Friday, November 22, 2013

Fits of Inspiration -- Beer Sampler

I don’t always know where my ideas come from, but when I find one I like, it tends to linger. For a while now I had been wanting to do something with my beer sampling tray, and last week's post about it finally tipped me into doing something with it.

So here is my first post on crafting.

The first thing I did was, like, a million power squats and bench 350. And burp loudly. Er… Sorry, I just felt like I had to defend my masculinity. I don’t know why I said that – I don’t actually know what a power squat is or what I could bench... I can burp loudly, though. Occasionally.

The actual first thing I did was walk down to the Landmark’s Dick Blick art store (Brookline Ave, Fenway/Kenmore). I presented a very helpful attendant with my sad, pine tray. Seconds later, I was walking toward the craft paint, selecting a very fine matte black. And for only $3.

stage is set. also, james bond.

Returning home, I established my war zone. Excuse me, work station. I think we all learn young that most major art projects require a large tarp and/or need to be done outside. With neither of those a real possibility, I settled on cutting open a Trader Joe’s bag and laying it flat on the kitchen table. Before I painted the tray, though, I wanted to come up with a way to keep it off of the paper bag (i.e. keep it from sticking to the bag). Rifling through the recycling, I found a toilet paper roll that I cut in half lengthwise. The two half pipes I was left with made for an excellent way to minimize the amount of surface space my painted tray was going to rest on. (I also tried really hard not to think about poop germs.)

Get ready, because next comes the real artsy part.

like grave rubbing

My next step was customizing the tray to my tastes. Because this is going on the bar, and I associate bartending with F. Scott Fitzgerald, I wanted to give it a real art deco vibe. And, because I eat, sleep, and dream armchair (for now) travel, I wanted it to have some destination flair, too. Turns out, needing to satisfy both of these requirements is an easy problem for Trident Booksellers (Newbury Street, Back Bay) to solve. They had a book of old travel posters that I had serendipitously picked up months prior; now seemed the proper time to make use of it.

cut to size

If you want to customize the insets for the glasses like I did, here’s a tip that works well and is quick. Grab a piece of paper and a pencil, lay the paper on top of the tray, and etch with the side of the pencil like you’re making a grave rubbing. The result is a perfectly sized circle that, when cut out, will fit inside the tray. Using this as a template, I cut out four travel posters from the book, sized to the insets in the tray.

after one coat

Painting is a cinch, so that doesn't necessitate much instruction, except to say that more than one coat may be necessary.

Assembly was pretty easy, too. I just brushed some Mod Podge (also available at Dick Blick) onto the paper inserts and affixed them. Feel free to slosh some more on afterwards, just be sure to spread it out evenly with a brush. Oh, and watch out for bubbles.

use sharpies for additional design

Lastly, since I chose a matte paint, the surface (once it was dry) was especially easy to write on with a Sharpie (this worked out by chance, by the way, not by design). I chose gold, and used a ruler to add the decorative lines on the surface.

All in all, it was a pretty straightforward project that turned an unattractive piece of pine into a nice bar accoutrement. Also, it took less time than it takes to watch From Russia with Love. Just so you know.

final product

Til next time!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Date Night, Dining In

You know what? Sometimes the thought of going out stinks.

Let’s be honest here. Boston dining can be full of overpriced fare, waaaaaaay overpriced drinks, long wait times, and rowdy patrons. And, if you dine at certain establishments along Newbury Street, you can have all of those in addition to lighting so dim you can’t see the menu and a tab guaranteed to clock in north of a Benjamin. (And, for the record, one taco should never cost you a Hamilton… Actually, you know what? This is too important to be parenthetical information.)

And, for the record, one taco should never cost you a Hamilton.

Was that too negative? Bah. I think it was just honest. I don’t want to pay an extra $30 for the privilege of a long wait and a fancy garnish.

Which is why I was so excited to dine-in this weekend.

Earlier in the week, my fiancee pointed out an amazing-looking pizza recipe from Tapped from our engagement excursion a few weekends ago, we kind of dug the idea of trying a fun, fancy recipe – the kind of recipe where making it is a fun event in itself – and renting a good movie. Thus, we decided upon the prosciutto, pear, and mozzarella pizza and Monsters University.

fresh ingredients

We also decided that this would be a great night to do the dishes. Yes, those dishes, the two days of piled-up dishes that I had been trying oh-so-hard to ignore. Because I wash dishes like the Swedish Chef cooks food, I was soaked by the time I finished, but at least the kitchen was clean and ready for pizza-making.

an utterly absurd amount of dishes

Drying off, I took a seat at my laptop and directed myself to Anyone who has used a Red Box knows that they are the most cutthroat of vending machines. A moment’s hesitation can result in someone else renting your movie, so it’s best to just reserve it through the website and pick it up later. Before checking out, the rental that I placed in my cart had been taken (see what I mean?), leaving only one Red Box in all of Boston that had Monster’s University, so I took it.

Getting the movie, however, turned out to be another story altogether. The Shaws on Commonwealth isn’t that far away or hard to find – and neither is the Red Box inside of it – but it is gigantic. If you have no familiarity with the layout, expect to spend a few extra minutes just orienting yourself from time to time. The recipe, I’m sure you saw, called for ingredients that had me constantly crisscrossing the store. For example, naan bread was, naturally, next to the block cheeses, and pears – the most elusive ingredient on the list – had been located at the entrance all along.

tasty results

I returned home later than expected, but within 20 minutes the pizza was cooking away in the oven. A couple minutes more and we were ready to eat and watch.

We set the coffee table with the pizza, plates, silverware, and a beer sampler. The beer sampler (tray and four glasses), by the way, is a fun way to spruce up any evening of eating in. It cost only a handful of dollars at Target, and two bottles will more than fill the four tiny glasses.

table is set

dinner is ready

Finally, we sat down and enjoyed an evening in. The movie was great; the food was spectacular. The recipe is highly recommended (we added dried cranberries, too), and we saved a ton of money by cooking for ourselves and renting a movie rather than visiting the theater. The total cost of the evening was $35, which is incredible for a delicious meal, drinks, and a movie. Also, I have to point out that The Blue Umbrella, the Pixar short before the movie, was amazing – especially to me, because of its clever use of architecture.

Beantown, you are a foodie town, and we love you for it, but sometimes we just want to eat in.

Til next time!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The World Series -- One Week Later (and a day)

Hi All,

I have been regrettably absent lately, and, truth be told, there is much to discuss. For example... oh, I don't know, I proposed. So there is the upcoming "She Said Yes" post. There is also another Elsewheres that I began, focusing on Christmas in New York. And, lastly, the Red Sox just won the World Series in our collective backyard.

There's been a lot on my plate lately, but that's okay. I am engaged to the love of my life. Our team has won the World Series. And cities around the world are preparing lights, celebrations, and window displays for the Christmas season. I'll have it all!

In the meantime, enjoy these pictures from around the neighborhood  -- specifically from last-week-and-a-day ago, when the Sox proved that anything can happen.

media the night before

go sox!

root, root, root for the home team


good place to watch the parade





Til next time!