream to bring home to the states! It's a little bit of Naples in my kitchen!




Here is a video of them showing us how to make it. You will get a taste of the hustle and bustle of a loud, full and well loved kitchen in Italy after enjoying "la cena" (the early evening dinner).

The Italy Trip Series: Art of the Nosh and Italian Ice

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You may have noticed my absence from the blog last month. Since I started this in 2008, I have never missed posting-and have felt considerable guilt about it. But with my big Italy trip end of June and early July (my family's homeland) I have been catching up on collecting and editing content, and getting submersed into real life. Something had to give!

I have so much from my trip to share with you all! From food, gardens, lifestyle and family memories to even simple sights and observations, I will be taking the next few weeks to pepper in highlights from my trip, right here!

First up is all about snacks and noshing while walking around town. It's no secret Europe is known for their cafes. They are a core part of the lifestyle there. It's a place where friends and family meet up in the square or by a waterfront to share a quick bite and freshen up from the glaring heat of the sun between errands and long walks-or in the evening when towns come alive in the cool night air after siestas. Freshening up could include a "spritz" or a coffee "granita"-or one of my daughter's favorites, Italian ice. Accompanying refreshing beverages or coffee are a smattering of snacks-called "saggini"-or "little tastes".

 

The snacks are usually little crackers, nuts, dried spiced beans, chips, olives and fried dough-sometimes filled with cheese. Sometimes cheese is also served. We often stopped for a refresher when I was dripping with sweat after shopping in the morning or doing some sight seeing. It was a nice way to relax and rest your legs before walking back to our hotel or a family member's home for the big meal of the day, il Pranzo.

This may look like a lot of eating to you. It is, but honestly in the heat and all the walking you do in Italy, you use the calories right away. I was there for 2 1/2 weeks and ate plenty, and did not gain one pound while there (thank God). 



conventional lemons bottom left, Amalfi lemons to the right!

One of our favorite sweet treats, besides gelato, was Italian ice. We found this treat street side and it's usually hand done by shaving a chunk of ice then drizzling a sweet syrup of your choice right over it. The best lemon ice we had was in Positano on the Amalfi coast, where the lemons are sweet and as big as your head. But in Naples, we had it with an almond syrup and it was delicious. So try local flavors as you travel "the boot", and you won't be disappointed.

Here is a video showing you how they have the ice by hand right in front of you!

Makes me want to get on a plane and head back right now!

RECIPE: Red Currant Blood Orange Raspberry Pear Jam

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Red currants are hard to find, yet hubby always wants to play with them (being German and all). We looked into growing currant bushes, but I guess they are not allowed here? I would love to dry my own berries for tea! But until I can get to the bottom of growing them, I am always on the lookout for them at the store. And we actually did find them this month! It was a bit expensive, but when you decide to can them for a ton of jam, it makes the price worth it per jar.

We like using this jam for pork and venison roasts. It's also really nice on ice cream. Red currants are tart, so they need some help to sweeten them up. The blood orange and raspberries add some sweet while marrying well with tart. These make great gifts, too. Keep it on your to-do list when you see those treasured red currants!

Red Currant Blood Orange Raspberry Pear Jam

Ingredient

6 - 6 oz. boxes red currants
2 large (approx. 1” x 3”) strips orange rind
2 - 6 oz boxes red raspberries
2 blood oranges, peeled and cut into 1/4” pieces
4 Anjou Pears, peeled and cut into 1/4” pieces
1/4 cup cherry Kirsch
4 oz. dry pectin (18 tsp dry) and
    add water to dissolve into paste
5 cups sugar

Directions





1. Heat a 8 qt. sauce pan over medium high heat. Add thin layer of water to cover bottom of pan. Rinse red currants and add the stems and all to pan. Cook until red currents start to breakdown. Remove from heat and pour into a food mill, one third at a time. Process with the food mill until only seeds and stems are left in the mill back into a large bowl and set aside. Discard the remnants. 











2. Peel two strips of blood orange rind approximately 2 1/2 by 1/2 inch wide and remove all pith. Pull all segments apart and cut into quarter inch slices. Peel pear and cut into quarter inch pieces. Add thin layer of water to cover bottom of 8 qt. sauce pan. And orange rind, blood orange, heat and boil for five minutes. Remove from heat and lightly mash pears to break down mixture. Do not over mash so that you don't have pieces left. Return to heat.








3. Add milled red currants and cook for five minutes, skimming as necessary. Add washed raspberries, cherry Kirsch, and then cook two minutes more. Mix sugar and pectin paste together and add to pan and mix until boiling.

4. Fill jars with jam leaving 1/2 inch from the top of the half pint jars. 




5. Clean jar tops and seal. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Carefully pull out the jars, and bring up to room temperature on a towel on the counter. Listen to popping noises from the seals, assuring things are sealed nicely. Once jars are set and cool enough to handle, set on a shelf to store and set.

Makes 11 half pint (1 cup) jars. (6 1/2 cups of fruit jam)


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