Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Things to do this summer: Go to a farm

Tuesday is our farm-love day.

Every week, we go up on the highway and down on winding roads to get to the Oak Grove farm store. We have a farmer's market nearby and the local chain supermarket is well stocked in the produce section, but we enjoy buying our vegetables from the people who actually harvest them.

Central Pennsylvania is rich in small farms so we picked one that's relatively close and we've been going there every week for the past two months. It is a family-owned and operated business that goes back 60 years.

EuroAmericanHome:OakGroveFarmsPennsylvania

They have their own bakery where they bake delicious pies. (I'm looking at you, pecan beauty.) They make jams, jellies and ice cream year round and they have flower greenhouses in the back. You can pick your own flowers while having coffee. And it IS the place where I tasted my first whoopie pie (it does really make you go whoopie! from the sugar-induced adrenaline rush).

EuroAmericanHome:OakGroveFarmsPennsylvania-fruit-in-july

I like the fact that I can buy locally sourced milk in glass jugs, which you then return for a refund. I love supporting small farms and I love places that take back their packing supplies (jar, crates, cartons, boxes). Somehow, all the small things seem so meaningful when you buy your corn from the field that you just drove by, you see the raspberries being harvested a few meters away and smell the cakes being baked in the back of the store.

EuroAmericanHome:OakGroveFarmsPennsylvania-apricots-and-raspberries
EuroAmericanHome:OakGroveFarmsPennsylvania-jam-and-blackberries
EuroAmericanHome:OakGroveFarmsPennsylvania-flat-peaches
EuroAmericanHome:OakGroveFarmsPennsylvania-tiny-plums

We came home with a nice loot of corn, peppers, tomatoes, apricots, onions and apples.

Oh, and chocolate covered sunflowers seeds and roasted soy beans. Just because.

EuroAmericanHome:OakGroveFarmsPennsylvania-chocolate-covered-seeds


Friday, July 26, 2013

Things to do this summer: Collect art

Not just any type of art. Collect fridge art!

You all may know that I love art. I am a patron of the arts every chance I get. I can never say "no" to a good piece and if I ever won the lottery (provided I start playing the lottery) I would use half the money to buy works of art from emerging artists.

It's no wonder that a couple of days ago I jumped at the chance of acquiring a majestic piece of abstract art for our fridge.

Trevor and I were grilling outside. Our garden spews out so much zucchini that not a week goes by without having to cook 3 recipes that include zucchini in any way, shape or form imaginable. So anyway, we were grilling veggies outside when a little girl comes to our gate and asks Trevor if we want to buy some of her drawings. Trevor asks if she was raising money for something (Americans are so good at always raising money for something) and she said she was trying to raise money to go to the beach. We loved her honesty! And her pink outfit!

After careful consideration and a lot of head scratching (trying to figure out what we were looking at), I purchased this drawing.

EuroAmericanHome:FRidge Art

Let me make myself clear, it was a tough choice to make. How can you choose between drawings of googly bugs, giant caterpillars and cauliflower trees? The little girl, whose name was Riley, drove a tough bargain and it took some convincing to have her accept 75 cents when she was only asking for 50 cents. Her dad was supervising the whole transaction from a distance, so it's safe to say his managing skills were top-notch. Letting an adorable four-year old convince you to buy a piece of paper with scribblings on it is the height of art dealership.

So our fridge now looks like this:

EuroAmericanHome:What's on your fridge

Riley's Giant Caterpillar and Tree piece fits in perfectly with the Chiquita Minion sticker, my Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion chart, postcards from out trips together, Samuel Adams beer caps with a message and the cheeky magnet that reads "please don't tamper with the cook's buns". It all comes together so well.

In other completely non-related news, Molly from The Move to America linked to our blog. She likes our monogrammed stools project so yay!


P.S. I'd be interested to know what is on your fridge.

 

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Things to do this summer: Visit a rose garden

EuroAmericanHome:Allentown Rose Garden in Pennsylvania
In June, we went to the Allentown Rose Garden, a charming little park next to where Trevor's parents live. We recommend choosing a rose garden in early June or late May. By the time we got there, the roses were already withering.

