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I’ve heard from many of our readers after the Ultimatum post who’ve shared how they too have many projects they’ve started and never finished, or who have boxes of crafting supplies collecting dust in basements and closets.  It’s good to know we’re all in this together.  I have big plans to create a sub-blog to which I hope all of you out there who have projects and MIGHT get to them can post what they are and your progress in finishing (or starting, or attempting to finish).  It will be a kind of creativity support group for those of us who have either terrible craft-buying habits, or who have terrible laziness…  I have both, sadly, and much progress to make on both fronts.  I’ll try to get to the sub-blogging this week and will share it’s place and info on how to post soon.

And so now that I’ve posted my creativity ultimatum, it’s time to get cracking with this intervention and share with you what I did this week. I’m pretty proud of myself actually.  It’s easier than I thought to put in a little effort towards my projects.  Sometimes I can even do my projects whilst watching TV, which is great.  Because, I’m sorry I must admit, I have a terrible TERRIBLE TV addiction.  It won’t be fixed unless I move off the grid (someday!) or unless someone steals our TV.  (NOTE: don’t steal our TV.  I will find you).

Anyhoo back to the projects:

I finally finished a mini mitten, and then got inspired and knitted three more!!

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I also did a few more lines of knitting on my blanket which was good.  I also added some info to our blog on a cool knitting site I found, and learned a new knitting method which I used on two of the mitts above.  Fun fun!

Hmmm… and we also made SOAP!

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YAAAAY!  Soap making has commenced!  Mark and I melted up about 20-30 pounds of new soap (lemongrass verbena, lavender vanilla, gardenia, chamomile honey) and put them right up on Etsy.  More to come there.  Very excited about that.  Mark is a very good soap maker and I’m glad to have him around to encourage and support me, not just in soap, but in life, generally :-).

Week one (or is it two now? Oh well… let’s call it one) went pretty well, I’d say.  Feeling good!  Let’s keep it up!

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Anna has been on fire with the blog posts lately. Time for me to catch up and add to the conversation. I’ve been meaning to blog about a new favorite place near our house, and our trip this morning reminded me to get on it!

As something of an amateur chef, I have enjoyed the variety of places to shop around Boston. Within 15 minutes of our house are probably 10-12 grocery stores, including several of the “usual suspects” for the Northeast suburbs (Trader Joe’s, Whole Paycheck). These places have their spot in a grocery rotation, but we are lucky to live where we do in Belmont because my favorite grocery find, Russo’s, is just 10 minutes away in Watertown.

Over the past month, an early morning Saturday or Sunday trip to Russo’s has become one of the highlights of our week. And we’re not the only ones who love it. Russo’s is nearly always packed by 9 a.m. on Saturday AND Sunday. Why, you ask? How about this?

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And this?

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The place has an incredible variety of produce for just about every sort of cuisine you can think of. The Asian and Italian sections are especially strong:

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They buy local stuff in season (today I picked out a basket of apples, maybe 7 lbs. worth, for $.79 cents a pound):

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They also have a fantastic bakery and deli counter. The only problem with those is the crowds. As I mentioned earlier, it’s almost incredible how full the place is by 9 a.m. on the weekends. Getting a cart around the small store requires real concentration. But the mix of shoppers is great and the deals even better.

I’m hoping to post more “Best of Boston” places in the near future. But in the meantime, anyone have any spots like this to share?

Mmmm Balls

Here is the recipe for MMMM… Balls!

It’s super easy.

AAAAND… you shouldn’t tell people this fact because they taste WAY more complex and WAY more than really what they are.

THREE ingredients:

(1)  2 packages oreo cookies
(2) 2 packages cream cheese (you can use both regular or one reg and one low fat)
(3) 2 packages chocolate chips (whatever kind you like–dark, semi, milk, white)

Step 1: Use cuisinart or blender to chop oreos into something that resembles dirt.

Step 2: Put cream cheese into a bowl and mix until soft and creamy (I used a stand mixer, but a regular hand mixer would work if you let the cream cheese get soft at room temp. first).

Step 3: Add the oreo dirt mixture to the cream cheese and mix until you get a mixture that resembles mud.

