How to know it's winter.

I went to Trader Joe's the other day and walked out with peppermint extract, chocolate chips, bake-at-home ciabatta rolls, vanilla cinnamon tea, and vanilla ice cream. I've been baking up a storm, drinking more coffee than usual, and curling up under my first throw blanket. I stocked up on sweaters at Goodwill a couple of weeks ago, and I've been wearing them nonstop with thick leggings and socks that go up to my knees.

There are snow flurries in the weather forecast, and at night, we find ourselves huddled around mugs of hot chocolate. We're catching up on TV shows, I'm learning new crochet stitches, and I've broken out the Christmas albums and it looks like a Christmas light store (do those exist?) threw up all over our apartment.

Everything I'm making these days involves making me warmer or baking, thus making our house warmer. How do you know it's winter where you are?


Made | Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

Among the things I learned last week, I learned that browned butter smells like caramel. Or rather, the smell of caramel is really just the smell of butter heated beyond its original purpose to its grander potential. This recipe calls for browned butter to be spread all over the rolled out dough then sprinkled with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon and nutmeg. The dough you've been kneading and mixing and nurturing for the past four hours, finally meeting its own grand potential. It's all very magical.
The magical browned-butter-cinnamon-nutmeg-sugar dough is then sliced into little squares and placed into a greased loaf pan. Then the dough begins its final rise while you take pictures of it in natural lighting.
After it's cooked, those little slices so full of potential are fused into one big loaf of cinnamon caramelized sweetness, but not too much. A little powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla glaze drizzled over the top and on the sides for dipping when you pick a little piece off the edge as you wait for dinner to be ready.
I won't lie and say this bread didn't use a lot of dishes and make a big old mess. 
But I'd be lying if I said it wasn't worth it. 

You can find the recipe here. Add walnuts and a cup of strong coffee to make any morning feel like a Sunday. You're welcome.


Made | Pizza bread

I've been an avid baker since I moved to Boston for college. It became my offering to new friends, roommates, and to myself during particularly stressful times. And in the Boston winters, it was another way to heat up a cold apartment. It wasn't until this past year or so that I started experimenting with yeasts and breads. I'd hardly say I'm a pro, but seeing "yeast" or "knead" in a recipe doesn't scare me away anymore. 

Having this week off meant I could make those "let rise for an hour" recipes in my Pinterest without having to plan my weekend around it. So on Monday, I made this pizza bread

Dry active yeast in some warm water...

turns into this little science experiment. It smells like warm dough already, and you're only on the first step.

I can't seem to make anything without this little magic mixture of onions and garlic.
The toppings overpower the dough until you let it rise. Then they only sort of overpower it.
All I can say is wow. I used more than the recommended 1 1/2-2 cups of toppings, but this turned out exactly how I expected it to. I used mushrooms, bell peppers, leftover salami, and sauteed onions and garlic. Dip this baby into a little marinara and call it a night. 

Have you ever experimented with yeast in your baking?


Friendsgiving 2012

One of my favorite things about growing up is getting to make my own traditions with my friends. Last year we gathered at Katie and Emily's new condo for a Friendsgiving, and this year we managed an encore! Emily cooked an amazing dinner complete with full-sized turkey (and leftovers), butternut squash, green beans, cauliflower mash, stuffing, homemade cranberry ginger and pear sauce, white gravy, and pumpkin pie flan. It was all very fancy, but mostly just an excuse to get us all together to eat Emily's amazing cooking.

Do you have any traditions you've started with your friends?

Happy Thanksgiving!


Made | For Thanksgiving

We go to Mike's family gathering in Western Mass for Thanksgiving. I've spent one Thanksgiving without a place to go since I've moved to Boston, so I count myself very lucky to have a boyfriend whose family is both so welcoming and close by. We don't go empty-handed. This year I made two of my favorite recipes from my family's Thanksgiving spreads: sweet potato pie and sausage balls. If you've ever been to a Southern holiday meal, you've seen those strange orange and brown balls in a pile on a paper towel. My stepmom used to always make them, and a couple years ago I got the recipe from her so I could bring a little bit of home to New England.