EuroAmericanHome:Allentown Rose Garden in Pennsylvania

 The Malcom W. Gross Rose Garden, in Cedar Creek Parkway, was open in 1931 and it is now home to dozens of varieties of roses climbing on arches and trellises, two crisp white gazebos, a pond with beautiful water lilies, an herb garden and a quiet narrow stream.

EuroAmericanHome:Allentown Rose Garden in Pennsylvania

The Old-Fashioned Rose Garden is a popular spot for wedding and engagement pictures, but when we went there there was a fashion photo shoot going on. I use "fashion" very loosely; the model's dress was so tiny, I couldn't tell if it was a garment or an accessory.

EuroAmericanHome:Allentown Rose Garden in Pennsylvania

Now if you want to experience a rose garden like we do, then one person carefully inspects the flowers, smelling each variety and reading the signs, while the other chases her around with a camera. We have a lot of pictures. I mean a LOT of pictures.

EuroAmericanHome:Allentown Rose Garden in Pennsylvania

Trevor and I have this habit: whenever we see a well, he pretends to fall in it and I pretend to save him. If not carefully executed, it might seem (to the unknowing eye) that I'm pushing him in. Why would I ever do that? Who would iron my dresses and bake me muffins?

EuroAmericanHome:Allentown Rose Garden in Pennsylvania


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Things to do this summer: Have sangria at sunset

Our house has a nice old wooden deck in the back which has gradually become our al fresco dining place, our creative sweet spot and our debriefing-over-lunch location. There's something about summer in Pennsylvania that makes us want to spend time outside as much as possible.

When I first came here, in February, the weather was so cold and the small town looked deserted. I would stare out the window every 30 minutes and whine "Where is everyboooooody?" to which Trevor responded "They'll be out in the summer."

See, I come from the city. The concept of seeing people out on the street just when the weather is nice was new to me. Don't they like being splashed with snow mush by passing cars? Aren't they fascinated with getting frostbites? Where is their spirit of adventure and why don't they long for getting really close to strangers all sardined up in a bus stop? Don't they consider pulling a 3-kid sledge along the sidewalk a form of exercise? Do they know what they're missing?

Surely enough, they were out when the weather got milder and now it seems like a lot of our neighbors like to spend time on their porches. So do we and our evenings out on the deck start like this:

Mickey: Let's have beer outside!

Trevor: Sure! It is Monday, after all.

Mickey: <shurgs>

Last week, we had sangria and it looked a little bit like this:



I love sunsets and Pennsylvania is a treat when it comes to purple and orange skies. 



Friday, July 19, 2013

Things to do this summer: Spy on squirrels

My fascination with Pennsylvania squirrels is still going strong.

(Click here for a reminder of how it all started.)

Here is Sir Walnut McFluffyButt getting a tan on an exposed tree root in our yard. Or maybe he's surfing, you can never know with these squirrels. It's been the hottest week of the year so far, so we can't really blame the good Sir.

Notice the carefully crafted pool that I carved for him out of a milk jug.

EuroAmericanHome: Pennsylvania squirrel surfing

Here he is again. I wonder what he's thinking.

EuroAmericanHome: Pennsylvania squirrel surfing

Walnut:  Those darn paparazzi humans never leave me alone. Can't you just stalk the neighbor's cat?
He's fluffier than me. If you can't let me be, at least give me some popcorn to munch on while I pose here for you.

It's moments like this when I wish I washed my windows more.

I'm also quite disappointed that it took me so long to find out about the famous Pennsylvania purple squirrel. He has almost 10,000 followers on Facebook, for God's sake, and I've always dreamed of being an early adopter of squirrel trends. A lot of people hypothesized about why he is purple, but I tend to side with the theory that he fell into a portable toilet. Either that, or he went on a Willy Wonka factory tour.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Things to do this summer: Paint something white

White paint is an acquired taste for me. When I was growing up, I used to tag along when my grandmother visited one of her friends. Her friend had furnished one of her bedrooms in white and whenever we had a sleepover, I would demand to sleep in that room. All of our furniture was brown and black and drab and the white set just seemed so indulgent.