Steps 4 & 5: Turn out mixture in 1″ balls onto a lined cookie sheet.  Refrigerate for 30 mins to an hour.  While they’re in the fridge, melt your chocolate in a double boiler (pan with 1-2 inches of water to boil with a metal or glass bowl on top).

Step 6: Dip your cold balls into the hot chocolate and put back on the lined cookie sheet.

Step 7: Refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve.

Keep extras (there won’t be many!) in a tupperware container for up to a week (they won’t last long)

So yesterday, amidst pouring, hurricane-induced rain, our friends Mark & Laurie hosted their 5th annual Meatball Cookoff (affectionately known as the Balls Party). We are still full. Entries are accepted into three categories: best meatball, best non-meatball, and best dessert ball. Laurie had told me about what had won in the past, so knew we had to go… balls to the wall (And yes, half of the fun of the Meatball cookoff is making jokes like that over and over and over again).

We hadn’t made meatballs in years, so first of all, we had to remember how to cook them. We had lots of ideas for what might make a unique and tasty ball, but eventually I decided on a pretty basic duo of pesto-infused beef and chicken balls. One had basil pesto, the other sundried tomato pesto. I ended up baking them for about a half an hour and they were nice and brown. Problem is, keeping meatballs fresh for an hour without being coated in sauce is tough. I named them Red Light/Green Light Balls, and once they got to the table they looked like this:

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Anna decided to reprise one of her favorite recipes from Williamstown, a tasty double chocolate ball introduced to us by our friend Katie Kamieniecki. They are simple and easy to make but will blow your mind. The basic recipe is cream cheese, crushed Oreos, and melted chocolate. Noboday can resist! She called them…

Mmmm Balls

Competition was fierce this year, as there were 13 entrants for the “Best Meatball” category!

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One of our favorites was Anne Marie’s traditional, Italian meatball. Are you kidding me!? She told us she let them simmer for four hours. Everyone needs to know an Italian chef as talented as AMC. We could’ve eaten these all night:

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As we were all judges, we sampled everything. I took my judging very seriously… and sampled them all twice. We then rested for a bit and played Atari! After awhile, we all voted and the results were announced. And guess who won the best Dessert Meatball category? Anna! She was very proud. And she won an awesome chef’s hat!

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It was an absolute blast. Any else doing anything like this?

… and we’re grilling pizza.  So much has happened since we’ve last written, but I’ll give you the short of it:

1. we got hitched!

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2. we moved!  to a cute little house on a quiet road further in to Belmont, where Gordon can hunt rabbits and we can listen to nothing but the chirping birds and the kids playing in the street.

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Dining Room

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Sun Room

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Living Room

—-

Anyhoo… it’s too damn hot outside today and turning on the oven seems unthinkable.  But darnit, I want pizza! So we’re grilling.  Here’s a nifty little video about how to do it yourself, thanks to Allrecipes.com: http://allrecipes.com/HowTo/Grilling-Pizza-Video.  I’ll post pictures when we’re finished… unless it doesn’t turn out and we’re walking down the street to get a pizza pie at Thiago’s… [Edit: grilling pizza is simple and well worth the effort… sorry Thiago’s,  we’ll have to see you when grilling season is over!]

So yeah.  We highly recommend grilling your pizza.

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First, you put the pizza dough (we got ours at the grocery store pre-made at the deli! or if you’re really brave you can make your own) right on the super hot grill.  It’s easiest if they’re kinda small so you can flip them.  You’ll notice one is slightly smaller than the other and oddly shaped… this is because someone dropped the dough on to the grill.  I’m not naming names but it wasn’t me and Gordon was staying cool inside.  Luckily we were able to whisk it off and re-shaped it and laid it on there just in time.

Then we let them sit for a couple of minutes.  And it really only took a couple of minutes.  They rise up and get nice and bubbly.  But you can take a fork and poke them so they’re nice and flat.  Then we flipped them over with tongs (or you could use a spatula, or both if you need the extra help to get it over) and quickly started putting on the ingredients!  We did homemade basil pesto, tomatoes, and mozzarella.  Feel free to get creative here.

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Here Mark puts on the ingredients (he made the pesto–it was AWESOME!)

