Olive My Heart – Hudson, Ohio

I’ve been remiss in posting about a wonderful gem in Hudson, Ohio called Olive My Heart. I heard about this olive oil and vinegar tasting room while reading akronlife magazine probably about a year ago. The concept intrigued me: the entire store is filled with different gourmet olive oils and vinegar that patrons can sample.

Ryan and I visited the store not too soon after I read that article, and our first visit lasted well over an hour. I had no idea how many different types of olive oil and vinegar there are – or how different they taste. The exotic names and flavors kept getting better and better with each taste. The staff was amazing and very knowledgeable.

The olive oils there included many EVOO’s from both the northern and southern hemispheres, and various flavor infused oils, including basil, garlic and wild mushroom & sage. The vinegar is all balsamic and comes in both dark and white. There are a TON of flavors, including champagne, fig, honey ginger and pineapple. Being the spice lovers that we are, we purchased a chili pepper-infused olive oil called Harissa. We also bought a dark vinegar flavored with maple.

Now, I understand that sounds incredibly weird. I thought so too, but I have become a complete and total believer in flavored vinegar. This stuff has a mild acidity and a sweet, delicious maple taste. I use this on my salads – and nothing else.

That’s right – a no fat, low-calorie salad dressing that tastes divine.

I have added a drizzle of the Harissa olive oil for a little extra kick – and that just takes it to a whole new level. We have also used this as a marinade for grilled chicken. A-mazing.

If you are in the area and want to try out Olive My Heart, stop in and do a taste testing. They have bread to accompany the olive oil and vinegar samples – and plenty of water. It’s a fun – and free! – date or girls-day-trip that isn’t run-of-the mill. And you might even find a product (or two) that you want to take home.

If you’re not in the area and are interested in purchasing some of the store’s products, they do take orders online. The website also has some recipes. I think you will really enjoy their products. I’m certainly hooked: this wonderful store has captured “olive” my taste buds.

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DIY Coffee Creamer – and A Yummy Coffee Drink

The skies have been cloudy and dreary in Northeast Ohio the past couple of days. I’ve actually been wearing long sleeves and jeans mixed in with my shorts and T-shirts, which makes me sad after posting my Summer Bucket List just a couple of days ago.

But there is one good thing about the chilly, wet weather: is it has forced me to attend to inside projects. One thing I’ve been wanting to do lately is make more DIY coffee creamer. In this family, we drink coffee anytime, anywhere, any season. We love us some coffee.

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My first attempt at a DIY coffee creamer was a yummy success, but this time I decided to go with a slightly less intense version. In addition, I used almond milk instead of dairy milk.

DIY Coffee Creamer

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– 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk

– 28 oz of almond milk or dairy milk (I used unsweetened almond)

– 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (optional)

1. Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a blender. You might need a spatula to get it all out. Do not discard sweetened condensed milk can.

2. Fill the now-empty can with milk of your choice; pour into blender. Repeat. You should have 28 oz. of milk in the blender with 14 oz. of sweetened condensed milk.

3. If desired, add vanilla to blender.

4. Turn blender on low-medium, until mixture is combined. About 30-45 seconds.

5. Pour into storage container and enjoy!

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You can skip the blender entirely if you have a large bottle or container with a lid. Follow the instructions above, but instead add everything to the bottle, not the blender. Shake to combine – and enjoy the arm workout that comes with doing it this way! Also note that this recipe makes waaaay more than that itty bitty mason jar shown. I just did that for looks; I can’t resist anything in a mason jar!

I loved my first attempt that this, but I L-O-V-E this second attempt. I don’t add any sweetener to my coffee, so the less intense version is perfect for me. If you like a sweeter java, just add less milk.

And don’t forget – if you have a favorite coffee syrup (like the ones made by Torani) – you can substitute that for the vanilla extract. But be warned – syrup is more intense, so use less of it. Add a tiny bit at a time – you can always add more later. 

Finally, I wanted to share a little “luxury” I have at home for my coffee. A few years ago, I bought a milk frother from World Market. Simply add milk, and with a few pumps this simple little gadget makes frothy milk for lattes, just like a coffee-house. For around $20, I would call that a very affordable luxury.