Somehow the obsession with white furniture slipped to the back of my mind for 15 years and it's now resurfacing with a vengeance.

White looks clean, chic and breezy. So right now I'm having a love affair with white furniture.

Trevor and I have painted our dresser, stools, boxes, frames and our bathroom cabinet all white and we still have half a can of paint to go through.

So If you're looking for Trevor and you can't find him one day, just check to make sure I didn't paint him white. It could happen!

Our kitchen connects with the dining room through a pass through so we wanted to create a breakfast nook there. Trevor already had stools there, but they didn't really match anything. So the first project that we tackled was learning how to paint monogrammed stools.  Yes, we're vain enough to put our initial where our butt is.

It took me a long time to find the right paint because I wanted something that was no VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds - the nauseating chemicals that give you a headache when you paint), low odor and no carcinogens. After careful research and cross referencing about 1000 sources, I decided to go with Yolo Colorhouse and buy their semigloss eggshell interior paint called Imagine .01

Good choice, my friends, good choice! It does not smell at all, it's super easy to clean off your brush and hands and it dries very fast. We also bought the Yolo primer

and off to paint we went.

EuroAmericanHome:yolo paint and primer is good for furniture

 Here is how the stools looked like before Trevor applied his patience to them.

EuroAmericanHome: paint monogrammed stools and chairs

First, I primed them. I only did it once because all of those nooks and crannies were a pain to cover. (Now I just realize that "pain" is one letter away from "paint'. Coincidence?)

Then I procrastinated for a while until the mood struck and I applied two coats of white Yolo paint on them (no pictures, I was procrastinating on that too).

The next step was bugging Trevor to come up with a nice handwritten G stencil. It only took us a couple of weeks to get through that step. In hindsight, we wouldn't have printed the stencil on paper, because it was soft and it took a lot of precision and squinting to stay within the lines.

EuroAmericanHome: paint monogrammed stools and chairs
 We painted one green monogram on a white background and another white monogram on a green background. 

EuroAmericanHome: paint monogrammed stools and chairs

I was also thinking of dip-painting the stool legs, but once we were done with the stenciling I was ready to move on. 

There were so many other things that were screaming: Paint me white!




Sharing the fabulousness at Craft-o-maniac.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Things to do this summer: Watch fireflies in the garden

Things to do this summer: Catch a firefly
Mickey and the firefly 


No, not the Julia Roberts+Ryan Reynolds = drama type.

The actual bug type, with wings but without Hollywood airs.

Yeah, really, we have the fireflies. We saw them for the first time one evening in early June, as we were walking home from the library. They were dancing around, in mid-air, above freshly cut lawns. Two kids were chasing the bugs around, trying to catch them in their fists. The city slicker in me (as Trevor lies to mock me) didn't remember ever having seen fireflies. We have a word for them in my native language, so they must exist. But I doubt they thrive in the noisy, polluted, light-intense city.

There weren't any fireflies in our yard, so the following night we caught some and transplanted them there, hoping that the critters would appreciate the prime grass real estate we have going on.

Two evenings later, armed with a glass of wine and a cheerful disposition, we went out on the deck to admire our newly lit yard. The fireflies were all over the place, so "our grass is greener" approach must have fooled them and lured them.

But as the days went by, fireflies were no longer a novelty so we paid less and less attention to them. Meanwhile, they did get rude and pushy as they would hover around with their butts all lit up. I mean, who does that?! Except JLo maybe.

(Sidenote: How come Lady Gaga did not think to dress up as a firefly yet? That would make for an awesome outfit. A glowing derriere is always a winner.)

It's mid-summer now and these bugs aren't nearly as exciting as they were a month ago. I tried to catch a firefly in a Mason jar, but it refused to fly around (like they do in the movies). So I named it Burt and let it go on its sweet way.

