DIY Cold Brew Coffee

I love coffee and, like any hardy New Englander, I drink it iced year round. While I know I’ll never stopping buying coffee out entirely, there’s certainly room to cut back. With that in mind, I have been saying I wanted to try making my own cold brew. So when I saw that Atlas Coffee Club was looking to work with Boston Bloggers, I knew it was sign to put my money where my mouth is…finally.

Atlas Coffee Club “sources premium single origin coffee from farms around the world and pays well above market prices for the beans, helping to ensure ethically sustainable farming practices and the highest quality coffee year after year”.  I am making a conscious effort to be more aware of what I consume, where it comes from, how it’s made and supporting businesses that are operating above board so I was happy to have the opportunity to work with them. It also fits into one of my favorite categories of things–  a monthly subscription service (individual bags are for sale too).

Based on my preferences, I went with Ethiopia, which arrived already ground. However, if you prefer to grind your own, whole beans are available as well. Either way, your coffee is roasted the same week you receive it, with the roasted date right on the package. It was cool that it came with a card explaining more about where my coffee came from, something I rarely thought about in the past, sadly.

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I loosely followed this recipe to make my cold brew, since a friend had used it and told me it was easy. And it was! You’ll need:

Pour your bag of ground coffee in first, top with cold water and put it in the fridge for a minimum of 8 hours. You can adjust the coffee/water ratio to your personal preference. I used less water than the recipe calls for because I wanted it to be stronger. I figured I could always add water to it afterwards, like you would a concentrate, if necessary.

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I let my cold brew steep for just shy of 24 hours, then I covered my fine mesh strainer with a piece of cheesecloth (remember– you want to keep those grounds out hence using both) and hoped for the best. It went well! None of the grounds got through and I had plenty of strong, cold brew to keep in the fridge. Keep in mind that this undertaking is going to be slightly messy, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was fearing.

Now you’re ready to enjoy! Cover and refrigerate the remainder.

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I had mine with just cream, my go-to king cubes and an umbrella straw (because life is short). It was delicious!  The strength, freshness and quality all showed. I’d be interested to try this same technique with a different blend next time. To compare, but also to see if I can find my perfect coffee to water ratio.

Do you make coffee at home, buy it out, or both? Have you ever tried making cold brew before?

Disclosure: Atlas Coffee Club provided me with a complimentary bag of coffee of my choosing for my review. Using it to make a cold brew and all other opinions expressed are my own. 

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FLy Away to St. Pete

In mid-December, A and I took a long weekend jaunt down to Florida with my family in Massachusetts to see my sister and her family. Not only was it nice to get out of dodge for a few days, it was great to be able to attend their 10th annual Christmas party at their beautiful home. While they live outside of Tampa, A and I stayed in St. Petersburg for a night when we first arrived. I had only been through there briefly and he had never been, so it was fun to scope out a new scene together.
 
For a song, we stayed at the Ponce de Leon, a boutique hotel that was no frills, but very cute and clean with a comfortable bed and a central location. The first night, we ate (outside! bliss!) at Ceviche where we split a bunch of delicious tapas and a pitcher of cava sangria. Despite A having had sangria with me before, he never realized it also had booze added to the wine, so he was surprised when it hit him (which I found hilarious). After dinner, we walked down to the waterfront and all along Beach Drive, a ritzy street filled with a lot of restaurants, bars, shopping and pricy high-rises all decked out for the holidays. Unfortunately, we all know the struggle of capturing lights with a camera, so none of my shots quite did it justice. We ended the night at Try Wine, a wine shop that also offers the ability to pull your own pours from 88 different bottles! You put a credit card on file, they give you what looks like a hotel room key and you choose between three sizes of pours (pricing varies depending on the bottle and the sample size). We had a blast and once we found the wine we liked best, each got a full sized glass and sat down to enjoy it. We were still full from dinner, but they also offered cheese and charcuterie boards plus some other bites if you were so inclined.

 

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The next morning before leaving the hotel, we got brunch at The Mill which opened in 2015 and was named best new restaurant– in the state! Let me tell ya– it was a well deserved distinction! We shared apple fritters with a cinnamon Greek yogurt dipping sauce to start. They were a taste of heaven, but we had to take most of them to go so we could eat our meals. I ordered steak and eggs au poivre. Oh. Wow. Everything from the steak to the zucchini fritters was top notch… and believe me, I finished it all. From brunch, we walked a bit to grab a coffee at Brew D Licious, a spot that also brought us for a stroll down Central Ave, which had a wonderful artsy vibe. I really make a point not to visit chains on vacation (unless they’re unique to the area) and I’m so glad I got to try their smooth (yet strong!) iced coffee.

