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8/28/15

69. weekend to-do's



li:
  1. sail away for the day. we'll be spending saturday afternoon on spectacle island for a mini getaway. the island boasts hiking, quiet beaches and great views of boston's skyline. what's best is that it's only a 20 minute ferry ride from long wharf.
  2. saturday supper. i'm excited to finally check out loyal nine in east cambridge. this "east coast revival" restaurant was recently included in eater.com's list of america's 21 best new restaurants and was one of 50 nominees for bon appetite's "hot 10" list.
  3. get in gear. i'm shaping up for a charity bike ride in maine next month. lucky for me, the handle bar recently opened a location in harvard square. this indoor cycling studio offers low-lighting and great music - helping to make my workouts a lot more fun.
  4. menswear with a mission. andy's had an especially busy week at work and i've been wanting to pick up something special to reward him. katherine zeren's line of consciously-made ties are a perfect gift. not only are all of her pieces domestically produced from organic and/or recycled fabric, but they're super stylish (gotta keep my guy looking sharp!).

liz:
  1. preserving garden treats. i'll be helping my friend autumn in her busy kitchen canning delicious dill pickles and making tomato jam! she is a master at gardening, cooking, canning and baking. recently, she made her bourbon poached peaches for catalogue and they were incredible so i can't wait to get to work on these veggies!
  2. stretch it out on the farm. liana and i are heading to white barn farm in wrentham for a day long yoga retreat with teachers jenn falk and carolyn little. in addition to practicing yoga in a beautiful outdoor environment, the owners of the farm, chris and christy, are preparing a beautiful farm-to-table lunch for all of us and all the ingredients for the meal are either grown on the farm or locally sourced.
  3. coffee & egg time. i'm making a trip over to 3 little figs this weekend for an iced coffee and their egg and feta sandwich. the flavors of the feta, greek herbs and arugula on brioche bread are the perfect combo. and, i may even pick up a lavender scone for my afternoon snack.

8/25/15

68. profile: kwohtations



we are so excited to be profiling janine kwoh and her line of handmade greeting cards, kwohtations. janine started making cards on a whim a few years ago. since then, she has managed to grow a thriving business based on her quirky, hilarious and often touching creations. we love that she celebrates the events and occasions you don't often see represented in the card aisle. we recently spent an afternoon with janine discussing inspiration and advice - we also got a peek at her process and the work that goes into each unique card:

what are some unexpected everyday sources of inspiration?
thrift shops full of odds and ends. bookstores where you can claim a nook with a pile of books for an entire afternoon. the rare heart-to-heart with a stranger. unsanctioned art.


what is your favorite time of day to create?
really early in the morning, when everything is quiet. once the day begins, i start my daily juggling of professional, social and personal commitments. but at 6 am, there isn't anything else i need to be doing except what's right in front of me.


favorite or most inspirational place:
the public docks along the charles river esplanade is my favorite place in the city. i've gone there for impromptu picnics with friends; as a welcome break during long runs after work and solo weekend wanderings; and on a date to watch the sunset armed with a blanket and a bottle of wine. once, i sat out there by myself during a hurricane to watch the water and have a good think, which was as close to a spiritual experience as i've had. also, i think twinkly lights make any place instantly magical.

how did the idea to start a greeting card business come about?
kwohtations is kind of like a one-night stand that turned into a meaningful, committed relationship. it started as a funny, hypothetical "what if" conversation with my friend Amy, as in, what if we could send so-and-so a card for that time we said "i love you" too soon (or didn't say it at all), or crashed on their couch (for a month), or ran away (literally) from a date, or got really drunk (and ate all their cookies)? i made a few cards just for a laugh. i never thought i would try to grow it into a business, but the more time i spent making and thinking about cards, the more kwohtations took on a deeper meaning for me as a tangible way to celebrate real life and real people, and to provoke people into reflecting on what constitutes an occasion worth commemorating.


