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Monday, November 23, 2015

My Favorite Way To Eat & Our New UncommonGoods Snack Tray & Dish Towel

When UncommonGoods contacted me to see if I would be interested in working with them on a post my answer was a quick and easy "yes".

This blog - simply put - is a collection of me - filled with things I love, create, believe in, and am inspired by.  UncommonGoods is a company I believe in.  The quality of their products along with their creative and useful eye are not to be missed.  I also believe UncommonGoods is generous towards people - towards creativity - towards need.    

UncommonGoods began in 1999 when their founder, Dave Bolotsky, visited a Smithsonian Museum craft show.  He enjoyed the unique items, the people, and their stories.  Realizing that much travel was involved in order for the artists to promote their work Dave had a vision to create an online market place where the creators could connect with the shopper looking for truly special items regardless of the distance between them.

UncommonGoods seeks out new designers that are just introducing their work to the world.  They seek out artists creating in low income countries.  They work with seasoned artists crafting by hand.  UncommonGoods scours the globe and the internet for items that serve a purpose, solve a problem, are beautiful, or are so unique they wonder why no one thought of it before.  Artists also have the opportunity to make their own online product submissions.  Lastly, in house development teams round out UncommonGoods.  Creativity inside and out!  Click here to see their artwork assortment.  So many good things to adorn your walls.

Another special thing about UncommonGoods is their commitment to the environment.  They work with their artists to use sustainable or recycled materials whenever they are able.  They make sure no materials used in a design ever involves harm to animals.  You won't find fur, feathers, leather, or pearls in their pages.  Environmentally friendlier packing materials are used, and they print their catalog on FSC certified and recycled paper.  Another thing I really like is their Better to Give program - when you place an order you can choose a partner for them to donate a dollar to with each order.    

So now that you know a little more about UncommonGoods as a company I'd love to show you my super useful and beautiful finds.  (I just visited their site again this morning, and just the home page alone is exciting!  Gift guides galore!)

Really, my favorite way to eat is to have a little of this, and a little of that.   This Lazy Susan puts my regular tray to shame.  

This is the description from their website:
Inspired by the communal, family-style dining favored by various cultures, this server includes five ceramic dishes on a rotating, acacia wood base. The dishes are removable for easy serving and clean up (microwave and dishwasher safe), and the central piece includes an acacia wood cover that serves as a cutting board for slicing food at the table. It brings modern, casual, functional design to dining.

One thing about my old tray was that I didn't enjoy reaching far across the table to get my food of choice.  Now with just a spin all the snacks are easy to add to your plate.  I found it best to have a cloth under the Lazy Susan for the best spin.  It is also very easy to use with all of it's individual dishes.  I was able to assemble each food on the ceramic dishes ahead of time - cover the refrigerated items with wrap - and pop them in the fridge.   (I don't cut my apple slices until right before serving.)

For this tray I decided to go old school and make some ham roll ups.  I use Boar's Head Honey Maple Ham, 1/3 less fat cream cheese, and green onions.  This is just one way to use this Lazy Susan.  The savory food choices you could use are endless - plus you can also fill it up with desserts.

This Math Dish Towel is another fantastic Uncommon Goods find.  For anyone who loves Math - I think this is a great addition to a gift.  You really can put any food or drink alongside or even a favorite cookbook!  I cannot even tell you how much the math guys in my house enjoyed this!  It was a total hit!  As for the "non" math girl - I just like it's looks.  I like text, but this is just really unique.  They also carry a mug, manly cocktail glasses, and even a pair of socks with Math all over them.

Here are just some of my items waiting for eating time.  In Michigan we have Mucky Duck Mustard.  This is the honey and hot flavor - they were out of the regular, and this turned out to be good because paired with Boar's Head Ovengold Turkey this was amazing!!!

Trader Joe's Sweet and Spicy Pecans.  Another favorite.

Whippet plate - I found the dog plates last year at a local store and got them for Christmas.  I have a Whippet so this was a very exciting find for me :)

Oh, and this cracker - so good!  I used the cranberry this time.

The tray worked out perfectly.  So pretty all assembled.  A fun way for us to eat by the television.  Uncommon Goods has so many items for the home.  Click here and here to find really great ideas for yourself as well as gifts for your friends and family.  Also, if you missed my last post click here to see just some of the items that caught my eye!

This tray really helped us enjoy a peaceful meal together.  Thank you UncommonGoods for the opportunity to work with you.  We will be enjoying our uncommon items for years to come.

Friday, November 13, 2015

UncommonGoods Home And Gift Idea's - What Caught My Eye

Next week I'm going to share a couple of really great products from UncommonGoods.  When looking through their online catalog for a item that really spoke to me, and one that I thought we would get a lot of use from I really stumbled across so many items that I'd love to own.  It was a difficult choice.