Sweet Potato Pie
Makes two 9 inch regular pies or one 9 inch deep dish pie

For the crust
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 sticks butter, very cold!
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt

To make the crust...
Fill a 1 cup measuring cup with cold water, add ice cubes, and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together. Dice your butter into cubes and sprinkle over the flour mixture. Work the butter in with a pastry cutter.

Drizzle 1/2 cup of the ice cold water over the butter and flour mixture. Use a rubber spatula to gather the dough. You might need 1/4 cup more water to bring it all together; add it 1 tbsp at a time.

Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic, and shape into a disk. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.

Or, you know, just buy some store-bought crust.

For the filling
1 1/2 cups cooked sweet potatoes, mashed
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs

To make the filling...
Mix the sugar and the eggs. Add the sweet potatoes and mix to combine. Stir in the melted butter and vanilla. Stir in your milk and mix well. Pour into your uncooked pie crusts and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour.

Sausage Balls
1 package of sausage (looks like big Tootsie Rolls, I always use hot)
1 package Bisquick buttermilk biscuits
1 8 oz package sharp cheddar cheese

Throw all of your ingredients into a medium bowl, and mix well with your hands. Roll into balls and place on a lined cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. And get ready for your house to smell like Christmas morning. Or, in this case, Thanksgiving morning.

What recipes remind you of Thanksgivings past?

The thanks I give.

Here we are again: the last few months of the year that usually fly by in a flurry of travel and food and loved ones. It's always nice to take stock of what I'm thankful for, and so here I am. I'm thankful for the opportunity to explore so many different hobbies, for a boyfriend who's supportive of me and who's allowed me to take over the second room in our apartment with all of my stamps and fabric and yarn. I'm thankful for a job that I enjoy, people that I love working with and for, and a company led by someone I support. I'm thankful for the past three days off, for the rest of this week off, for the rest and the company and the productivity I've enjoyed. I'm so thankful for the security of my work and the flexibility of it all.

I'm thankful for all of the usual things: friends, a home, family, my job, living in a city and a neighborhood that I love, books, baked goods, coffee, my sewing machine, my You've Got Mail DVD. I'm thankful for a boyfriend who loves laying head to toe with me on the couch covered in the big duvet from our bed, reading or watching Freaks and Geeks and tickling each other's feet. I'm grateful for friends who introduce me to other wonderful people just when I'm feeling in a rut, as if they knew. I'm thankful for friends who meet up with me for a random lunch on a weekday, for friends who invite me over for wine and always make the trek out to our not-so-convenient apartment to help me make cookies or sit quietly while I work from home. I'm thankful for a sister and brother-in-law who make it a priority to keep me updated on my niece and nephew's lives, to make sure my face is a face they recognize, their laughter is a regular sound for me. I'm thankful for the technology that makes that possible. For Mike's family, for how welcoming they are, and how they're very existence has eased the distance between me and my own family.

And right now, most of all, I'm thankful for the cinnamon pull-apart bread that will be in my oven shortly. Safe travels to everyone!


Photowalk: North Point Park

Mike and I took the new camera for a spin on Saturday. There's a park near the Museum of Science—North Point Park—that I always see as we're getting onto 93, and we finally headed over there. We got to see the duck boat tours getting in and out of the water and had one of the best Dunkin Donut hot chocolates ever. Ok, so it wasn't the most exciting day, but it was so beautiful, we didn't mind.


That time I bought a camera.

So I bought a camera. Like, a camera camera. I was browsing Bloglovin' the other day, and one of my favorite bloggers and artists, Rebekka Seale of Dear Friend, posted about her Sony a65 being up for sale. I immediately sent her an email and waited anxiously for a reply. After a little bit of back and forth, and some hemming and hawing on my part, I took the plunge. I'm excited about what this means for future trips and life documentation. I'll finally have more than just phone pictures of my nieces and nephews! My mom can get real photos as gifts! But mostly I just feel like a kid with a new toy. I even said goodbye to it on our way out the door this morning.