 


how do you balance a thriving creative business with your full-time day job?
i'm honestly still trying to figure that one out. i've managed it so far by dedicating the early mornings, late nights and some weekends to kwohtations. i've also learned to use small pockets of time - i always have a batch of cards in the process of being made, so i'm often running upstairs to do a little painting or stamping if i have even 10 or 15 minutes. i'm also trying to be mindful of scheduling in quality time each week with my friends and for myself, but don't always get the balance right and end up sleepy and disgruntled. on the flip side, having a creative outlet such as kwohtations has helped me feel more productive, confident and fulfilled, which i hope makes me a better friend, employee and overall human being.


you recently wrote an incredibly thoughtful blog post on the need for diversity in the card aisle. do you receive a lot of feedback from customers who relate to your cards in a way they haven't been able to when shopping for cards in the past?
one of my absolute favorite parts of the job is having a booth at flea markets and being able to talk to visitors and see their reactions to the cards. i spend a lot of time perusing card aisles, and the best cards are the ones that i have an immediate gut reaction to, like they were written with my life pinned on the inspiration board. so i always feel like i'm doing something right whenever someone holds up a kwohtations card and says, "this is me!". that's the very best feedback i can hope for.



do customers ever make suggestions or requests for cards?
yes, all the time. i always enjoy hearing what cards people ask for because it gives me just the tiniest glimpse into what's going on in their lives. for example, people have suggested cards for pet birthdays, horrible bosses, break-ups, adoptions, layoffs, etc. i'll also work with customers to make custom cards. for example, my friend's mom was getting a hearing aid so we made her a "yay, you're getting a selective hearing aid!" card. someone else wanted an irreverent way to congratulate her sister for moving in with her boyfriend, which was taboo in her family's culture, so we made a "congrats on shacking up" card. it's fun to help people think of ways to express their feelings and cope with hard situations with a little humor.

how do you see kwohtations growing and evolving?
i've been experimenting with using letterpress, essentially an old printing press, to print the cards instead of hand-stamping them as i'm doing now, which will allow for more consistent and efficient printing while still remaining handmade. that's the next big step. after that, i have boatloads of ideas for other ways kwohtations can potentially expend and evolve (kwohtations mugs! tea towels! children's books!). but i need to first do some soul-searching about what kind of presence and products i want to build, and how to create a successful business without compromising its initial mission to spread joy and bring people closer together by celebrating the diversity and absurdity of life.


what is the best piece of creative advice you've ever been given?
i stumbled upon this book, the crossroads of should and must: find and follow your passion by elle luna, which is a delightful cross between a self-help book and a work of art. i sat down and read it right there in the bookstore, and stopped short at this howard thurman quote she dedicates and entire page to: "don't ask what the world needs. ask what makes you come alive. and go do it because what the world needs is people who have come alive." i often hold onto that when i'm doubting the value of my creative endeavors.


what is the best piece of creative advice you have to give?
honor whatever it is you like to do when left to your own devices, whether it's cooking elaborate gourmet meals for one, salsa dancing, longboarding, writing a novel, building robots or a million other things other people would never think to do. i think a lot of us have ideas about what we "should" be doing based on which paths we've already started to go down and others' and our own expectations of what we'd be "good" or "successful" at. but for whatever reason, if you think that sewing sock bunnies or polishing door knobs probably makes you a happier person when you're doing it versus not, that's reason enough to keep doing it.


you can find janine's cards at davis squared, olive & grace and on her etsy store. she'll also be selling some weekends at the somerville flea and south end open market over the next few months - be sure to stop by and say hello!







8/21/15

67. weekend to-do's




li:
  1. stop and smell the roses. thorn & bloom will be bringing their beautiful, artisinal fragrances to the st. germain boutique at the fairmont copley plaza for a weekend pop-up. can't wait to pick up their wild rose eau de parfum, it will be the perfect scent as we head into fall.
  2. reserve some luxe linen. true to their name, the first two pieces from zady's essentials collection have become immediate mainstays in my wardrobe. the brand new linen jersey shirt looks to be no exception. linen is my absolute favorite fabric, not only is it seasonless, but it's production creates a relatively low carbon footprint. all other pieces from this line have sold out quickly, so i'm ordering mine today!
  3. meet my matcha. matcha is a finely ground powder made from green tea leaves. it's traditionally prepared in single batches by whisking with a chasen (bamboo whisk). i've been loving the sense of ritual involved in making a cup (not to mention the boost of antioxidants it provides). freshness and quality of the tea is very important when choosing a matcha powder - bellocq offers some great options.
  4. new music! the recent release of fka twigs' gorgeous ep m3ll155x already had me excited to give my speakers a workout this weekend. now that beach house's much anticipated 5th album depression cherry is streaming on npr, i've got even more of an excuse to spend lots of time inside - bring on the rainy weather!


