November 23, 2014

DIY Round Placemat Set

My sister Maria Olímpia gave me the best gifts ever. She knew I like handmade stuff, and every time I went back to Brazil to visit my family she would give me something special.

One of these gifts was a set of handmade round placemats made out of cardboard and fabric. I use them on our everyday meals a lot, and to keep them looking good I just use a slightly damp cloth.

This year, I decided to make new ones giving them a decorative Christmas flair. This is such an effortless and economical way to add style and charm to a table, and I love them.

While I used Cynthia Rowley napkins to make my new placemat set, grab any beautiful fabric you can get your hands on.

  • cardboard - the best type to use is dense cardboard, usually found in craft and/or art supply stores, they are strong and not too thick. Do not use cake round boards as they are made out of corrugated cardboard, and their rough edges will show and they will look shabby.
  • round template - I used a round tray
  • fabric of your choice 
  • craft glue - modge podge is the best for this project
  • foam brush
  • pen 
  • scissors

Step One: Trace the round template onto the back of the fabric.

Step Two: Carefully cut out the circles.

Step Three: Use the foam brush to spread the glue onto each circle onto the cardboard, and glue the fabric to the cardboard.

Whether you are looking to add them to your placemat collection, this quick and one-of-a-kind DIY placemats can be the perfect hostess gift.

November 12, 2014

DIY using paint & tapes

Here is my latest little DIY project,  just mixing and matching acrylic paint, washi and fabric tapes to turn boring plastic cutlery into cute embellished ones. A fun way to jazz them up.

"And if you use washi tapes on the ends? I've seen some spoons customized with them."

That was my friend asking me to to bring some party cheer to a bunch of plastic spoons and forks for her daughter's birthday party, and she was right, we all have seen some diy using washi tapes to embellish spoons & forks, but I thought of adding a little pizzazz to this idea by adding paint and just details of tapes to customize them to her party's theme and color scheme, and it turned out an incredibly simple and fun project to make.

What you'll need: water based non-toxic acrylic craft paint, paintbrush, washi and/or fabric tapes, and a pair of scissors.

Paint the ends first, I did only one coat with a few retouches. Use tapes in different colors and patterns, choosing between a subtle combo or something a bit bolder. Use scissors to trim the tape off neatly.

Plastic cutlery is disposable, but these embellished ones can be reused if you wash their ends carefully, it's up to you, and by the way, this idea can be applied to wooden cutlery as well.

Sweet, simple and easy, that's how I like diy!

October 31, 2014

Pumpkin Shaped Chocolate Truffles - Pumpkin Shaped Brigadeiros

If I could I would, but I can't. Admittedly, I would love to, but that's not my reality, not right now, maybe one day, who knows?
I'm talking about having more time to dedicate to things I love to do, like cooking, gardening, taking photos, reading, blogging, and so on. Like this post, I wanted to have published it I few days ago, but it dos not matter now, the important thing is that I could do it this morning.

I got inspired to make these pumpkin shaped candies when I saw this post  by my friend Marly, I thought it was such a cute idea. I did not follow her recipe though, instead I made Brigadeiros. Remember them? Only this time I used white chocolate powder and food coloring to make them look like pumpkins.

Pumpkin Shaped Chocolate Truffles / Brigadeiros
Makes about 20 candies

 6 tablespoon white chocolate powder
 1 can of sweetened condensed milk
 1 tablespoon of salted butter
 Food coloring (combine yellow & red to achieve the orange color)
 Orange sugar crystals
 Semi-sweet morsels to decorate

Mix the condensed milk, chocolate powder, butter, and food coloring in a medium saucepan, and cook over medium-low heat stirring constantly (this is important) until the mixture becomes thick and shiny, and starts to pull away from the bottom and sides of the pan.

Remove from the heat and immediately pour the mixture into a plate greased with butter.

The mixture needs to be cooled off completely before being rolled into small balls. I like to place it in the refrigerator to speed up this process.

