Monday, November 8, 2010

On Their Way

Just a short, mostly picture post to show some outgoing I've put in the mailbox in the past few days... These are all very long overdue...sorry peeps!

For Belen...

Heading out to Megan...

To Lauren...

Above two are going out for Postcrossing, one to Montana here in the states and one to Lithuania.  It's been a while since I participated in Postcrossing so I thought I'd give it a go.

That long break really made me forget how much I enjoy writing!  Once I sat down and started writing letters & postcards and making envelopes I enjoyed it so much and was so happy I got back into the swing of things.  Sometimes breaks are just what you need to remind yourself how much you miss or enjoy something!

Hope this mail finds all of its recipients well!  Happy Monday everyone.

Friday, November 5, 2010


From here.  Do you guys fill up imaginary shopping carts on sites like this too and drool over things you really shouldn't spend money on?

It's another warm day here where I am... woke up at a decent time and got in a an hour of tennis and a nice breakfast out with J before he had to go to work.  I set up a desk area for myself (finally) after being inspired by a couple other bloggers here and here.  No more writing and working at the coffee table hunched over, or at the kitchen table with all my stuff strewn about.  I finally have a dedicated area with all my mail supplies, all my wonderful inbound mail to look at, etc., and a nice open desk space with room to do my thing.  And that's exactly what I did today!  I opened the window wide up, made myself an iced coffee, put on some music, and started rifling through magazines for good material for some handmade envelopes.  Check 'em out:

All 8 of 'em together...

A couple of my favorites from today:

From GQ mag...

Also from GQ

Dog food ad from a food magazine...

It really does make a huge difference to get a nice space set up for yourself to do your work.  I am so much more inspired to be creative and do good work at the desk now!  I can't wait to fill it up with fun stuff... I'm thinking of hanging favorite postcards, inspirational quotes (anyone have any good ones?), and fun art all over the place.  Once it's a little more exciting to look at I'll post some photos for you all to see.

Before I end this post I wanted to prove that I've made some headway on my list of outbound letters that need to be written, haha.  I had 10 letters to respond to, all in order, and of course they got out of order, so I just kind of randomly chose who I responded to first... and the winner was...

I tried to send a nice pile of goodies for Bianca since she sent me such a wonderful set of stuff in her last letter to me.  It's hard to match her level of wonder...ful...ness(?) haha, but I think she'll like what I sent along!  :)

I p-p-promise to get to work on the rest of my incoming pile of letters that need responses ASAP.  Until next time!

P.S. - See an envelope you like?  Don't hesitate to ask; I have more than I know what to do with so I'd be happy to send your next letter in one or just send you one for you to use however your please.  Leave a comment if you're interested!  :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Italian Wedding Soup

The soup in all its close-up glory.

The weather here has been very strange lately, and it seems every time I put the flannel sheets on the bed in preparation for cold weather, it heats up beyond belief.  You never quite know what to expect when planning meals because it could be hot, hot, hot during the day, but cool down considerably at night.  Shouldn't it just be cold, wet, and rainy in November?  Can't I just put away the shorts and t-shirts and bring out the coats, sweaters, and umbrellas?  Guess not.  The following recipe finds a perfect balance - a soup that isn't so stewy that you would regret making it if it turned out to be hotter than you expected, and at the same time would still warm and satisfy you if it got really chilly.  Like many of the recipes featured on my blog, it is an adaptation from an original recipe.  In this case, the original came from Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) here.

I got about 25 meatballs out of my mixture at this size.


3/4 pound ground turkey
1/2 pound hot Italian sausage, removed from casings
2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs (from 2 slices white bread pulsed in food processor)
2 minced garlic cloves
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons half & half
1 egg
Kosher salt & pepper

Olive Oil
1 cup diced yellow onion
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery
10 cups chicken stock or broth
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup small pasta (I used mini bowties)
1/4 cup minced fresh dill
12 ounces baby spinach


Preheat your oven to 350F.