 

 
We made one last pit stop on our drive back to St. Pete Beach, which was so lovely. The white sand! The clear blue water! We just soaked up some sun and put our feet in the water watching boats go by and fisherman use nets off a pier. A is an avid boater and fisherman himself, so I think his only regret was watching vs doing 🙂

 

 
I’m very glad we took a little time out of a wonderful family weekend to make some memories and see a new city as a couple. I certainly hope to go back!

Sweet 16

Happy 2016!
 
While I (clearly) still dabbled in social media, it was nice to take some time over the holidays to not be so thoroughly invested in it. I had a blast with family and friends, ate and drank more than I should and essentially lived in my jam jams. During December, my roommate and I also hosted 3 gatherings at our house, so it was the usual December mixture of simultaneously running around and vegging.
 
But now it’s January, the weather has been pretty good to us, the days are getting longer again and I’m ready to get back to the (posting) grind.
 
While I don’t do huge sweeping resolutions, it is a nice time to take stock of your life, make sure things are in order, and try to better yourself in however small of a way. Although personally, despite the years removed from being a student, September and the “back to school” feeling tends to motivate me even more than New Years. Does anyone else feel the same way?
 
I’m looking forward to a fun and blessed year ahead. For the first time since 2005(!), I have no weddings on the docket. While I LOVE being in and attending weddings to support my friends (and dance), it will be a welcome change of pace to have more time off and funds freed up to do some traveling. Two friends are in Honolulu and after 9(!) years, I am trying to get back out there this year. We’re also booking our girls’ beach weekend again for June and I’d like to make it to see a few other friends and family scattered across the country as well. I’m also majorly overdue for a Eurotrip. With all of that in mind, I am going to try and continue last year’s resolution to spend more money on activities and experiences and less money on material things. I’m a sucker for a good shopping trip, so it’s not always easy, but I do think it’s worth trying.
 
What say you?

Cider on Down(east)

It should come as no surprise that I am a lover of all things local and all things fall. I also love a good event and a good drink…or three. What better way to combine them than checking out Downeast Cider Harvest Fest? I have had the cider quite a few times, but had never made the short trek to my old Charlestown neighborhood to the brewery until a couple of weekends ago.

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So you’re not surprised, it’s located under the Tobin and you may think, “am I going to be murdered…?” for a brief minute on the drive in because it doesn’t look like anything good would be back there. However, there definitely is something good back there and it’s not shady once you arrive.

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Check in ran smoothly and you were handed a clean, empty beer can with no top as your “glass” and two tickets– one for a drink and one for the tacos. Additional food and drinks were pay as you go and they accepted cash and cards. Inside, you’re legitimately partying in their operational brewery! The bar was off to the left, Pineapple Jam was setting up next to cornhole to the right, and outside had a makeshift beer garden. After enjoying some ciders (pumpkin was an outstanding fall offering, cranberry is incredible, and the sample of the winter blend was the crowd favorite in my group), we took our chances– and our warmth from the buzz– into the seasonal-yet-cooler-than-it-had-been beer garden to queue up for some totally delicious tacos from Causeway BBQ. Everyone got two– a pork and a chicken– with a side of rice and beans, then you could add any toppings you wanted.

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I’m glad we got there early because it was starting to get busier as the day went on, but I think it was a great value for the price and very well run! Downeast hosts events on a regular basis and I would definitely recommend checking one out. Follow them on social media or look them up on Eventbrite. There’s not much parking and it’s not near a T stop, so an Uber/cab is probably your best bet (unless you can convince your roommate to drop you off which is what I did).

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Funniest cousins I know!

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BASICally, we’re adorable.

Steak Me Out

With our hectic schedules, and family/friend commitments, it can be difficult for A and I to find solo time. With that in mind, we try to experience new things together to make the most of the time we do have! So a couple of months back, I saw a Gilt City for Taste Buds Kitchen’s BYOB cooking classes and immediately jumped on it. While I’m far from a culinary genius, I can cook, but there’s certainly room for improvement. While all of the workshops sounded incredibly yummy, the Steakhouse course took the (beef)cake. What is it that seems so daunting about cooking a steak well? Is that just me?