liz:
  1. all things somerville! my parents are coming to town and i've decided to take them on a tour of my favorite places in somerville.
  2. morning treats. forge baking company on somerville ave is a favorite of mine. they have a killer nitro coffee and their baked goods are delicious. and, our good friends at boston general store have set up a permanent pop-up shop at forge so there's even more reason to take my parents to this hot spot.
  3. afternoon sweets. after coffee, we'll be heading to taza chocolate to take a tour of the factory and check out their process of making stone ground, organic dark chocolate. they hold tours almost every hour on the weekends but, if you want to get in on that tasty chocolate, make sure to make a reservation in advance.
  4. aeronaut brewery. i've been meaning to check out aeronaut for quite some time and since it's supposed to rain all weekend, i thought i would bring my parents to their bring your own picnic event. there will be live music and i can't wait to get my hands on their current beer try a little sourness.

8/18/15

66. cooling and soothing summer balm


with temperatures hovering in the low 90's, we thought we would share one of our favorite ways to cool down and soothe frayed nerves. utilizing lavender, rosemary and peppermint essential oils, this magical balm is all natural and easy to make. just a touch on your pulse points will immediately make you feel calm and refreshed.

materials
1 tablespoon beeswax
1 tablespoon jojoba oil
30 drops of lavender essential oil
30 drops of rosemary essential oil
30 drops of peppermint essential oil
double boiler
chopstick or thin dowel for stirring
small tin or lidded container (old lip balm tins work perfectly)

begin by melting beeswax in a double boiler. once all the wax is melted, remove from heat and stir in jojoba oil. continue stirring while adding in 30 drops of each essential oil. pour mixture into your selected container (the mixture will begin to cool and set pretty much immediately, so you'll want to do this rather quickly). allow the balm to sit undisturbed so it can set up completely.


massage the balm into pulse points, temples or the back of your neck. it will start to feel cool and tingly. breathe deep and the fragrance will provide an equally effective calming sensation. we love using it right before bed or rubbed into sore muscles after a long workout.

try it for yourself and stay cool!



8/14/15

65. weekend to-do's



li:
  1. explore the natural world. the harvard musuem of natural history is such a wonderful resource and beautiful place to visit. i'm especially excited about the recent addition of a permanent observation hive for their honeybees in action exhibit.
  2. crack the code. i've been wanting to learn to code for a long time. i finally took the imitative to try out some of the tutorials on code academy and i'm hooked! the site offers free online coding classes in a variety of programming languages. such a great way to test it out before deciding to invest in more advanced studies.
  3. malted magic. bart's malted vanilla ice cream is pretty much perfect and seriously addictive. it takes me back to living in amherst and stopping into bart's cafe on hot summer days (and cold winter days; i eat a lot of ice cream). the hint of malt flavor adds an extra layer of complexity to the classic vanilla base. can't wait to serve it up with a slice of brown butter cake and some poached peaches.
  4. double feature. i am a huge kristen wiig fan and two of her films that i've been dying to see are finally streaming on netflix. i have welcome to me and the skeleton twins queued up for some much needed sunday night couch time.
liz:
  1. unplug. i plan to chill out and try a digital detox. see you next week!

8/11/15

64. vanilla bean and bourbon poached peaches




we are so pleased to welcome our friend and garden guru autumn pincus. autumn has the perfect recipe to make the most of the bounty of fresh peaches available in late summer:

"i love this time of year, when hot summer sun means gardens everywhere are lush with edibles. growing up on an organic vegetable garden in wisconsin, i had my pick of fresh produce to cook with, canning dill pickles, tomatoes, and baking strawberry rhubarb pie 'til the cows came home (okay, there were no cows on our farm). i've been lucky enough to continue my "farmer's daughter foodie" tradition since moving to boston with a fruitful backyard garden and multiple local farmer's markets. imagine my happy surprise when i discovered that peaches grow in massachusetts! peaches were a rare treat when i was a kid, as they weren't local or cheap. i think my favorite season here begins when the peaches come in at the farmer's market, and i take advantage by baking peach pies, canning slices in honey syrup, making peach lemonades, and doing just about anything and everything else i can with them while they're here.

one of my favorite recipes is vanilla bean bourbon poached peaches. they're even yummier than they sound!"