To make the meatballs, combine ground turkey through egg, plus 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in the bowl of an electric mixer.  (Some chefs may cringe at the fact that I made my meatballs in a mixer because it should be done by hand for a lighter, less dense meatball, but honestly, it saves me the time and mess or doing it by hand and mixes it really well, and I don't notice a HUGE difference if I do it by hand or with a fork.  Do it however you please, this is just my preference.  If I was at work and had foodhandler gloves handy, I'd probably just do it by hand, but at home, I tend to use my mixer).   After the mixture is well-combined, form into 1 to 1-1/4 inch meatballs and place on a parchment-lined or well-greased baking sheet.  Bake for 30 minutes, until thoroughly cooked and lightly browned.  Set aside for use later.

For the soup, heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a large soup pot.  Add the onions, carrot, and celery and saute until softened.  In this case, you just want the veggies to "sweat," not caramelize.  Keep your burner at medium-low and let them cook gently.  Once softened, add the stock and wine and bring to a boil.  Add the pasta to the boiling broth and cook until the pasta is tender (all pasta will vary, check periodically for doneness).  Add the dill and the meatballs and simmer briefly, then taste for seasoning.  Stir in the spinach, in batches if necessary, until just wilted, then serve.  Garnish with fresh parsley and/or dill, and Parmesan cheese if desired.

How romantic!  :)  I also made scallion biscuits and a simple green salad to go with the soup.  Such a nice meal...

Monday, November 1, 2010


Best.  Granola.  Ever.

I've known that granola like this exists, because I've eaten it many times, but I've never made it myself.  It's crunchy, it's sweet, but not too sweet, and my favorite part, it's got those big crunchy clusters you hear about in Honey Bunches of Oats commercials.  I knew there must be a secret to making this type of granola but I never knew what it was - until now.  I saw Alton Brown make his granola recipe and wanted to try it out, and after a couple minor changes, I got the granola I'm talking about.  The secrets I found, are the three Ts: temp, time, and turning.  I have never had the patience to wait around mess around with the granola for the amount of time this recipe requires, but believe me, it is truly worth it (and not actually as much work as my lazy self had assumed)!  Here is the recipe (like I said, adapted from the wonderful Alton Brown's here):

Close-up during one of the flips...


3 cups rolled oats
1 cup raw sliced almonds
1 cup raw cashews
3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 250F.

In a large bowl, combine oats, almonds, cashews, coconut, and brown sugar.

In a separate bowl, combine the honey, oil, and salt.  Pour the liquid mixture into the oat mixture and mix well.  Pour the mixture onto a sheet pan(s) so it is in an even layer.  (Make sure the pan is very well-greased or lined with parchment or wax paper to avoid sticking while turning and after the cooking process is done).

Cook for a total of 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to ensure an even color and to avoid burning.  After the time is up, remove the sheet pan and let cool.  The mixture will still seem a little wet, but after it cools it dries out a bit and becomes crispy, crunchy, and gets those wonderful little clusters.  After the mixture is cool, break up to your liking and mix in the cranberries.

I try my very best to avoid dairy, so I enjoy this granola for breakfast with my favorite almond milk, but you can enjoy it with your favorite milk, yogurt, ice cream, or just dry as a snack in between meals.  ENJOY!  :)

Some other combinations for fruit/nuts you can try:

-Dried cherries & almonds
-Dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, and pecans, tossed with some cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves (perfect for the holidays)!
-Cashews, almonds, crushed banana chips, and crystallized ginger (tropical style)

Friday, October 29, 2010


I don't even want to look at the date of my last post because I think it will make me feel even worse about this extended break I've taken from blogging!  Anyhow, I am back in action writing letters and as we speak I am whipping up a delicious dinner and some little side treats that will make for some great blogging fodder.  Hope you are all well; I will be back soon with some fun stuff!

-Aaron  :)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Hey folks!  So, something exciting happened to me yesterday!  It'f funny, I was just telling Megan in my intro letter that my blog so far has been really limited to just mail or food, and I was hoping for something exciting to happen so I could write about it, and I totally forgot about this certain thing going to happen, even though I'd had it planned for about 10 days prior.  Anyway, more on that later.