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Once I received the voucher, I emailed TBK and an actual human(!) nicely responded right away with instructions on registering. You know how sometimes places can be snooty if you have a voucher? Not here! With our uber busy fall, the first Steakhouse workshop we could attend was last week, but they have plenty of different events and workshops happening so I imagine it would have been fairly simple to have gone sooner as well.

Last Thursday night, we finally headed out to North Andover for our class! TBK was easy to find and there was ample street parking out front. When you walk in, the space manages to look both inviting and extremely clean. Andrea, Lisa and Gigi warmly greeted us, told us to wash our hands and to pick a station. We signed a waiver form, put on an apron and nametag and waited for the others to arrive (…I’m always early). There was pita bread and dipping oil to snack on and once everyone was in place, we opened our bottles of wine (why hello, Kim Crawford Pinot Noir); stemless wine glasses and water are provided!

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Next we got down to work, first watching Andrea do each step, then going back to our station and working (in two groups of 5) to mimic what she had demonstrated. I feel like it was informational, but also laidback. No one seemed stressed about it and all the couples were having fun together. And man, what I wouldn’t give to have everyone do all the measuring for me on a nightly basis. I’d definitely be making more meals at home! We put together wedge salads with homemade blue cheese dressing, red bliss mashed potatoes with truffle oil (on the side, used to taste) and pan seared flank steak. The potatoes were boiled for us after we cut them up, but we seared the steaks in groups ourselves. I have grilled and broiled steaks before, but never done them in a pan. It was easy! You just need to know what temp and what indicators to look for in doing so. Next we made a red wine reduction for the steak, something I have never even dreamed of doing. Again, it was just a matter of understanding what to do at what point, but overall fairly simple. The three instructors were always available for guidance, but also weren’t micromanaging our every move, so it was perfect.

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After everything was ready, we all sat down in place to enjoy the meal we had prepared together. Being a social person, I thought it was fun how the class brought everyone together and we all enjoyed the absolutely delicious food as well as each other’s company. We were able to pack up any leftovers and there were pamphlets with the recipes available to take home for reference.

In case this isn’t already clear, I thought it was an amazing experience from start to finish and I’m so glad we did it! Next time, I really want to try their brunch workshop with the girls. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone, whether you go as a couple or with your lady friends, it was something different to do that also boosted my cooking confidence. Plus, how could you hate on anything BYOB?! Give it a go!

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p.s., if you have little ones, they do children’s workshops during the day. If you live outside of the greater Boston area, there are TBK locations in a few other states as well.

GalaxSea

In the summer of 2014, my older sister told me she’d stumbled upon a contest hosted by Rescue Beauty to create a new nail polish shade that I needed to do because it was right up my alley. I am a nut over nail polish– you will never find me with bare hands or toes and my living room features an actual metal rack of over 50 shades. My friends even do theirs whenever they visit because of the (admittedly somewhat insane) collection my roommate and I have amassed 🙂

I read up on the contest and on a Friday off in July, I made my “vision board”. My absolute favorite color is purple so I knew that would feature heavily, but I was also very inspired by the colors and shades of space and the deep sea– two fascinating and mysterious places. While extremely proud of my submission, I actually had forgotten about it until I received an email that fall from Ji Baek, creater/founder/color genius/genuinely nice person, making sure I had seen on Facebook/her blog that from thousands of entries, I’d made the top 14 (http://blog.rescuebeauty.com/beauty-health/the-fan-collection-3-0-ready-to-meet-the-14-finalists-ta-da-jazz-hands/)! Now it would be put to a vote and the top 6 would be made– although it actually ended up being 7 shades since two submissions were only a couple of votes off so Ji included both (told you she was nice!). A big, huge thank you to all of my friends and family who not only voted, but shared on Facebook and through email with their friends and family. As a result of the support and shares, I ended up with the most votes in a pool of gorgeous, creative boards by my fellow co-winners.

From there, she got to work, mailing samples she’d mixed so that we could give our feedback. I knew wanted a “grown-up” purple/shimmer shade, which is no easy task. My vision could have easily skewed tacky, but not on Ji’s watch. While the first two were gorgeous, I had full creative veto power and was able to let her know what worked and what didn’t to get to the dream color living in my head. Not only in terms of shade, but also when it came to coverage, jelly or more matte finish, shimmer/glitter level, etc.   Unfazed, she took got back to mixing and the third iteration was PERFECTION. Only when I gave her a very enthusiastic “YES!” did she let on that she and her assistant were hoping that would be the one I’d picked. She truly let the decision process be mine and she remained neutral until I’d approved, which was such a wonderful experience that I’m very grateful to have had.

Now that I’d approved, the sample was off to the lab and the nearly year long waiting process began. But finally, I can announce that the Fan Collection 3.0 has been unveiled and will be available for pre-order on October 13th!!

I am so impressed with the entire collection and I want them ALL. A huge congrats to Ji and my fellow winners on an insanely talented and divine batch of colors. Here is my baby, GalaxSea:

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The bloggers who work with Ji all wrote beautiful reviews with gorgeous accompanying photos. My personal favorite quote comes from Refined & Polished:

“RBL GalaxSea is hands down going to be the…favorite in this collection. I’m still wearing it as I type this post.”

If you’re interested in the pre-sale taking place on Tuesday the 13th, be sure to sign up for Rescue Beauty’s mailing list, found at the bottom of the page here: www.rescuebeauty.com

Blog links:

http://www.Peachypolish.com/rescue-beauty-lounge-fan-3-0-co…

http://www.refinedandpolished.com/rbl-fan-collection-3-0/

http://www.fashionpolish.com/…/rescue-beauty-lounge-fan-30-…

http://www.thebeautylookbook.com/…/rescue-beauty-lounge-fan…

http://www.yukieloves.com/2015/10/RBLBloggers3.html

http://www.ommorphiabeautybar.com/rescue-beauty-lounge-the…/

Steamboat Springs, CO

Earlier this month, I had the chance to attend a high school friend’s wedding in Steamboat Springs, CO. While I have been to Boulder/Denver a couple of times previously to see other friends, this was my first time outside of those two cities in such a stunning state. Even better, I was able to spend time with 7 of my friends from high school! Having gone to an all girls’ Catholic school with small classes, we all became and have remained close friends. For Moe’s (who has lived in CO for the past 8 years) wedding, we came out from MA, NY, and DC. Living states apart, the opportunities we have for quality time have diminished, so this trip was special in more ways than one!

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First we flew out to Denver, then rented a car to drive the 3.5 hours to Steamboat. The drive was gorgeous! You are actually going up and through mountains and the backdrop looks like something from a Hollywood set.

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After getting there, we rallied from a long day of traveling and everyone met at Sunpie’s Bistro, Moe and Shawn’s favorite dive bar in the area, for a welcoming party. I saw why they loved it! No frills, but funny signs, cheap drinks and sarcastic bartenders abound.

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The next morning, the gang minus the soon-to-be newlyweds headed to Strawberry Park Hot Springs. I had never been to hot springs before, but I would definitely go again! We were some of the first people there that morning, but it was already starting to get packed when we left late morning. if I had the chance, it would be fab to go at night time (they’re open late) to see the stars while taking a dip. Some of the springs were hotter than a hot tub, which is nice for a few minutes, but then we were ready to move into the slightly cooler one (think a heated pool). Since the water is moving, it feels cleaner than a pond or lake and you can still touch the bottom in most spots which is nice.

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Later in the afternoon, we made our way to a beautiful Catholic church for the ceremony, before heading back to the hotel to board the gondolas up the mountain in our formal wear! After the ride, we boarded buses (more like trucks with the body of a coach bus) to go even higher to Four Points Lodge for the reception — 9, 736 feet above sea level!

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The views were INSANE. Pictures do not do it justice, but did we ever try to capture just a bit of this breathtaking scenery. Because there were no bugs to speak of, the doors were open all night out to the deck so you could come and go as you pleased. The food was delicious, the drinks were flowing and the DJ was on point — although because of the altitude, we definitely needed to take regular breathers from dancing. Once night fell, I went back out on the deck and saw the most vivid stars of my life. There was the Big Dipper and the Milky Way clear as day, as well as seemingly (and probably actually) millions of stars! You felt like you were in a different world, in the best way possible.

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The next morning most of us headed home, but Katrina and I were spending a night in Boulder with friends and leaving Monday morning. While everyone else unfortunately sat in tons of traffic on their way to the airport, Google Maps took us a different route– which brought us THROUGH Rocky Mountain National Park! Being more of a city and beach girl, the mountains aren’t my usual jam, so it was a wonderful experience that I otherwise may never have had.

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We rounded out the trip with dinner in downtown Boulder with some of my oldest and closest friends who live out there as well, which was the perfect ending to an incredible weekend out west!