Thursday
Feb202014

Just My Cup of Tea

Chris and I have been drinking lots and lots of tea throughout this snowy winter. We’ve done quite a bit of exploring lately and have been learning about the flavors, effects, and benefits unique to each plant. It has become a nightly ritual to share a pot before bed, usually over an episode or two of House of Cards. There is nothing more comforting than snuggling up with a warm cup of tea on a chilly evening!

When it came time to brainstorm my annual Valentine's dessert, I knew I wanted to incorporate our newfound penchant for tea into a delicious treat. I decided to take a classic panna cotta and infuse it with the delicate flavor of Earl Grey tea. Topped with a blackberry compote, each spoonful was a silky bite of rich, creamy goodness mixed with a juicy pop of sweetness. I am kind of hooked, and will be making more this weekend.

If you'd like to try this simple and delicious treat, you will need:

2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
1/3 cup tea of your choice
1 packet of unflavored gelatin
(For compote)
1 pint organic blackberries
3 tablespoons turbinado sugar
1 half lemon

I chose basic Earl Grey tea because its deep flavor pairs well with milkiness of the dessert. You can really go to town experimenting with different teas. I cannot wait to try this recipe with chai, matcha, and floral blends.

If you are using loose tea leaves, you can steep the leaves directly in the cream mixture, and drain with a sieve. I opted to use cotton sachets, which are much easier for cleanup. Note - It may be necessary to tweak the amount of tea and steeping time, based on the type of tea you are working with and boldness of flavor you desire.

Combine the milk, cream, and sugar together in a medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the mixture starts steaming - do not allow to come to a boil. Remove from heat and whisk gelatin into the mixture until dissolved. Add tea and steep for 3-5 minutes.

Remove and discard tea leaves, and ladle the flavored cream into individual bowls or ramekins. Teacups also make the perfect serving vessels! Cover with saran wrap before refrigerating to avoid developing yucky gelatin skin. Chill overnight before enjoying.

Blackberry compote is super easy to make, and it lends a tart sweetness to compliment the smokiness of Earl Grey tea. I strongly advise using organic blackberries because berries are considered "dirty" produce. Simply simmer 3 tbsp water, berries, sugar, and a squirt of lemon juice over low heat until the mixture reduces to a syrupy consistency and the berries become soft and juicy. Allow to cool, and drizzle (or, in my case, pour) over your dessert before serving.

Indulge with good company, or over a wonderful book! And hang in there - Spring is right around the corner :)

Wednesday
Jan012014

Happy New You.

Chris and I do this thing annually where we go out to a nice dinner and evaluate our past year. Sort of a year-end debrief, if you will. As we we sat there reflecting last night, I started to realize what an abundant year 2013 had been. It was packed with rewarding challenges and personal growth, and it was so much fun.

We've made new plans and set bigger goals for 2014, and I am very eager to see everything this year will bring. I'll keep a few to myself for now, but here are some goals I’d like to share with you:

Go outside. Sign out. Log off. Go for a hike. After all, we do have a 500-acre forest in our backyard. I really do not have any excuses to not take my shiny new bike for a spin. I need to make more time to step out and find some peace with nature.

Church.  Several evolving circumstances have led Chris and me to prayerfully consider and reevaluate where we need to be. While we love our home church, it is good and very important to be intentional about where we worship and serve. I do not want to grow complacent or live with one foot out the door. Wherever we end up, I want to be able to commit fully, continue investing in and building our community, and keep growing.

Get healthy. Remember that sinus infection I mentioned back in February? I still have it. It has taken a huge toll on my body, causing me to feel run down all the time. After battling this thing for almost a year, a recent CT scan revealed the root of my problem - a deviated septum. As much as I hate being sick, I must admit I’ve been putting off the corrective procedure. I've been using my insanely busy schedule as an excuse (totally legitimate), but the truth is... I’m scared. I just need to suck it up and get it done and over with. Plus, the constant sniffling is not cute.

Along the lines of healthier living, I want to cook and eat more healthy foods. I also need to spend a little less time stressing myself out, and a lot more time on my yoga mat. Oh yea, and I should probably give my wine opener a break once in a while. There, I've said it.

Travel. Our 5-year wedding anniversary is coming up this April, and I would love to plan an awesome getaway with my man. I also want to go on at least one group trip with my closest friends. With so much going on in our busy lives, it’s getting harder and harder to travel together, but that’s what makes it special. Let’s make it happen and check a few places off our lists this year!

Save more. With buying, renovating, and furnishing our new home, this past year has been hands down the most expensive year of my life. While Chris and I firmly believe in living within our means, I'd like to challenge myself to set aside a little more this year. I really do have everything I need, so it's time to save up for bigger things and dreams. Plus, it feels pretty darn good to stack that ca$h.

Read more. As much as I enjoy reading all the latest and greatest NYT bestsellers, nothing compares to the richness and inspiration found in classic literature. I've recently downloaded a bunch of novels on my Kindle, and cannot wait to dig in. First up – Great Expectations.

Write more. I am so thankful for this blog, which allows me to exercise my love for writing and share my thoughts and passions. Thank you all so much for your support and encouragement – your kind words have meant the world to me throughout this past year. You guys humble and inspire me to continue doing what I love.

Keep going. I've found that the more I achieve and overcome, the harder I am on myself to accomplish and reach for more. With broader horizons, more things appear on my radar. New doors have been opening up for me, and it’s time to be brave. I will continue to invest all of my best, stay positive, and most importantly, believe in myself.

Happy new dreams, happy new desires.
Happy new days, happy new ways.
Happy new year.
Happy new you.
Cheers!

Tuesday
Dec172013

One for the Books

Whenever I asked for a toy as a child, my parents would often reply: "You want it? Let's make it!" Rather than purchasing the things I wanted, they would take me shopping for all the necessary tools and materials, then provide the guidance I needed to recreate the items I desired.

This was my mom and dad's way of spending quality time with me. They challenged my creativity and instilled a value of resourcefulness. I am grateful for these lessons because they've allowed me to discover the joy of working with my hands. It has become one of my deepest passions, and it influences everything I do today.

When I came across this vintage book iPhone dock at Anthropologie, the first thought that popped into my head was, "Oh neat! I want that."  The second thought that came to mind was, "You know what? I could make that." This turned out to be such a fun and simple project, and I am very happy to share it with you!

Here's what you will need:

- Hardcover book of your choice (At least 1.5" thick)
- Ruler
- Pencil
- 2 binder clips
- Box cutter
- Thin metal file
- Phone & charger cable


Choose any hardcover book you'd like to turn into a dock. 
Sentimental attachment made me queasy about chopping up my own beloved books, so I swung by the Strand Book Store and picked up this 1943 edition of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for a dollar. By the way, if you have not been to this bookstore, you really must stop by. And if you have not read this book, add that to your to-do list as well.

Make sure you are not cutting up a rare collector's edition, and we are ready to start!


Begin by outlining the width and diameter of your charger with a sharp pencil. Be sure to trace as closely as possible.


You know the saying - Measure twice, cut once. We do not want to waste any books on this project! Once you are certain that the outline is as close to the actual size of the base as possible, begin carefully cutting into the cover. Use a ruler as a guide to keep your lines straight. Rather than stabbing into the cover, I found that light, repetitive strokes were the most effective way to cut and maintain precision.

Once you break through the hard cover, try squeezing your charger through the opening. Use a thin metal file to fine tune any areas that need adjusting. File a little at a time and constantly check the fit. You want to achieve a very tight fit in order to create a base that will support your phone in a vertical position.
Eventually, you should be able to wedge your charger through the opening.


Trace through the opening in the cover to get an outline onto the first inside page. Then, using your ruler, draw a channel to accommodate the charger's cord.


Use your box cutter and ruler to cut along the outline. This is where the binder clips come in handy - use them to keep the finished pages clipped back as you continue to cut through the book. After you have cut approximately 100 pages, try pushing the charger base into the cutout. Keep testing periodically to ensure that you are not cutting too deeply into the book.


Once you are able to fit the base snugly into the pages and the charger sits flush with the cover, you are all done!

I usually charge my phone on my night stand at the end of each day. There's always a stack of nighttime reading at my bedside, so the new dock fits right in! I love that you can always swap out the surrounding books to create different looks. 

Prior to this project, I'd been clipping my charger to a pillow so that it would not fall behind our bed every time I unplugged my phone. Having a place to dock my phone is much more convenient, especially since I use it as my alarm clock. No more dropping my phone on the floor every time I hit snooze!

I hope you enjoyed this project! It's a cinch to adapt and personalize, and would make a fantastic gift for that lovely bibliophile on your list :)