To make it easy to roll the mixture, you can either lightly rub some softened butter on your palm hands, or wet them with cold water. Using a small spoon scoop out the chocolate mixture and roll it into small balls between your palms.

Roll each ball in the sugar crystals and place them in paper candy cups. To make the pumpkin shape press the top gently, and with a slightly wet toothpick  make creases all around it. The finishing touch is to place a chocolate morsel on top of each candy to resemble stems.

Happy Halloween! Have Fun Everybody!

October 24, 2014

Carrot and Coconut Milk Soup

It's been raining non-stop for a week now, so making soup seemed a good choice for a chilly night.

"Do you know what you are doing?" Brady asked me while I was gathering the ingredients to make our soup.

"What do you mean?" I replied, not sure I understood what he meant.

"In all the these years we've been together you've never made a creamy, smoothie soup, your soups, delicious I must say, are all about chunks of meat and vegetables".

I looked at him and said, "Well, maybe it's time to leave my comfort zone and try something new".

And that's exactly what I did, and I'm glad I did it. This soup is pure goodness, creamy, satisfying and flavorful.

Growing up I would grate coconut for my mother's cooking, needless to say that some would end up into my mouth, so much I like it. Coconut is present in a variety of sweet and savory dishes in Brazilian cuisine, but I must confess this was the first time I had it as a soup ingredient, and I absolutely loved it.

This soup is an adaptation of Béatrice Peltre (remember her?) recipe carrot and red lentil soup, from the book La Tartine Gourmande - Recipes for an Inspired Life.  I did not follow Béa's recipe all the way through because I did not have all the ingredients at home, but they are already on my list for the next time I go to the market. If my version is good, I can't even imagine how good the original recipe might be.

The sweetness of carrots, the creamy silk of coconut milk, and the citrus of lime make this soup a perfect healthful and earthy meal to enjoy on a fall evening. 

Carrot and Coconut Milk Soup

 10oz (284g) shredded carrots
♥ 200ml unsweetened whole coconut milk
♥ 1 tbsp (14 g) unsalted butter
♥ 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
♥ 1 onion, diced
♥ Scallion, finely chopped
♥ A few twigs of lemon thyme *
♥ 3 garlic cloves, minced
♥ 2 bay leaves
♥ 4 cups cold water
♥ Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
♥ 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
♥ Light cream, or plain yogurt, to serve 

* If you can't find lemon thyme, add lime zest to the vegetables as they cook.

In a large pot, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the olive oil, and then the onion, and cook until the onion is soft and translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the scallion and lemon thyme, cook stirring until fragrant. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 to 2 more minutes.

Add the carrots, cold water, and bay leaves. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and stir well to coat with mixture.

Bring mixture to a very low boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until carrots are soft.

Discard bay leaves and lemon thyme twigs, and transfer the mixture to a blender, or food processor; purée until smooth.

Return mixture to the pot and stir in the coconut milk. Reheat and check the seasoning for salt, and pepper.Stir in the lemon juice.

Serve hot with a generous swirl of light cream, or plain yogurt.

October 18, 2014

We celebrated her birthday

It's been a month since I last posted here and yet it does not feel like that to me, as a friend of mine likes to say "time flies when we are having fun". 

It may be strange but I only like to share stories and my photos if I am at home - never mind instagram, which is so instantaneous and fleeting - and I was away, I traveled to Brazil to be with my family and to celebrate my mother's birthday, she just turned 90.

She doesn't seem 90. She lost her hearing in one ear and has diminished vision in one eye, but keeps a lively state-of-mind.
Throughout her life she has been mostly housebound, she says it's because she had to raise 10 children and did not have time to socialize, but in fact she's a shy lady and being at home makes her feel safe. 

She does not like parties, and we are still grieving my sister Maria Olímpia passing, but we all wanted to be together to celebrate her birthday and make that day special for her, and we did it. She was surrounded by her family, and she was serene and happy.