4 pounds of ripe yellow peaches
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 whole vanilla beans, split and scraped, pods reserved
4 cups water
1 cup bourbon

gently hand wash the peach fuzz off in cold running water and twist stems off, then cut a large x on the bottom (non-stem end) of each peach. bring a large pot of water to a boil. while waiting for that, prepare an ice water bath of a large bowl filled with ice and cold water. 




to peel the peaches, drop them into boiling water using a slotted spoon, for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes (if peaches are not quite ripe, more time is needed), then quickly transfer them to the ice water bath to cool for a few minutes. you should start to see the edges of the x you cut curling up so you can easily peel the skins off. it's easier to do a couple peaches at a time, rather than all at once, to ensure the ice water stays very cold. once all are peeled, slice and pit peaches, and put aside in a bowl.


bring 4 cups water, the sugar, the scraped vanilla seeds, and the pods to a boil in a large saucepan, stirring often until the sugar dissolves. turn heat down to a simmer, and add the sliced peaches and bourbon. cook until peaches are tender, but still hold their shape, about 5-7 minutes. it's important to keep a steady but low simmer at this point, to avoid boiling off the bourbon. once peaches are tender, remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside in a large bowl. continue to cook the syrup over medium heat until it's reduced to about half, or roughly 15 minutes. the syrup will be delicious at any stage here (and will taste more bourbon-y) if you choose to not cook it down further, but it will thicken and have a deeper flavor if cooked down as directed. once syrup is finished, pour it over the peaches, and let set and cool completely.



divide peaches among 6-8 half pint/8 oz glass jars that have been sterilized. jars can be sterilized by boiling in water, submerged, for 10 minutes, or run through a hot dishwasher cycle. if desired, add slices of the vanilla bean pods to each jar. ladle additional syrup on top of peaches and fill jars leaving about half an inch of space from the top. close jars with sterilized lids, and refrigerate until ready for use. they'll keep in the fridge for about a month, but you'll find they won't last long! 


these peaches taste amazing over vanilla ice cream, or just on their own as a delicious little treat. leftover syrup can be used in drinks, lemonades, frozen popsicles, or anywhere you would use flavored simple syrup.





8/7/15

63: weekend to-do's



li:
  1. beach eats. we're spending saturday on duxbury beach with some of our favorite people. since lunch will be served up on the grill, this bbq box from salt & olive will be the perfect hostess gift.
  2. add some sparkle. i'm going to go ahead and say that lacroix coconut seltzer is my drink of the summer. it's truly a magical elixir. it also makes for a refreshing cocktail. check out these ingenious recipes utilizing my beloved coconut among other flavors.
  3. lazy summer hair. once the temperature gets above 75, it's time to ditch the hair dryer and embrace my natural crazy waves. my favorite diy recipe for sea salt hair spray comes from adina grigore's awesome book, skin cleanse: the simple, all-natural program for clear, calm, happy skin: water + sea salt + essential oil of choice (i like lavender) + aloe juice. mix all ingredients in a spritzer bottle and shake well. easy breezy!
liz:
  1. flea time. i can't wait to get my butt to the somerville flea on sunday for a delicious japanese shaved ice from noodle. each week they have new and unique flavors, so i'm impatiently awaiting this week's concoction.
  2. duxbury day. li and i are headed to the south shore to spend a day of fun with friends grilling and playing games. i'm bringing this tuscan pasta salad so i can take full advantage of grilling treats from the garden. it's supr easy to make and goes great with any entree at a barbecue.
  3. yoga at the liberty. every saturday until august 29th, equinox is offering a free yoga class at the liberty hotel at 10:00am. it's perfect because it is not too early and it is free. what more could you want?!

8/5/15

62. august playlist


what better way to savor the remaining weeks of the season than with a playlist of sweet summer slow jams. we hope you enjoy these smooth tunes for hot nights: