freshlyminted… again

I thought I had outgrown this name.

No longer a newlywed, not a new homeowner, settled into my career and comfortable in the kitchen, things were pleasantly busy and routine. I wasn’t really a “freshly minted” anything…

And then this happened:

Baby T

And we moved here for a bit:

NYC views

And now we’re living here, and bought a really old house:

Milford, CT - Lower Duck Pond

And nothing is the same, so it’s time to write again.

___

We welcomed Titus in April of 2014, I left a job I loved in January of 2015, and we moved to Jersey City, NJ for four months early this year and soaked up NYC. Then, we lived like nomads between states for about six months, and had some family adventures along the way. Now, we are the new owners of a not-so-new 145-year-old house in costal Connecticut that totally captured my history-loving self the moment we walked in the door. But it needed a little TLC…

So, yep. Not a lot is the same…

The Husband works really hard. And Titus and mama hang out together. A lot. And we’re learning how to renovate a sweet but tired house, live 10 hours from grandmas, explore New England, cook again, make new friends, and how to be a family in the midst of change.

Not my forte. But it’s starting to be.

So, if you’d like, stay tuned. I’m gonna write about my (re) freshlyminted life.

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Salt Dough {Gift Tags}

Family Christmas 2012My family likes to joke that we have a lot of very important Christmas “traditions”.

Like, where we cut down our tree (Timbuk Farms), that we have to ride the dusty old school bus at the tree farm (even if our tree type is within walking distance), where we eat afterwards (Brew’s Cafe), that we play Holly & the Ivy sung by Roger Whittaker while we decorate, that we always drink UDF egg nog (it’s the best…really), and that somehow Joe is always swindled out of either picking the tree, or putting the star on top.

I think he has a complex.
Tree HuntThough many of them are silly, those goofy traditions are what my Holiday memories are made of… and I love them all. And, my family laughing, joking, poking fun and reminiscing is the BEST part of any gathering… it wouldn’t be Christmas without it.

{Side Note: This year, Joe’s girlfriend Melissa was able to join us, too! It made me think of the Husband’s first time getting the family tree with us (almost nine years ago!). Another thing that made this year special was the fact that we got to walk through the historic home where we had our wedding reception more than three years ago – The Robbins Hunter Museum in Granville, OH. They just renovated, and it’s stunning! More great memories relived…}Family tree dinnerAnother highlight? We actually agreed it was Joe’s turn to put on the star.

He was so happy, he took a bow.

And, that fire. Perfection.

Family tree at homeThese family get-togethers always make me want to buy everyone the PERFECT gifts – ENORMOUS presents that they will remember forever, and tear-up over, and hug me, and tell me I’m their favorite relative…

But, that’s not realistic: I haven’t won the lottery, my parents would be mad if I got Bekah a pony, and Joe hasn’t been able to decide what he wants really for Christmas since 1992. About the same year he claims was the last time he put the star on the tree.

So instead, I decided to make the pretty-cool gifts I DID get them look really sweet. How? With a little velvet ribbon, a little brown paper, lace, pom-poms, twine and these lovely salt dough tags…

Salt Dough tagsHere’s how to do it yourself!

Stamped Salt Dough Gift Tags

(Even if you were a pro at this in Sunday school 20 years ago, you might need a refresher. Also, don’t be tempted to eat the dough. It still tastes as awful as it did back then. Inspiration.)

Dough Ingredients:

  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1cup water

Other Tools:

  • Rubber stamps – letters, flowers, plants, whatever you’d like
  • Basic ink pad of the color of your choice
  • Small, round biscuit cutter or other cookie-cutter shapes
  • Drinking straw
  • Ribbon or twine

Tags how-toDirections:

  • Mix all ingredients in a mixer until a smooth dough forms
  • Roll out the dough to 1/4″ thick on parchment paper
  • Stamp, with or without ink
  • Cut out shapes (easier after stamping the dough)
  • Use a drinking straw to punch the hole at the top for hanging
  • Place on baking sheet, bake at *250 for three hours

Presents!We chose to use a mix of recipient’s initials, our monogram, simple words like “Joy!”, and vintage-looking prints of animals, flowers, crowns and keys. They turned out great, and added a ton of flair to our gifts. Not quite a pony, but I’m sure your friends and family will adore them – they can use them as ornaments next year!.

I think we found another tradition.

Merry Christmas – Enjoy!

{Handmade} Holiday

Merry & BrightI hope everyone has been having as much fun prepping for Christmas as we have! It’s no secret that I LOVE the holidays, and all that comes with them. The family, the TV specials, the food, and our annual forced popcorn-stringing marathon that The Husband simply adores…

Not. But, we like the end result ;)

This year, I was a little dismayed when I pulled out my rag-tag/hand-me-down/college-dollar-store-purchase Christmas decor. Yes, we have a few nice things I’ve picked up since we’ve been married, and lots of gorgeous ornaments for the tree that my mom has bought me every year since childhood, but nothing super put-together… and nothing like my Pinterest Holiday inspiration boards.

Home for the Holidays

So, I took matters into my own hands, and did a few experiments. And somehow, week-old bush clippings salvaged from the compost pile, leftover burlap, a giant Frosted Mini-Wheats box, an old newspaper and clearance-rack ribbon transformed the house into a little winter wonderland…

Here’s How:

Rustic Boxwood Garland & Mini Window Wreaths

Supplies:

  • A bucket of boxwood clippings
  • Green floral wire
  • Ribbon for hanging, bows for decoration

Garland!

Garland Directions:

  • Choose 3-4 sprigs of boxwood, varying lengths
  • Wrap the ends tightly 3-4 times with the floral wire
  • Gather another bunch of boxwood, and lay along the wire, overlapping the last bunch. Wrap tightly. Repeat until garland reaches desired length.

Wreath Directions:

  • Use the same method as above, but begin your garland with a longer piece, then choose slightly shorter clippings for your bunches.
  • Once you reach desired length, form into a circle, cut wire, and attach your first, longer clipping to end.
  • Use ribbon to hang several of varying sizes in the window.

Vintage Newsprint Christmas Tree

Newsprint TreeSupplies:

  • Empty cereal box
  • Packing tape
  • A pencil or pen
  • Newspaper
  • Glue stick or rubber cement
  • Ribbon or other topper

Directions:

  • Deconstruct and flatten the cereal box
  • Cut into a rough circle, and cut a slit to the center
  • Roll into a cone shape, tape, and trim bottom so it stands level
  • Cut the black and white text sections of the newspaper into strips, roughly 1″ wide (I alternated making the text horizontal and vertical on the strips – variations in size and direction of the text adds to the vintage look)
  • Roll strips around pencil to give them a slight curl, and cut to about 2-3″ in length
  • Start on the bottom, and glue strips around the base. Allow them to hang over the edge of the cone slightly, and overlap each piece. Work your way up the tree, one layer at the time, overlapping each.
  • Top with a bow, or other decorative piece.

Perfect Christmas Bow

Watch this slightly annoying video, and you’re set!

Bows!

I used strips of burlap for the garland on my mantle and bay window, and ribbon for my newspaper tree and hutch in the kitchen – get creative – it’s so easy!

Classic Popcorn & Cranberry Garland

The directions on this one are pretty obvious, but I do have a few tips:

Pop!

  • Pop your popcorn the day before and let it go stale – it’s easier to string that way!
  • Use plain kernels, and pop in a paper lunch bag in the microwave. Just put about 1/4 cup in the bag, roll top twice, and pop. No grease, no weird butter-flavoring color (a great, healthy, snack, too ;)
  • Mix up your patterns!
  • Use a thimble if your fingers get ouchy.
  • Make your husband help while watching Christmas specials. Require he completes at least two full strands, and doesn’t use a 10-1 cranberry-to-popcorn ratio because the berries are easier string.

ChristmasA&RHave fun!

A gentleman’s guide to {Pinterest}

We all know what a tremendous impact Pinterest has had on our lives.

About 97.8% of cooking, up-dos, organizing, wardrobes, art, cat hair crafts, and hearty laughs are now inspired by a single (genius) website. And, the Husband has something to say about it.

Enjoy.

Rachael asked if I’d like to write another post. It had been a while, and apparently my public had been clamoring for a new masterpiece…

Since I am SO 2012 with this whole social media thing, I posted a note on facebook asking for a little inspiration (and insinuating that my lovely wife would only serve me PB&J for the rest of my life if I didn’t come up with something good). And, that’s how this post of was born.

So here it is: Pintrest…The Husband’s thoughts. Take em or leave em.

I had to do a little recon and hack Rachael’s Pintrest account, because let’s face it, all I know about Pintrest is that women are shocked when they find a woman who is not on it, and that I give my wife weird looks when she laughs out loud, glances up from her iPhone, and simply says: “Pintrest: Humor Category.”

I boiled my extensive research down to three main conclusions.

  • First, the ladies love it.

So, if you’re married, single, or even thinking about talking to a lady friend in the next year or so, you need to be “Pinversant” (aka, conversant in Pinterest...I’ll see if Rachael can pin that.). Now, I’m not saying you need to kill hours giggling over those Ryan Gosling memes, planning your next party outfit or gathering nifty craft ideas that involve pumpkins, tempera paint, salvaged barn wood and wine bottles. I’m just letting you know that if you understand what that important girl means when she talks about “re-Pinning”, “Liking”, “Boards” and “Following”, Ryan’s “Hey Girl” pics will have nothing on you.

  • Second, it’s the sure-fire place to find the perfect gift. 

Is your special someone tough to shop for? Fret no more.  Pintrest will provide you with more gift ideas and creativity than you can handle. All you have to do is look for those pinned items with comments like, “I want this sooooooo bad” or “If only my husband loved me…”. Not only does Pintrest give you gift ideas, but there’s a nice convenient gift section that gives direct links for purchase. Some say the eyes are the window to a woman’s soul, but,  I’m pretty sure it’s actually Pintrest.

  • Lastly, it’s okay for men to pin.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to pin, it just means I can see why women love it and men can get into it. If you want to be a stud, it’s probably not a bad idea to find yourself looking through the Men’s Fashion category. You can see what threads LeBron is rockin’, scout out a new watch, or find some new Nike shoes. The Humor category isn’t too shabby either. And, maybe the recipes and baby animal pictures will catch your fancy too… no judging.

All in all. I’m a believer in this pinning thing. So, if your allotted Facebook and Twitter time can squeeze a couple more hours of mind-numbing (yet, productive! – Rachael edit) social media addiction each week, I say go for it.

Just don’t let the DIY home stuff and weird recipes get too out of hand…

Two words: Vegan. Cheese.

I still haven’t fully recovered.

“Happy Pinning!”

(Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.)

Viora Beth: {my mama}

Not many people know that my mama’s full name is Viora Beth.

A family name, she has gone by “Beth” since babyhood.  But having that second, secret name, has always made her a little more special in my eyes…

{1965}

Mama will celebrate her birthday today, and I have to say that there is almost no one that I look up to more… As I grow up, it becomes increasingly obvious that I have a lot of growing up to do, and, I’d like to be a lot more like her.

Lessons from Mom:

  • Serene hospitality.

I love to have people over to my house. I love to plan, cook, and make my home a cozy space to enjoy conversation, solidify new friendships and catch up with the old. The hours leading up to these peaceful celebrations, however, tend to be anything but. I snap at the Husband, sweat profusely, the grill is inevitably out of propane and I ALWAYS worry that somehow everyone will magically turn into ultra- awkward, picky, critical versions of themselves and just want to leave….

Note: This has never, ever happened.

My mom, on the other hand, throws elegant get-togethers with an air of effortlessness I aspire to. Dad invites last-minute guests? No problem. Ate something yummy at a gourmet restaurant on vacation? It inspires a homemade menu fit for royalty. People show up early, food burns, little brother is doing his best armpit-rendition of silent night? She takes it in stride. Her guests feel loved and special because she takes the time to add the perfect touches (roast duck a l’orange and a bouquet of fresh-cut garden roses, anyone?), but delightfully at ease in the laid back atmosphere.

I want to be like that.

  • Doing it ’till its done.

When mom starts a project, it gets finished. She makes curtains, covers chairs, makes you finish your goat 4-H book, re-builds the garden, makes slideshows for weddings and graduations, refinishes furniture, paints, straightens, writes, crafts, educates and makes thing beautiful, all with a passion that awes me.

Is it 2:00a.m.? Maybe. Is it done with excellence? Always.

I want to be like that.

  •  Growing. Always growing.

I’ve said before that I have trouble envisioning the next 18 months, let alone where I will be in five years. Somewhere in my head, I’m convinced I have all the friends and skills I ever will posses right at the moment. It’s not true – I’ve got years to grow! Mom understands that.

{Joshua Tree National Park}

Inspiring books; skinny jeans; innovative homeschool methods; farro, langostinos, almond butter and salted caramel ice cream; revelations about the nature of God, her children and her husband; vacations; relationships…

She is always changing, always learning, always seeking wisdom.

I want to be like that.

{Beautiful, Peaceful, Home}

I am so proud of where I come from, and the people that surround me (like Bekah, Grandma Bailey and Joe!). But, some of the moments I feel the proudest, are when I realize I’m standing by the stove with my hand on my hip stirring a pot, or bending over a blossoming garden not even noticing the hot sun, or drilling holes and stapling fabric and investing ways to make my life and the lives of those around me more beautiful… just like her.

In short, Viora Beth cares for her home and her family in a way only Proverbs 31 can describe:

Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value…

She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family…

She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks…

She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy…

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come…

She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue…

Your child rises up, and calls you blessed.

{Happy Birthday, lovely Mama}

The Trip: {Sicily, Ephesus, Athens & Crete}

After a week of having no power at home, I can say that I am extremely thankful for deodorant, fresh foods, blogging, air conditioning, and not having to fold laundry by candlelight while sitting on a towel because you are sticking to your leather furniture.

True story. Winds 85+ mph aren’t good for power lines, fences and trees, apparently. And, when it’s 90* inside your house, it makes you very hard to live with.

So now, on to the FINAL chapter of this trip thing… I promise!

(Missed part I, II & III? Read ’em!)

After our first 10 days of travel, we needed a break.

As in: If I didn’t get to just sit for several hours at some point (and maybe get a drink with an umbrella in it), I might die. Also, not sweating all day long and walking more than 10 miles in a day would be great, too.

{Read more about the particulars of the cruise below – it was wonderful!}

Enter, The Navigator of the Seas. This beauty was a floating resort, and included multiple pools, restaurants, bars, a theater, a rock climbing wall, putt-putt, sport courts, free frozen yogurt machines and an ice skating rink: H.E.A.V.E.N.

It was also going to carry us – in our well-appointed state room with a balcony view of the Mediterranean – to Sicily, Ephesus, Athens and Crete.

{Mt. Etna’s black lava, landscape, lunch, the terrifically blue sea}

Our first destination was Sicily. We hired a private tour with Sicily Life, and totally enjoyed having our local guide walk us through the sights we had arranged. We saw Mt. Etna, an active volcano; an oil & honey shop; and the pristine village of Taormnia. But – our favorite spot of the day, and arguably the best meal of the trip – was at a little mountain side restaurant. We enjoyed three types of pasta (one with wild mushrooms and a light cream sauce; one with pine nuts, fennel, and raisins; and one with a fresh vegetable primavera) and two fabulous desserts (a sponge cake with icy cream drizzled with chocolate, and small fried pockets of crispy dough filled with mascarpone and chocolate chips. I. die.) with our guide as we spoke in depth about politics, education, marriage & courtship, cooking, the mafia, economics and everything else we could think of! The views were spectacular, and we purchased luscious olive oils, pesto, flavored honey, a painted bowl, and a vintage embroidered handkerchief.

{Fresh pom juice, ancient ruins, rug making, Mary’s House, and a view of our ship}

After a peaceful day at sea spent lounging in the sun by the pool, we arrived in Turkey. Another private guide, booked with Celsus Travel, and a driver awaited us to whisk us off to Mary’s House, Ancient Ephesus and the Terrace Houses, the mountaintop village of Sirince, a rug maker and bazaar. We walked where Paul preached, drank fresh pomegranate juice and Turkish coffee, and picked up a beautiful scarf, Turkish delight (which always makes me think of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe!) and lovely pottery to take home.

{View from the Acropolis, olive tree, Mars rock, Greek yogurt, new watch}

A quick overnight journey brought us to the shores of Greece, and a short taxi ride brought us to the foot of the Acropolis. We were awed. The ruins were positively majestic, and the clear sunny day allowed us to see the rest of the ancient city sprawled out below us. We visited the Agora, Acropolis museum, walked the streets, browsed the shops, and ate spanakopita, Greek Salad, Baklava, and my favorite (and a MUST on my trip to-do list) authentic Greek ewes milk yogurt… cold, creamy and tangy with a spoon of rose and strawberry preserves. I can taste it now… totally delightful. We took home a lovely gold anchor charm (a Christian symbol used in the catacombs we saw in Rome), and cool watch for the Husband.