Happiest Friday to you all!

Photo stolen from @megspergallon's Instagram feed. Thanks, Meg!


Ladies' night.

I love entertaining. I've always been a homebody, so anything that lets me socialize from the comforts of my own home is a winner to me. I made some cookies on Thursday, and Friday night I raided Trader Joe's for a dinner made of snacks. Mike went out to Southie to hang out with his friends while I had some lovely ladies over for wine and conversation. It was a much needed break from my norm, and I look forward to the next time we can all gather in my mostly neon-green kitchen (apparently). Tomorrow is my last work day before a week long vacation! I'm taking full advantage of our offices being closed on Thursday and Friday, and I look forward to some time to catch up on the Christmas gifts I'm making.

My mom's quilt is coming along nicely. At this pace, I'll be done soon after Thanksgiving! Rachel's quilting DIY from yesterday encouraged me to get off the couch, turn up the Mariah Carey Pandora, and sew all of the squares into strips. Tonight I'll sew the strips together, then I'll have Monday and Tuesday to get the batting/backing/front sandwich together. If I can get the binding made before we leave for Mike's family Thanksgiving, I'll be binding in the car! I'm really excited to give this particular gift to my mom, who's always lived in warmer climates (think islands near the equator), so her recent move to Georgia has required a bit of adjustment to the "winters" there. She just cannot understand how I survive Boston winters. Ha!

Today I'm working from home, drinking a latte from the last of my cinnamon egg nog (need more!), and waiting for Meg to come for a visit. Happy almost Friday!


Made | thick, chewy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

Since our birthday/housewarming party over a month ago, we've been swimming in bottles of wine. Mike doesn't drink wine, which leaves me intimidated by opening a whole bottle and finishing it within the week. (I can feel the disappointment from Cyndi and Meg. I've lost my college-days abilities!) So Friday I decided to invite some ladies over to help me polish off a few bottles without side eyes from Mike. My friend Clare was in town looking at grad schools, so it was the perfect excuse to throw together some snacks and uncork a few. 

No get-together is complete without dessert, and because of so many grocery store specials lately, we're knee-deep in chocolate chips. And even though I was craving the pure form of Smitten Kitchen's thick, chewy oatmeal raisin cookies, I knew what I had to do. We're running low on flour, so these were a perfect way to use the huge bag of Trader Joe's rolled oats in our cupboard as well as the lifetime supply of chocolate chips. I followed the recipe exactly, subbing chocolate chips for the raisins. But I definitely recommend the raisin version as well. They're divine. 
Clare actually ended up bringing chocolate chip cookies with her, so we ended up with more cookies than we started out with, but what kind of a person complains about that?


Made | DIY Fox Sweater

Poor Mike. Everytime he tries to get rid of clothes, I always find a few things in the pile that I want to keep. The most recent purge was a pile of sweaters, but I found a simple brown sweater that I loved. It's comfy and fits just right for those days when I don't want to wear anything that I own but my bus is arriving in two minutes. 

But a plain brown sweater can only go so far, and I had a pile of richly colored felt lying around that my mom and sister sent me for my birthday. That's when the idea for a fox sweater was born. I'd been eyeing the ones at Target for a while, but couldn't justify spending $24 on a trendy sweater. This DIY was the perfect solution.
First, I looked up "foxes" on Pinterest. I drafted a little sketch of the basic shapes before I started cutting out my felt. 
To make the base of the fox face, I folded the felt at one corner and cut a simple ears shape out so it would be symmetrical.
It worked! Next I cut out the basic face shapes: two "cheeks," a nose, and two eyes. Then I assembled them...
Then I sewed the pieces onto the base of the fox face with thread that coordinated with each piece. 
Then sew whole fox face onto your sweater.
I'm now officially on the look out for comfy plain sweaters so I can make a whole forest full of sweaters!