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Unfortunately, last Christmas when I wanted to buy one for my mom and sister, I found that World Market no longer sold these frothers. However, they are still around on the internet (like here), and are still a great price. Or – you can go with a hand-held one (like this one) like the ones I ended up getting my mom and sister. At $2.99, it is an even more affordable luxury.

Hope you enjoy it a latte! : )

Last minute DIY Christmas Gift – Coasters

Anyone else not done with Christmas shopping yet? I’m sooooo close!

If you haven’t braved it and gone to a mall lately, know this: stores are crazy right now. And shipping-time is making online shopping an increasingly less likely option. So, if you still have people to shop for, it might be time to consider making some hot chocolate, putting on some holiday music and getting your “crafter” face on.

These DIY coasters are doubly delightful: they are ridiculously easy and they cost less than $10 to  make. You’ll need the following supplies:

* Cork coasters (most craft stores should have them. I got these at Michael’s)

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* Mod Podge
* Small paint brush
* Map of your favorite place or scrapbook paper
* Stamp (optional)

First, decide what kind of coasters you want to make. For the ones for our library, I decided to make “map coasters” of all the places in Ohio that mean something to Ryan and me:

Akron – where we bought our first home and currently live
Tiffin – where we met at Heidelberg University
Ravenna – where I grew up
Fairlawn – where we got married
Lima – where Ryan grew up
Bowling Green – where I went to grad school (Bowling Green State University)
Lorain – the fire department where Ryan works
Cleveland – home to our favorite sports teams!

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I got this map of Ohio from a turnpike rest stop – but places such as Wal-Mart sell them as well.

As you will see below, if you just want to make decorative coasters with scrapbook paper, just pick out the paper and stamp (if you desire).

Once you have decided on the kind of coaster you want to make, trace circles around the paper, using the coasters as a guide, and cut out.

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Put a thin layer of Mod Podge on the coaster and immediately put one of the paper circles on top. Make sure the edges are lined up and set aside to dry. Continue with the rest of the coasters. When they are mostly dry, put a layer of Mod Podge on top of the assembled coaster. Again, do the same for all the coasters. This time, let them dry completely. I recommend putting at least another layer of Mod Podge on the coasters (I put two more). Once they are again completely dry, they are ready to use!

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I love these because they can be completely customized to fit any personality and any decor. And they are a great gift because who doesn’t need coasters as an ally in the battle against water rings? If maps aren’t your thing, try using fun scrapbook paper. A stamp finishes it off:

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I must have a “thing” for bird stamps

In any case, there is sure to be someone in your life that would enjoy these – even if that someone is yourself! We all deserve a little treat this time of year, right? Happy holidays!

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Pet Portrait – DIY

I was recently on the hunt for art work to hang above Sarge’s food and water bowl in the hallway leading out to our back door. Along with my mom and sister, I spent an afternoon looking at several stores, but I didn’t find anything that fit my two criteria for artwork:

1. It has to be unique. I want artwork in our home to be something I wouldn’t see in someone else’s, and

2. It cannot cost a lot of money, because, well, I’m cheap.

I thought about getting another canvas of Sarge made – but since that would involve spending money getting ANOTHER canvas of our dog made, I thought that might be overkill.

Then, an idea hit me. In my head, it was so easy and would cost less than $20 to make. And guess what? I was right!

The only supply I had to purchase was a blank canvas from Michael’s. With a 40% off coupon, it was just under $8. Next, I took this picture of Sarge’s profile (taken during one of our only big snow storms last winter):

In Paint, under Page Setup, I formatted it so that the picture was 400% under “Scaling”. Make sure you do a print preview to see how the profile looks. The quality will be terrible, but it doesn’t matter – you won’t be using the actual picture.

I then printed the few pages I needed in black and white. Again – you won’t be using the actual printed picture, so no need for color. And let’s remember to be green: when blowing up a picture to this size, there will be a lot of pages you won’t need. For my picture, there was 22 pages that didn’t include any piece of Sarge’s profile.

After I printed, I cut out around the pieces of Sarge’s profile. I then taped together all of the cut out pieces, so I had a giant, blurry profile of Sarge. It would be wonderful if I could show you what mine looked like – but I deleted the pictures I took off of my camera for some unknown reason. Grrrr.

Anyway, I then taped the giant profile to the canvas, traced around it with a pencil and then carefully removed the paper.

Using black acrylic paint and paint brushes I had left over from another project, I painted around the outside of the traced line of Sarge’s profile. Only one coat of the paint was needed.

The finished product:

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I realize that I will win no art competitions with this, but man, I love it! It’s unique, it cost under $10 and it means something to me.

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Quick reader poll: How many canvas profiles of your dog can you have in your house before people start thinking you’ve lost your mind? Because I might test that limit. : )

 

 

June 2012 Birchbox

This month’s box of goodies arrived at my door last week.

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And the Birchbox theme of the months is…Jet Set!

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The box included:

– Two self-tanning towlettes from Comodyness – very excited to try these! Self-tanning is what all the cool kids are doing.
– A sample bottle of Juicy Couture fragrance – not my favorite, but fun and summery. I’ll definitely get some use out of it.
– Jouer tinted moisturizer – I loved last month’s tinted moisturizer, so I’m looking forward to trying this one as well.
– theBalm cosmetics Stainiac two-in-one lip and cheek stain – LOVE the color of this.
– COOLA SPF 30 sunscreen – eco-friendly + SPF = awesome.
– Modcloth headband – so retro! I gave this a test-drive while doing some shopping over the weekend. I was very impressed with how well it stayed put. Plus, since it wraps around your head using a flexible wire, no painful pressure points!

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Very cool Birchbox this month. And the headband alone retails for $14, so again the $10 investment was worth it. It’s the start of vacation season, which means it’s also the perfect time to have these travel essentials. Well played, Birchbox. Well played.

P.S. For July, Birchbox teamed up with Glamour for a “Five Senses” box. I’m intrigued…

 

Shop and Do Good

What do you get when you combine shopping, Groupon-like deals and giving to a good cause? Besides a fatter wallet and warm, fuzzy feelings, you have Socialgoodies.com. Sounds like my kind of site. Here’s how it works:

Sign up at Socialgoodies.com and buy one of the site’s deals. For example, earlier this month, you could purchase a $40 credit for Good on Paper (an online paper store with customizable thank you cards, sticky notes and much more) for just $20.

After your purchase, the site will send you a “Goodie Voucher” email with a code. When you’re ready to shop, use this code in the coupon/promotional code area when checking out with your purchases.  You deal will be applied after the code is entered.

And the best part? 20% of the cost of the purchased deal is donated to a charity of your choice. So, in our example above, $4 from the $20 Good on Paper purchase would go to your choice of one of the three charities the site is featuring that month.

Socialgoodies.com is adding more deals and charities everyday (when I checked last night, the site had donated over $38,000 to charities), so consider checking out this site when doing your online shopping. Getting greats deals while contributing to charity? Win-win.

Living Social Deal – Vistaprint

As a personal rule, I’m generally against using excessive capitalization to express emotion, however, I’M SO EXCITED ABOUT TODAY’S LIVING SOCIAL DEAL FOR AKRON!

Ok, that’s enough of that.

Now that I have that out of my system, here is the information on the deal:

For $10, you get a $50 at Vistaprint.com for custom invitations, business cards, photo books and so much more. That’s 80% savings! Since I am planning a baby shower for one of my best friends this summer, I was instantly interested. Invitations are not cheap. Here is the link to the deal: http://www.livingsocial.com/deals/289848?rpi=51504294&ref=personalized-link-box-51504294&rui=34508046

I’m not one to impulsively buy Living Social deals or Groupons; I first do research on if it really is a “deal”. In order for me to buy this deal, I needed these invitations to be 1) cute/modern/not ugly, and 2) not outrageously expensive. So, I looked on Vistaprint.com to get the low-down the site’s invitation selection. My conclusion: Wow, it’s huge! And their invitations are really cool. I was very impressed. Even better: they are very well priced. I quickly compared the price of a 1st birthday party invitation on Shutterfly to the ones on Vistaprint.com. I used invitations in the middle of the price ranges for both sites (i.e., not the least expensive, but not the most expensive). For 50 invitations, Shutterfly cost $66 ($1.32 per card); on Vista, 50 invitations cost $32.45 (just under $0.65 per card).

I didn’t compare prices for photo books, so if that’s what you’re interested in, I suggest doing a little pricing on those before you buy the deal.

This seriously made my lunch hour complete.