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I wanted my turn too.  Hurry Anna!  Hurry!  They’re cooking fast!

Then we shut the door and let them cook for a couple more minutes.  It was really hot outside… and the grill was hot too.  At least it wasn’t so hot in the house. We couldn’t wait for these to cook up fast so we could eat them. Woo Pizza!

Here’s the finished product:

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With a nice salad of red leaf lettuce, apples, and balsamic vinaigrette, this meal was really one of the best of the summer.  MmmmmmmM!

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Hopefully you’ll see more of us here now that we’re settled in and nesting in our new digs.  Until then, welcome back to Le Petit Éléphant, now on Winslow Road.  We’ll get to changing the banner soon, don’t you worry.

Hello All,

Wishing everyone this morning a Happy Easter, and hoping spring comes soon with new life and fresh moments of happiness and hope and love for the coming months.

Today I feel mixed feelings of happiness and sadness–happy because it -IS- almost feeling like spring, and we have new sprouts popping up that will bring good produce to us this summer; happy for the buds on the trees and the flowers popping up all around; excited for the coming of summer and all the warm days will bring.  But sad because I’m missing my family today… I know it’s hard for us to be away from our families on holidays, but for some reason Easter gets me every year.  And picturing my mum and dad at home dying eggs by themselves just breaks my heart.  So to all of our families far and wide:

WE LOVE YOU!  We miss you!

We will be having a nice Easter brunch soon and be celebrating the newness of the Spring with Annie–we’ve cooked up some yummy treats for her–Sunrise Enchiladas and Blue Ribbon Cinnamon Rolls, from a special Wyoming Cookbook given to me by my mother.  I’ll put photos up soon.  We’ll also be trying to plant some of our sprouts that have grown WAY outside of their little peat packs (roots everywhere! It’s incredible!) in hopes that they’ll be able to grow much bigger and faster outside…

Enjoy the day!  It’s a day of new life!

Hello Friends.

It’s been quite a while.  And we know that, because last time we blogged there was a giant freaking snow pile in our driveway.  And now, alas, there is not… nothing like actually, and especially today.  It was lovely outside.  And if I don’t see snow for another whole 8 months I’ll be a happy bear.

This weekend was good and fun and filled with good food, good friends, good games, and too much sugar.  Let’s do this thing in three categories:  Gardening; Friends; Sugar

Gardening:

YEEEAAAAHOOOOOOOOO! It’s _almost_ that time of year again, that time of big tomatoes, little squashes, and other fresh delights hanging out of our pot garden.  To get a kick-start this year, we drove over to our local Home Depot… which by the way is a great place.  Families of all shapes and sizes picking out seeds and gardening stuff, big guys with their little girls loading pink paint and lights into carts, and crafty types picking up wood and nails for their next projects, all with big happy smiles on their faces, and nice folks in orange aprons there to help you out.  Anyhoo, we were there for one thing: Starting Kits.  You can make your own if you have boxes, REALLY heavy duty plastic bags or plastic liners, wire of some sort, and plastic wrap.  OR, you can spend $5 and buy a reusable box with 50 little holes for 50 seed starts with its very own plastic top.  While we’d love to do our own thing, we couldn’t not spend the $5 plus $4 for a bag of special seed-starting peat moss stuff.  It seemed like a good idea, and we’ll see about that.  We also bought seeds for tomatoes, squash, beans, carrots, lettuce, various flowers and herbs.

We brought our wares back to the house and got straight to work:

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We organized a work space, and filled the box with the 50 spots with the peat mixture stuff…

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sprayed it with water, and added various seeds in rows…

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then we gave it a good drink of water and put the top on.  We did this three more times, and set them up in our back room under a plant light and turned the space heater up to 71.

Apparently these things like this kind of special warm wet climate… and the little boxes create a bit of condensation and sort of make it swampy… perfect conditions for turning from seed to sprout.

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We hope to have seedlings in about 7-10 days… and don’t you worry, you’ll be kept very well informed.  Yay for gardening!  Yay for pots and dirt and seeds!  Pot gardens!  Yeaaay!