UncommonGoods is the perfect resource to turn to when shopping for unique items, and with Christmas around the corner it's a great time to get familiar with their company.  This is always a catalog I look at each year when I'm Christmas shopping.  Noah is into guitar and he has their Pick Punch.  It's a fun way to create your own guitar picks.  He is really smart and loves to have fun so this year I'm planning on getting him this Edible Chemistry Kit.  He is seriously into his Chemistry, and is taking AP Chem at school so this kit will be purely for entertainment!

Here are a few items for the home that caught my eye ... Click the links below to really see the quality and the detail that is in each item.

Thumbprint Alternative Guestbook - would be great to customize and use for any party

Sac A Plat - carry dishes and even bottles of wine to a friends for dinner

Basket Locker - I have been in love with basket locker cabinets for forever

Wood & Ceramic Tumblers - useful, handcrafted and beautiful = perfect

Crochet Dishcloths - adorable set of dishcloths - once again pretty and useful

Baseball Bat Bottle Openers - PERFECT for that hard to buy for sports fan.  I'm in love with this item!!!

Illustrated Land Pillow - despite all of the drawings this is really a great neutral pillow

Glass Teapot With Stand - this is just beautiful!

Tea Kettle - beautiful and useful is a theme :)

Cardboard Animal Heads - fun decorations for a child' room

Handmade Lidded Hamper - was so-ooo close to choosing the mint basket for our laundry room makeover - but I still have a bit more to finish in there :)

Repurposed Layered Wood Frames - STUNNING

Math Mug - great for the "smarties" in my house

Hand Painted Bocce Ball Set - the most gorgeous bocce ball set I've ever seen.  You could just display them in the house when not in use :)

So much to choose from!  For more shopping ideas click here for home and garden decor, here for art, and here for housewarming gift ideas.  Check back next week to see my super useful UncommonGoods find.  I'm really looking forward to using it this weekend!

* all photo's are from UncommonGoods website

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Seriously Delicious Homemade Roasted Tomato Soup - Make It Tonight!

Last night I made the most delicious tomato soup!

One comment from the table was "I don't even like tomato soup, but this is the best soup I have eaten in a long time".  The nice thing about this recipe is that it is not complicated plus it's full of healthy ingredients.  So, here it is ... and probably double it - we were able to make 3 bowls from this recipe.

Homemade Roasted Tomato Soup

1 - 14 oz. can chopped tomatoes (I used Whole Foods 365 Diced - no salt added)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large stalk celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth (I used Whole Foods Organic Low Sodium Chicken Broth)  also see below ...
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
(then at the end I added another 1/2 to 3/4 cup of chicken broth)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Strain the tomatoes, reserving the juices, and spread them on a foil lined baking sheet.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and then drizzle with 1/4 cup of the olive oil.  Roast until caramelized, about 15 minutes.  Stir every 5 minutes or so.

While the tomatoes are roasting heat the remaining oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the celery, carrot, onion, and garlic.  Cook until softened, about 10 minutes.  Add the roasted tomatoes, reserved tomato juices, chicken broth, bay leaf, and butter.  Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Next, remove bay leaf.  Puree soup with a handheld immersion blender until smooth.  I pureed mine on medium speed.  At the end I added around 3/4 cup of chicken broth to the pot.  I felt the soup needed extra liquid.  Garnish each bowl with some fresh basil.

I know I will be making more this week.  The texture of the soup was very rustic.  I didn't overly blend so it wasn't totally smooth.  My was it good!  We ate roasted chicken alongside, but next time I also want a warm loaf of crusty bread!

The original recipe was from Michael Chiarello.  I found it inside one of my favorite cookbooks - Food Network Favorites:  Recipes from Our All-Star Chefs.  I have made so many of the recipes in this book, and none have disappointed.  I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves to cook.

Oh, also if you are looking for an immersion blender this one comes with very good reviews, and it's made in lots of colors.  It is also at a very good price.  Mine is made by Russell Hobbs, and I couldn't find it anywhere online.  I've had it for a really long time.

The above photo's were all taken yesterday. Couldn't resist adding my cozy hound.

Happy soup making!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Things I'm Liking Now

Here is a quick list of some things things that I am loving now ...

(bought these for a job I'm working on)

 (Sugarboo sign I've wanted for so long ... maybe soon)

(have had these for awhile and just really like their style)

(got this for my laundry room - just have to figure out where to hook it up in my weird space)

(have 3 and I love - love - love them)

(always good ideas in here)

(will be ordering)

(got this for myself - great for you or for a gift)

($103.99 for a set of 2 - ordered for a job - really good quality - and that color!)