I'll never forget you, Burt!!!

Fireflies will always remind me of my first summer in Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Things to do this summer: Doodle on a mug

As the self-respecting newlywed couple that we are, Trevor and I like to spend a lot of time together, and a good amount of this time is spent working on various projects. We usually run into the issue of coming up with too many projects for the amount of time we have, but we take it easy and do whatever strikes our fancy. Pinterest should be banned for people who already have too many ideas and not enough resources (time, money and access to supplies).

Last week, we took a short project that's been floating around on Pinterest for a while and we put our own spin on it. We learned how to make fun mugs using permanent markers. I collect mugs and went to the trouble of transporting my entire collection to the United States, so it only seemed appropriate to add a few more pieces to it.

Things to do this summer: make permanent-marker-mugs


Step 1: Find cheap simple mugs.

If your project fails you won't feel sorry for spending too much money. We bought a set of 4 mugs made by a local company called Pfaltzgraff.

Step 2: Give them a good wash.

Make sure to also remove any dust or grease specks with a bit of vinegar or alcohol. Even if your mugs are new, you want them to be squeaky clean so that the marker adheres.

Step 3: Grab some permanent markers.

Everybody here calls them Sharpie, because that's the most popular and common brand of permanent markers. We used simple markers, although they do make some for ceramics. We chose about 6 colors to work with, but keep in mind that some colors might adhere better than others. Don't use yellow! Lesson learned the hard way.

Step 4: Draw to your heart's desire. Get yourself a bundle of patience, because drawing on a curved surface is not a piece of cake.

We had 4 mugs to mess up, so we proceed to goof around. I drew one with "The Giggles and Dimples Show" because that would be the name of our morning TV show, if we ever get one. You know, like Troy and Abed in the Morning. One the other side I masterfully planted a kite in honor of the first time I ever flew a kite, which took place under Trevor's direct supervision.

Things to do this summer: make permanent-marker-mugs

Things to do this summer: make permanent-marker-mugs

Trevor drew a modern triangular flower design on one of the mugs and wrote Love Time (our personal motto) on the other. Then I pestered him into drawing a lettuce and a bee on the third mug, because once I get a pun stuck in my head I will not let it go. So lettuce bee! I think his bee is absolutely adorable but the first lettuce that he drew looked more like a bowl full of mush. So if your design fails the first time, use rubbing alcohol to wipe it off.

Things to do this summer: make permanent-marker-mugs


Step 5: Bake it.

We put the 4 mugs on a tray and put them in the oven at 400F (that's roughly 200 degrees Celsius) for about 40 minutes. Don't preheat the oven. In fact, make sure you heat it up slowly so that the mugs don't crack. In theory, they've already been baked once but take it easy on them because mugs have feelings too. Don't take them out right after they're baked either. Let them cool down in the oven. It makes it easier on the material if it's not exposed to sudden temperature changes.

We must confess that we double baked our mugs by accident. We left them in the oven after they were done and went on our sweet way to run some errands. When we came back home, we had some serious baking to do so we preheated the oven, forgetting that the mugs were inside. Luckily, they survived our second baking wave unharmed and ready to serve as harborers of morning pick-me-ups. Sorry, I get poetic when it comes to my coffee.

Step 6: Be gentle with the mugs.

As established, mugs are very delicate object that should only be adored and pampered. Ok, maybe I'm the only one who thinks that, but these permanent marker mugs shouldn't be put in the dishwasher. If you're really that lazy and you can't get yourself to wash one mug by hand, then you can choose from several oil-based markers for ceramic use available on Amazon - Sharpie has a set of two markersand Faber has a set of Colorburst Paint Pensthat would be perfect for this kind of project.


What would you draw on your mug?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Things to do this summer: Visit a pretzel factory

In my first month here, Trevor convinced me to go on a chocolate ride at Hershey Chocolate Factory. I must confess that I married a man with cunning persuasion skills. He must have studied for years and years because he is well versed in the art of getting your wife to do whatever you want.