First, some mail.  After seeing Bianca post about it, I took a look at Cute Tape and couldn't help myself and indulged in 8 different types of Japanese Washi tape.  As you'll see I've been going a bit tape crazy on my recent letters.

 I have been using some tractor envelopes that Patty made and gave me in a recent swap, and decorating them with old receipts and some rub-ons from Patty as well.  I had never seen such a thing before, maybe you all have, but they are really cool!  Basically you cut out whatever piece you want, peel off the backing, and rub it on with [basically] a popsicle stick, and then the image transfers from the paper to whatever you're transferring it to.

Sadly, there was no incoming mail, but I did make a dent in letters needing to be written.  The following two were both intro letters going out for a new pen pals swap on Swap-bot.  The guidelines were to write an intro letter and include some little extras for your partner, so I added in some postcards and/or handmade envelopes into each.  Check 'em out:

and one more...

So, that does it for mail.  Onto the surprise, if you can call it that!  So, here it is:

I got a tattoo yesterday!  I have been thinking about this specific idea for quite a while now, and a few weeks back something just hit me and I realized I was really ready to finally get it done.  I can't quite explain it but it was a definite change of feelings.  I did some final research on fonts, sizing, etc., and came up with pretty much what I wanted.  I had known of a particular tattoo artist through two good friends of mine who knew other people who had also gotten tattoos from this specific woman, and heard nothing but great things about her, so I called her up to see if she would be interested in doing the tattoo for me and she was.  We met and discussed the idea and I told her what I wanted slightly tweaked, and set a date from there.  It's so funny because there was a 10 day gap in between meeting her and the date set for actually doing it, and I was fine up until the day before, when I woke up thinking, "Oh my gosh, I'm getting a tattoo tomorrow!"  And then the day of, I woke up at 7:30 on my own, which never happens, and couldn't go back to bed!  I was so restless, I woke up, wrote a letter, cleaned, did an errand or two, etc., etc., etc.  Finally the time came and it was surprisingly less scary once she started setting up and prepping and everything.  The woman who did the tattoo is an amazingly nice person; she puts you at ease immediately, answers any and all questions nicely, and best of all, she was extremely clean and thorough with her procedure which was, of course, of huge importance to me.  Anyway, I'm rambling here, but the point is, I had a wonderful first-time experience and I couldn't be happier.  

So you're probably wondering about what the tattoo means?  Well, to be honest, I never thought I'd want to get a word or phrase tattooed on me, but I eventually saw some people with tattoos like that that I really liked and eventually came to the word 'accept' because I think it just sums up a lot of things that I aspire to do.  I can be very easily annoyed, I get frustrated easily, I can be very hard on myself and others, and to put it bluntly, I am trying to CHILL OUT.  I basically want to accept who I am, who others are, what life throws at me, and deal with things in a little calmer way.  So yeah, there's that, among other things.  Wow, I think that was like, my most personal post yet.  I guess re-reading it it wasn't that crazily personal but like I said earlier, my posts have been pretty much only food and mail-related so this was a stretch for me.  Sorry if it was ramble-icious!  Alright everyone, till next time!  Happy food-ing, fun-ing, and post-ing!  ;)


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Picture Predicament

Quick question for everyone:

I'm really not too crazy about the photos I take and post to the blog, but I'm not sure how to make them better!  For the most part they are blurry and not great quality; I'm not sure if it's my camera or me, but does anyone have any tips on how to photograph well?  Like, flash or no flash?  How to light the area when snapping shots?  Maybe I need to study up on how to work my particular camera and the options it has, but if anyone has any quick tips that may help me out, I'd really appreciate it!  ;)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sorry for the long delay, folks.  I have to admit, though, the fire to write and blog just hasn't been there for a while!  I hate to say it but it's the truth  :(  I can't explain why but I'm back in the swing of things and have written some letters and am ready to blog!  It really is inspiring to read all of y'all's blogs and see letters being written and art being created; it really brought me out of this recent funk, so thank you all for that!  Check out some of my recent mail:


^Above 3 pictures form one letter from Zoe.  I wrote her an intro letter a couple weeks back and I got a prompt reply, always a plus!  ;)  Great letter, mail tag requests, and a cute bumper sticker.