Cement and Copper Lamp
(ordered this for a job too!)

Rohini Daybed Cushion
(also, ordered for job - they are on the way - it's a very well priced daybed mattress - comes in 3 colors)

So, that is a list of things I'm liking right now.  What great finds have you come across lately?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Make This Tonight - Asian Beef Tacos Topped With Pickled Cucumber & Red Cabbage Slaw

This recipe is so-ooo good, and puts a new twist on the same old - same old taco dinner.   I've made this recipe so many times now - lately whenever I ask Noah for a request this is it!  If your going to make this recipe you may just want to make a double batch.  They will go quickly!

Asian Beef Taco's

1 lb. ground round
2 T. toasted sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. reduced sodium soy sauce
3 T. packed brown sugar
3 T. rice vinegar
1 T. water
1/4 t. crushed red pepper
queso fresco cheese
white or yellow corn tortillas or brown rice

In a large skillet brown ground round. Drain fat and set aside.

Add sesame oil to skillet.  Add garlic and cook 30 seconds or so until the garlic is slightly browned.  Stir in soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, water, and crushed red pepper.  Bring this mixture to a boil - reduce heat - simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

Return beef to the skillet and heat through.

Quick Pickled Cucumber & Red Cabbage Slaw

In a medium bowl whisk together:
 1/4 c. vinegar
1 T. sugar
1/4 t. salt

1 cup very thinly sliced cucumber
1 cup shredded or very thinly sliced red cabbage

Let this mixture stand for 15 minutes to 6 hours

To serve spoon beef onto tortillas.  using a slotted spoon top with the slaw and some queso fresco cheese.  I think this would also be good over brown rice - not to mention I sometimes just eat it on it's own - just meat-slaw-cheese.

t = teaspoon
T = tablespoon
c = cup

This recipe is adapted from Better Homes and Garden Magazine - I reduced the salt and sugar in the slaw and added the queso fresco cheese.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

What I've Been Working On ... This May Hurt Your Eyes!

I've been working on the update of an old roller rink - not sure how may decades of decor.  The paint colors and murals will scare you!


I don't think I would l want to have a birthday party here :)

This was a traditional  roller rink - then they changed it into a roller hockey place - the floor has been painted to look like ice.

Staircase to the mezzanine.

The kitchen.

This will become a nice seating area.

How about that carpet?

So, this is where my head has been.  I have to go through my phone pictures as well because the original kitchen area photo's from my camera are pretty blurry.

A lot of work is being done there right now.  New paint colors alone are making such a difference.   

So, what do you think?

It is an amazing project, and I'm happy to be a part of the team working on bringing this space back to modern times.  Between the owner, the contractor Kyle, all the craftsmen, and myself I'm excited to see the final product.  As each choice comes together we breathe a sigh of relief.  It's really starting to look like something good!

I hope you will follow   

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Spiced Toasted Pecans With Dried Cherries And Bittersweet Chocolate Chips

For awhile now I have been wanting to experiment with making spiced nuts.  There is a restaurant near me that has an appetizer of warm spiced nuts on their menu - I always find myself ordering them - and a Michigan made hard cider to go alongside.  From that inspiration I came up with this recipe - here the nuts are toasted and won't get your hands messy.  I also added cherries and chocolate for some spicy and sweet goodness.

Spiced Toasted Pecans With Dried Cherries And Bittersweet Chocolate Chips

1 T. olive oil
1/2 t. Franks Red Hot Sauce - original (for extra spice use 1 t. - I think it would be good)
2 c. pecan halves

1 1/2 t. chili powder
3/4 t. Celtic sea salt
1/2 t. black pepper (I like to use straight up McCormick)
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. powdered garlic
1/2 t. sugar
1/4 t. dried oregano
1/2 c. Ghirardelli's 60% Cocoa Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
3/4 c. dried cherries (I used Trader Joe's tart Montmorency dried cherries - they are larger and really delicious) 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Line a cookie sheet with Reynolds wrap.

In a bowl combine olive oil and hot sauce.  Add the pecans and toss to coat.  Set aside.

Combine all of the spices in a small bowl, and then add this mixture to the pecans.  Toss the pecans again to coat well with the spices.  Place the pecan mixture on cookie sheet in a single layer.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until pecans are toasted.  Stir every few minutes.  I cooked mine for 15 minutes.

You could serve just the nuts on their own warm, but if you wait until they cool and add the chocolate and cherries I think you will like that too!  

They are so delicious I am having a hard time staying away from the bowl :)