My mother's cooking came effortless to her. I learned a lot from her, she was always busy tossing, chopping, sautéing, kneading, and baking, cooking simple and delicious meals to feed her family and friends who would stop by.
Nowadays, she has help in the kitchen but it's still the one deciding what and how to prepare the meals.

We ate salpicão - Brazilian chicken salad, pernil - roast whole fresh ham, farofa - toasted cassava flour with vegetables, two kind of salads, and rice, certainly - it's unheard of my family's meals without rice. But the eye-catcher of the day was the dessert table - truffles, bombons & docinhos, and a delicious chocolate and strawberry cake.

We had a cozy and joyful afternoon listening to my mother's stories about her childhood and youth. Life was so different back then, it was simpler but yet so much harder at times.

That was such a special trip! 

September 17, 2014

Pink, blue and a touch of red

For about three years I wrote a blog in Portuguese, Casa de Retalhos, there I met so many amazing like-minded women, in fact I had the pleasure to meet four of them in person. Most are Brazilians, but not all of them, one is a talented young lady from Turkey, and when I saw this crochet case on her Etsy store I immediately felt inspired by its classic pink and blue combo.

Colors attract me like sugar attracts ants, oh yes I am having a problem with ants... never mind, but as I wrote here I don't feel confident to mix and match them, this is something that requires practice and experiment, so I thought it was time again for a mix 'n' match photo shoot post.

And here it is, my love story with blue, pink and a touch or red.

Just a little something to start...

Pretty fabrics and ribbons for color inspiration.

Tea time with pretty flowers.

My eyes get brighter when I see ribbons, it makes me wonder what I can use them for... Once I made a bathroom curtain with lace and ribbons... I wish I had taken pictures of it...

My desk became an inspirational board with lovely bits and pieces. I felt overwhelmed with ideas, specially looking at Kat Macleod's collage drawing.

Like-daisy flowers on a gorgeous blue cup I bought at a flea market, and a touch of 
a simply beautiful shade of pink ribbon.

I believe these will be the last red roses from my garden this season, they look so noble.

So there you are, I hope you enjoy these photographs and feel inspired to put together your own color palette.

See you back here soon.

September 12, 2014

Tomato, Mozzarella Couscous Salad

"What are we going to cook for dinner? Something easy and fresh from our garden? Brady asked me when we got back home from Block Island.

"Couscous salad?" I asked him. And off he went to our small garden, coming back with some tomatoes - Roma and Big Boy, fresh basil, and scallions. I must say that for this recipe I only used the small roma tomatoes.

As much we enjoyed eating out on our vacation, we were craving homemade food, we were craving the fresh vegetables and herbs we planted this year.

Couscous is one of my favorite food to eat and I always keep it on my pantry. I thought it was a grain, but this is controversial, some foodies consider it actually a type of pasta. To me it does not matter if it's a grain, or pasta, I know it can be made from ground millet, or from ground semolina wheat and it's a good source of B vitamins, fiber and nutrients, and low in calories. It's hearty enough to fill you up, but still light so it doesn't feel heavy.

I always buy organic pre-steamed couscous, it requires no actual cooking, just soften it in boiling water, and in minutes it's ready to eat. Mix-and-match it with other ingredients like zucchini, cucumber, peas, asparagus, olives, shrimp, bell peppers, carrots, or whatever you have around.

This recipe is incredibly simple to make, it can be served immediately, or made ahead of time, and it's a good way to take advantage of fresh summer produce.

Tomato, Mozzarella Couscous Salad

♥ cooked couscous (cook according to package directions)
♥ tomatoes (preferably use small tomatoes, like cherry, grape, or small roma)
♥ mini mozzarella cheese balls
♥ basil
♥ scallions
♥ extra virgin olive oil
♥ salt

Cook the couscous according to package directions, and place it in a large bowl. Add all the other ingredients and toss very well. Taste and see if salad needs more salt, or olive oil.

It's not for nothing that couscous is one of our biggest choice for quick dinners. This salad was the perfect dinner solution!

Fresh from our garden 

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