Friends:

Later on Saturday evening we brought ourselves over to good buddy Seth’s house for some Settling of Catan and good food with our other lovely Anne Marie friend.  But boy were we surprised to see Jamin too, in Boston for apartment hunting (congrats to Jamin on his match at MGH!)

Settlers of Catan is a great game.  And you can call us nerds until you go blue in the face, we will not stop playing, nor will we take your teasing.  It is, a fantastic game.  See here if you don’t believe us.  You trade commodoties for other commodoties, all in the hopes of building roads and huts and cities and longest roads and largest armies.  And no, it is not like Risk.

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We played for about three hours… and I’ve never seen a board turn out like this (and I say that because, unlike most games, the board and state and rate and style and outcome of play is different every time).   Mark and I were on a side in orange against Anne Marie in red, Seth in white, and Jamin in blue.  Three parallel roads!! Craziness.  Anne Marie had the HUGEST road… like 12 lengths long or something (see the pic above), and everyone was so close (8 pts each with 11 to win in this game–we decided).

Seth kept moving the robber (yes! there’s a robber!) and stifling our sheep and brick winnings… and then the robber came off and Mark and I dominated, and then it was over.  But fun.  And funny.  Because everyone has their endearing ways of playing, such as in trading:

(Jamin: OK, guys…so here’s what I want. I have bricks. I want wood. Anyone? Anyone? OK, let me repeat myself: here’s what I want…)

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and evading the robber: (Anne Marie: But I only have two cards! I’m not strong! — except that she is strong… it’s just a ploy) and pointing out other players strength when they put down a road or settlement (Seth: OOOOOH… she’s strong! Oooooooh! Look how strong she is!) and me, I just like to deny everything… No! I don’t have any ore. Sorry.  Not today.  Sorry… (when I perfectly well do have ore, just not to trade with you).

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And Mark? Well, he’s generally just very tricky.  Very tricky indeed, and not to be trusted.

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Suffice it to say, it was good fun.  Mark made marinaded chicken and he and Seth skewered up some kabobs with yummy veggies, and we enjoyed good kabobs with some sort of cous cous that was spicy and delightful.  Good times.  Good eats.  Good friends.  Good game.

Sugar:

So today I probably consumed a pound of sugar. Or so.  Maybe two pounds.  But it was worth it.  Sammy Pants friend came over for a while and helped bake the lovely Easter Cookies.

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We made maybe 3 or 4 dozen or so…

And they are awesome.  Sammy is a cookie decorating machine.  Here are some of our finest:

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And anyone who knows anything about decorating cookies KNOWS that there is frosting everywhere, and it seeps out of every place.  And if one looks bad, you eat it.  Or if an ear falls off, you eat it!  Or if a giant glob of frosting accidentally on purpose falls off the knife, you have to catch it on your finger, and EAT IT!

And so we crashed.

And it was good.

The end.

Of a lovely weekend.

I cannot wait for summer.

I am up waiting for the damned bread to bake… I started it at about noon, and it is past midnight.  It better be good bread.   We got the recipe from the Bread Bible.  Yes, that is the name of the book.  It is a great book on all things bread, and it came to us from our lovely friends Terri & Sammy.  Now, the recipe is said to taste like “what Wonderbread wants to be and isn’t” but that remains to be seen.  I’ll report tomorrow on the yumminess of the crumb, but let me just say, their “basic white sandwich bread” was far from basic.

But seeing as I am up now at 12:20, I might as well report on the goings on in the soap-making world too, right?  Right!

Today we finished two–TWO–new soaps!  Lucky Jeff & Sheena will get to take home test bars tomorrow of honey chamomile and lavender vanilla.

I was going to just drop the chamomile buds right into the soap this time, just like I usually do, but the buds I purchased this year are so large and of such high quality, I decided to mash them up into a fine chamomile dust.

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Mark helped out on this too, which was good, as he was very keen on keeping out as many stems as possible.

Here’s what we came up with once we added all the ingredients–the chamomile bud dust; pure Mass. honey; and Roman Chamomile Oil–to the hot melted base:

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Now, at this point, this mixture smelled soooooo good, I wanted to eat it up.  But that would have been A. dangerously hot and 2. really nasty since, of course, it’s not just yummy honey chamomile sauce it’s soap.  Ick.  But imagine sticking your nose into a warm cup of chamomile tea and multiply it times 50.  It was amazing.