{Blue, blue, blue…}

Finally, we reach our final destination: The crystal blue waters of the Greek isle of Crete. We simply hopped on the city bus at Chania to the center of the city, and took an amazing walk to the beach. A shorter excursion day, we lounged in the sun for a few hours, and then wandered back to port, stopping for gyros and an olive wood serving set. This spot was gorgeous – each house was dripping with flowers (no matter how small or dilapidated), and the port (which was designed by Venetians!) looked like something from a painting.

We arrived back in Rome after another delightful day at sea, and took the train to the airport to fly back to our cozy home… We were tired and happy, with minds and hearts and souls expanded to capacity with the joy of discovery, and the richness of fresh knowledge and life lessons.

It had all bee totally worth it… and we were better for it.

{Happy to be home at last!}

Special thanks to all that helped us dream, plan and explore: {Our awesome parents, our “Friends up North”, Hannah & Federico and many, many others…} Missed part I, II & III? Read ’em!

A few notes about the cruise – Just in case you’re planning a trip soon!:

Booking – We booked the trip ourselves over the phone after checking the Royal Caribbean website, and monitoring deals and special offers. A travel agent wasn’t necessary at any point during our trip!

Food & Drinks: Even the somewhat critical foodie that I am, I was surprised at the freshness and variety of the meals offered on board. Partially because the passengers were made up of people from a wide variety of nations, you could find brioche, baked beans, pancakes, curry or muesli for breakfast, and always had a variety of pretty well-prepared dinners in the dining room at night. We purchased a wine package, which was also a great value for us. Bottles were expensive on board, and you (technically) weren’t allowed to bring any on with you. We enjoyed a few drinks around the pool, but mostly stuck to enjoying a bottle at dinner. We also got a water package, but two bottles were provided in the room, and it wasn’t really necessary. Personally, I would steer clear of soft drink packages – pricy and too easy to fill up! Regular coffee was free, specialty drinks from Starbucks had a regular charge.

Room: We were advised to pick a room away from elevators, and close to the upper decks – great advice for a quiet, smooth trip with easy access to amenities. Also, the balcony was a must, as we ate quick room-service breakfasts there at each port before we disembarked (and opening our anniversary champagne would have been difficult without it ;).

Excursions: Don’t. Use. The. Ship’s. Tours. We zoomed passed groups of 50+ that followed rather lame guides through the sights of each stop. They might be a little cheaper than booking private tours like we did in Sicily and Ephesus, but you really miss out! And, if you have a group, or just need a taxi or city bus, you can SAVE by going it alone, like we did in Crete and Athens! Don’t be fooled – it’s easy to find great companies and deals at your port cities. Check Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor to see what other passengers recommend!

And we’re off…

Little did I know, watching “Mission Impossible” right before I started packing was totally appropriate…

I had to channel my inner Tom Cruise to not only pick what I was going to wear (may or may not have spent 3.75 hours in the closet trying things on), but also get everything into our suitcases.

I tried printing out Rick Steves’ packing list. It included one pair of zip of pants, a polyester shirt and instructions on how to wash socks in a sink. {photo source}.

ZIP. OFF. PANTS.

With all due respect: Stick your ol’ list in your ear, Mr. Steves.

Anyway, mission accomplished.

We will be gone for over two weeks, so there won’t be any regular posts during that time. HOWEVER, please feel free to follow me on twitter for some pictures and little updates as we move through Italy and the Mediterranean… internet access might be spotty at times, but I assure you that you will get lots of photos and details when we return :)

{Testing the merchandise for comfort is important}

Thank you for your sweet comments and lots of love as we have gone through the planning and dreaming process of “The Trip”. Keep us and our journeys in your prayers, if you don’t mind. I don’t want the Husband to wander around and get lost trying to buy “Statue of David” boxers, or to wind up paddling a lifeboat or anything…

THAT would be a bummer.

:)

I will leave you with this:

{An amazing original work by Hannah – who I get to see in less than a week!}

Ciao!