Trevor: Do you want to get free chocolate on the Hershey Chocolate Factory tour?

Mickey: Sure!!!

See? Such finesse comes after years of practice and it is rumored that some husbands never achieve it.

In a similarly plotted scheme, last weekend we found ourselves wandering the highways of Central Pennsylvania on our way to Pocono Plateau.

EuroAmericanHome.pocono-plateau-mountain-and-lake-pennsylvania


EuroAmericanHome.pocono-plateau-mountain-and-lake-pennsylvania

Naturally, our road trip led to food. What else?! This is how we got to visit Callie's Pretzel Factory in Mountainhome, Pennsylvania, a family-owned business and tourist trap attraction in the Pocono Mountains.

EuroAmericanHome: Callie's-pretzel-factory-Pennsylvania

Now you should know that I come from a country where spotting a new pretzel place is considered raison d'etre so I had to try an authentic Pennsylvania Dutch pretzel.

EuroAmericanHome: Callie's-pretzel-factory-Pennsylvania-how-to-twist-a-pretzel

You could actually see the people making the pretzels in what seemed like an operation room setting. You know, the kind they show in movies where reputed surgeons are scrutinized from behind a wide glass panel by a bunch of residents. Well, we were the residents and the pretzels were the patients. Only more doughy. You could see the whole process, from the time the dough was made, cut by a machine, moved around on conveyor belts and roasted in the oven.

We also learned two very important life skills: how to twist a pretzel and how to sport a moustache.

EuroAmericanHome: Callie's-pretzel-factory-Pennsylvania-gourmet-popcorn-pop-poles

If there are ever two words that I thought I would never see side by side, they are "gourmet popcorn". Mostly because "gourmet" should never be attached to anything that pops. So gourmet pole pops are out of the question. Sort of...

Since you've read this far, let me punish you with tell you the story of the pretzel, according to the extensive literature we found at Callie's Pretzel Factory. Serves you right for wanting to look at the pictures.

How the pretzel was invented.

The story of this snack begins in 610 A.D. The setting is a monastery somewhere in the north of Italy or south of France (be understanding, it was a long time ago, who knows). A monk has this brilliant idea to take leftover dough and twist it so that it resembles arms folded in prayer. Then he bakes the bread and uses it as incentive for children who learn their prayers well. I believe the part about the monk doing a happy dance was omitted from the story. I have no idea why. After all, it was an act of God. Anyway, the monk calls his discovery pretiola, meaning little reward in Latin. Incidentally, this also means "I'll grab one on my way to my corporate job" nowadays.

EuroAmericanHome: Callie's-pretzel-factory-Pennsylvania

 How the pretzel crossed the ocean.

I imagined a lone pretzel rowing away into the sunset in a tiny boat. Surprisingly, it wasn't like that at all! In the 1800s the European invention crossed the Atlantic with the first German and Austrian settlers who became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. The first pretzel bakery was established in Lancaster County and out of that grew an industry that now produces around 300 million pounds of doughy goodness each year (136,077 metric tons, according to BFF Google).

To put an American twist on it (as if the regular twist wasn't enough), a National Pretzel Bakers Institute was set up in 1948 in order to regulate this noble profession. To make it even more official, Pennsylvanians opened a Pretzel Museum in Philadelphia and declared April 26th as National Pretzel Day.

EuroAmericanHome: Callie's-pretzel-factory-Pennsylvania

Callie's Pretzel Factory is definitely catering to a tourist crowd by displaying the first car that they used to deliver their merchandise.

EuroAmericanHome: Callie's-pretzel-factory-Pennsylvania-ford-car
 Of course, nothing boosts up sales like a giant iron pretzel man. I wonder if any kid tried to have a bite of his giant pretzel.
EuroAmericanHome: Callie's-pretzel-factory-Pennsylvania

After we both got our fix for the day, Trevor and I left the Poconos singing out loud "won't you take me to ... Pretzel Town" in the manner of Lipps Inc.

EuroAmericanHome: Callie's-pretzel-factory-Pennsylvania

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