Then of course we pour it into the molds like this:

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Today we did both bars and rounds.  Still haven’t received our awesome giant loaf mold which I’m slightly peeved about, but I’m being patient because I know the guy makes them individually 🙂  These ones turned out especially good, don’t you think?  Wish we had smell-o-blogging so you could enjoy the aroma too.

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In our endeavor to create an L.P.E. stamp to press into each soap, we tried another technique of using rubber stamping material from which I carved out the letters.  But when I attempted to glue the rubber carving onto a piece of wood, the glue (I tried two–P.V.A. [probably a mistake] and household super glue cement stuff) _ate through_ the rubber…

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So instead, we used some plain jane rubber stamps which worked out perfectly.

Here’s an example from our lovely lavender vanilla batch we finished today, after some melting and re-melting, and trying different ways of adding the lavender (we finally ended up grinding it up in the blender, which smelled amazing, *thanks Mark for the great idea!!).  These came out quite nice:

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Ok.  Well, the bread is finally done.  And I have to say, it looks and smells delicious.  I’m going to bed now, but will have sweet dreams of fresh bread and warm chamomile.  I hope you do too!

Sunday is not only a perfect day for baking bread (as previous posts have documented), but also for making a quiche. This Sunday we documented the process for our LPE readers.

First, you gather ingredients. Besides eggs, cheese, and milk (which are required), broccoli and nutmeg are a great starting point:

Then you prepare the crust. Store-bought frozen crusts suffice. Cover the top with some foil, and then cover the foil with rice (seriously… to keep the bottom from rising up). Then stick it in the oven for 12 minutes at 425. It might look like this:

Then mix up all of the other stuff. Maybe 5 eggs, 1.5 cups of milk, 1.5 cups of cheese, garlic, spices (nutmeg, paprika, salt, and pepper). Then line the bottom of the crust with broccoli and pour in the mixture. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 325 and you get this!

It will be so good that even a hand shaped like a monkey will not be able to resist. Or a hand shaped like a pot holder/oven mitt of any stripe. Just not a normal hand, because the tin will be very hot.

Sunday’s effort was especially good, I think it had to do with whipping the egg batter an extra few minutes to make it extra fluffy.

Oh, and Sunday morning when I was walking Gordon I found $10! Truly! Not a quarter or even $5, but $10!?! Here’s the proof:

And guess what I did with it? I turned it into $10 worth of quarters. And then spent those quarters. On laundry.

It’s been raining now for a few hours.  Lots of rain. Super humid and everything’s damp.  The pot garden LOVES it though, and we like it because we won’t have to water the pot garden anytime soon.

What’s amazing is how people are still out and about in the city, even in the downpour.  We drove our friend Sammy to her home in Allston after a nice pizza and ice cream evening here in Belmont, and Allston was buzzing!  The rain was coming down so heavy that I could barely see driving and yet traffic was insane.  People all over, walking around and going to the bars.  For me, the rain is a good excuse to stay in and have a pizza and ice cream evening.  Which is exactly what we did.

Sammy–our good friend from Williamstown who now lives in Bean Town–and Annie, Mark’s sister (who recently got engaged–congrats to Annie and Shehzaad!) came over to hang out and eat pizza and ice cream with us.  Even Gordo got some pizza and ice cream.  We had two kinds of pizza–homemade (or partially homemade, we bought the dough at the Shaws)–plain cheese and garlic/broccoli/artichoke.  It. Was. Awesome.  And ice cream–Turkey Hill Peanut Butter Swirl and… wait for it… JR. MINT.  Yes, I did say Jr. Mint.   Little mini Jr. Mints, mint ice cream, and chocolate sauce swirled together in a fabulously minty and fresh mouthful of yumminess. Also, It. Was. Awesome.

Gordon got to eat the pizza bones and a Frosty Paws doggie ice cream treat, which is really just a frozen cup of peanut butter flavored doggie treat dough.  A little gross, but dogs go nuts for them and ours is no exception.  What a lucky Gordon.

What a fun night.

Yep, it’s still raining.

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