  ^Milton fold-n-seal from The Missive Maven.  A while back I sent her a Milton fold-n-seal of my own so she sent me one back in return!

^First of two letters from a pen pal swap on Swap-bot.  This girl included some fun greeting cards along with her great intro letter, which was written on paper made from elephant dung!  Cool, huh?

^Second letter from above-mentioned swap.  Another great intro letter from a woman who I was paired up with for my St. Patrick's day swap back in March.  She didn't mention remembering me from that swap so I'm not sure if she remembers me or not...I'll have to remind her in my reply back.  ;)

^Cool vintage postcard from Megan.  I am excited to write back with an intro letter to get our letter-writing rolling!

^Fantastic letter from Bianca.  (Image courtesy her blog)  I especially love this because a WHILE back she posted pictures of some envelopes she had made, this one included, and I distinctly remember saying to myself, 'Wow, I LOVE that envelope!'  I just thought it was so weird but cool and I almost asked Bianca to send my next letter in it, but then I decided against it since it it might sound a then I check her blog a few days back and sure enough, there is my name on THAT envelope!  Yeah, so, her letter was great as always, and on top of it, one of my mail tag requests in my last letter to her was 'something mail art-related that I can put to use' and what I had in mind was, like, a postcard or two, or a few labels, or some stickers, and she ended up sending a TON of stuff, all of which I loved.  Really above and beyond; so much fun!  Check it all out:


^Labels, stickers, tags, fun bits & pieces...

^WAY COOL handmade envelope with sewn flap.

Unfortunately at this point, my outgoing pile is much smaller than my incoming pile, but I'm working on changing that as we speak!  Here is what I've put in the mail (or will be putting in the mail first thing tomorrow):
^Reply to Lauren.  Envelope made from a sci-fi art book I picked up at the thrift store.

^Long-delayed reply to Belen.  I was having trouble coming up with good mail tag replies but it all came together (with some help from J) at the last moment so I hope she enjoys everything!  :)

Well that'll do it for this post, folks.  Hope you all are well.  I'll update with other outgoing (and hopefully incoming!) items as they come up.  L8R!  :)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Hello, hello!  Just sitting here grooving out to Erykah Badu's new album, and LOVING it!  I have never really listened to her music before now but I checked out her album after all the media attention was given to her new music video, and I ended up really liking the CD!  Her voice is just so unique, and the music in her songs just puts me in this really relaxed, almost dreamy state; it's really cool.  I always do this with new music though, I listen to it non-stop, just over, and over, and OVER again, and then I end up getting tired of it, so we'll see if I overdo it with this one too, LoL.  As of right now, though, I am in musical heaven.  Sooo....MAIL TIME!

Today in the mail I got a much anticipated letter from Belen, and a piece of post I was afraid actually got lost in the mail, but thank goodness I was wrong.  Usually mail only takes 2 days to get from her to me or vice versa since we are only a couple hours drive apart, but this letter took about a week, so I was worried! It was quite a thick envelope, though, and a little lopsided and special, and I can tell by the blurred/cockeyed/cut-off stamp cancel that the mail machine didn't do to well while sorting it, so that probably explains the lateness.  I was so excited to see it in the mail today!  ANYWAY, it was well worth the wait, as it was chock full of goodies!  A wonderful letter (as usual) and mail tag responses and requests.  Take a look:

^Front - love the envelope and stamp!

^Contents: Letter, her mail tag requests, and my mail tag requests: paint samples (LOVE THEM), list of ten, and some vanilla rooibos Tazo tea that I really can't wait to try; it smells so good and she said she enjoys it latte style, which I will definitely try since I always get vanilla lattes...perfect choice Belen!

Can't wait to reply to Belen, really.  That's it for incoming for the past couple days.  Here is some outgoing mail:

^Front of a postcard for Postcrossing.  From Postcrossing I checked out the receiver's blog and found out she is Courtney, a follower of my blog!  Cool coincidence, huh?  Her blog is really fun, and she's got some great mail on there, too.  Check it out!

^Back of the postcard...little blue fish is a 3D sticker I got on sale at Michael's in a sticker pack for like, $1.00.  I've been putting them on lots of stuff lately.

^A thank-you postcard for Anu.  She sent an entry for my 50 State Challenge and asked for a postcard in problem there!  :)

^Back of postcard...another 3D fish and some other fishy stickers I got in a Swap-bot swap.

^Handmade map envelope and intro letter to Zoe.  I have such a hard time writing intro letters...anyone else in the same boat on that one?  I just find that I'm kind of at a loss for what to say to a stranger.  I hope that doesn't come off the wrong way - I am so excited to write to new people and build up my contact list, but things just seem to get rolling easier for me after the first couple letters have been written.  

^Back, with big ol' 3D octopus from the same sticker pack as the fish.  

^Cat fold-n-seal with a quick note to The Missive Maven

Just a quick note before I wrap up the mail portion of this post: I am totally always looking for new pen-pals!  Last post, Zoe commented and said she'd like to become pen-pals and I was so happy...I feel like I haven't really expressed that, and since I don't make my address public it's not as easy for people to just write if they wanted to.  So, that said, always feel free to comment on posts and exchange e-mails and we can write from there...I would truly love it!

Oh, and one more note for mail...and I'm sure if you're reading my lonely little blog, you've already heard about this, but just in case you haven't, Bianca is doing a fun giveaway to celebrate the opening of her Etsy store/200th post/reaching 200 followers, so you should totally enter and try to win!  Speaking of which, I have to go do that myself.

To celebrate Easter this past Sunday, J and I cooked a nice dinner for my mom and grandparents.  I don't give up anything for Lent, but my mom gave up wine and my grandma gave up sweets/treats/snacks, so this was definitely a joyous day for them, especially because during Lent it's both my grandparents' birthdays and there couldn't be dessert because of my grandma's no-sweets thing, and both celebrations this year ended up on Fridays, which means no meat either!  We go to go all out for Easter dinner this year.  Once again, our menu came from Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques.  As I've said before, this is a cookbook with recipes that require some time and TLC to complete, which is why we save it for occasions like this.  Farmer's Market produce helped make this meal super fab:

^Kabocha squash and fennel soup with candied pumpkin seeds.  I'm not a huge squash fan, and haven't loved Kabocha when we've cooked it before, but this was one yummy squash!  Super fragrant and sweet tasting...yum yum.

^Devi'ls chicken thighs with braised leeks.  (We all laughed when we realized we made a dish called Devil's chicken thigh's on Easter...)  I wish this was a more photogenic dish, but oh well, it tasted delicious!  The chicken is seared on the stovetop, then coated in a dijon mustard sauce, and then topped with homemade herbed breadcrumbs before being baked on top of the braised leeks, which were also really, really tasty.

^Dessert: hazelnut-brown butter cake with sauteed pears.  OMG, best part of the meal in my opinion.  Cake made with, and pears sauteed with, fresh vanilla bean, which makes such a HUGE difference!  To make the cake you grind hazelnuts with powdered sugar and flour for the dry ingredients, then alternately fold brown butter (butter that you cook until it's super nutty and delicious) and the dry ingredients into whipped egg whites for a super light and yummy cake.  Fresh whip cream for fun on top, plus syrupy goodness from the pear pan.

Hope you all are well, and hopefully the rest of the week brings me some good mail and/or food to blog about in the coming days.  Until next time!

Song of the moment: Window Seat
Artist: Erykah Badu
Album: New Amerykah, Pt. 2: Return of the Ankh