Monday, December 10, 2012

It’s Christmas Time at 18 Preston!

It's that wonderful time of year again, the smell of fresh baked cookies and sweet garland, the taste of Christmas cocktails and of course, the look of Christmas lights. This is our first Christmas at 18 Preston. We kind of skipped Christmas last year. Meg's parents moved on Christmas Eve and we moved in on New Year's Eve, so that made the holiday season especially hectic for us. We're still trying to get everything settled in, but we really wanted to do something special this year. I think I saw this on someone's house when I was a kid growing up and I wasn't sure if it was a great idea, or something silly. As soon as I mentioned it to Meg, I was convinced it was amazing. Everyone we told the idea to agreed. So, without further adieu, here is our Christmas tree!

We wanted it to look like the tree was busting through the roof, so we got two trees and put one on the roof. The original plan was to buy one large tree and actually cut the top off and put it on the roof. It turns out a 14' tree costs upwards of $140. That's a little too rich for our blood. Instead, we went to our local farm-stand, Calareso's and found an 8' tree and a 4' tree for a total of $70. I think that was a pretty sweet deal.

I'm sure these next 2 ideas came from Pinterest, but they look great. Meg put together a snowman for our front door and a mini Christmas tree made from a tomato cage. Meg just flipped the tomato cage, wrapped it with some garland and lights, and wallah, another tree.

Come back soon to check out what we did on the inside of the house. It's defiantly Christmas time at 18 Preston. Enjoy the holiday season!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Home Decor

Most of our holiday funds for Thanksgiving have gone into the meal and we're mostly making due with what we have to decorate our home for our guests. Thanksgiving this year is BYOC, bring your own chair themed, since we only have 5 dining chairs at the new house. We'll have the dining room set up for 6 and the second half off our living room easily converts to an extension of the dining room with a folding table and chairs.

We have gotten ready with a few small purchases:

  • Paper placemats (West Elm, 50 for $23)
  • New table cloth (Homegoods, $10)
  • New table runner (Homegoods, $14)
  • Additional stemless wine glasses to make 12 (Target, 8 for $20)
  • The dining row art update was free once again by raiding my scrapbook stash

Other than that we've kept it very simple to allow room on the tables for all the great food. We serve buffet style from the stove top, in case your curious. The only trays of food that will be put out on the table will be the rolls, cranberries sauce, butter, and gravy.
And there will be plenty of wine glasses - and even some of these?!

How cute is that?! That's all Matt.  We made our own hard cider for the occasion and he likes to serve it to me all fancied up.  I love him.

Happy Turkey Day to you and your family.  I may not have a chance to post again until we're done.  Today will be a good day of lots of veggie prep.  So excited!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thanksgiving Day Time Line

Sorry for the pause in the Thanksgiving planning guides, we took a mini trip to Malibu but are glad to be home again today

It's the calm before the storm, except for the battleground known as the grocery store we fought through today. The last mild day before cooking the Turkey Day feast. Monday and Tuesdays will be long days in the office, and Wednesday will be a day of perfecting knife skills dicing and chopping to prepare.

Today I want to share with you the day of time line for the cook. I think it's a good guide, but like I mentioned before, I've never cooked Thanksgiving dinner so I'm not sure of the results yet.

This is based on Matt and I getting a Turkey Trot in before the cooking starts, and of course it's all based on roasting an 18lb bird for 4.5 hours.

8:30 am: leave for Turkey Trot, race is at 9, home no later than 10

10:00 am:
  • Preheat oven to 450
  • Prep Bird by melting 1/2 stick of butter and soaking cheese cloth in it
  • Place in cavity: onions, rosemary, lemons. Season skin sign salt and pepper.
  • Cover breast meat area with butter soaked cheese cloth, truss and bake for 45 minutes at 450
11:00 am: drop oven temp to 325, catch up with the mornings dishes

Noon: Guest may start arriving, Matt to put out the appetizers and beverages

1:00 pm: Everyone out of the Kitchen!
  • Start and finish stuffing - goes in baking dish to be baked later
  • Catch up dishes
  • Get stock on the stove (keeping stock on for gravy and it makes a great bandaid if something doesn't come out great
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Buttered turnip
2:30 - 3:00pm Bird out of oven:
  • In go the rolls and stuffing, after 25 minutes bump oven to 375
  • Matt preheats the grill and stats bacon wrapped potato spears
  • Pearl onions on stove
  • Candied carrots on stove
  • Make gravy
  • Cave bird after resting it for a half hour under tinfoil
3:30pm: Dinner!

Maybe I'm nuts, but I'm just trying to be prepared.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thanksgiving Grocery List!

Have you been following the Thanksgiving posts so far?  Please leave a comment if you are - I'm curious!
So far we've shared The Menu and our "Way in Advance" List

Next up I'm sharing the grocery list for the big event.  First you have a refresher of the menu with links to the recipes I'll be using.  The last four items I made up - unfortunately you'll have to wait until after thanksgiving for me to post those.  Second is the grocery list - get what you can now! We've purchased all our non perishables - but we're headed to California for a few days tomorrow night and wont be able to do the rest of the shopping until the Sunday before! We will put our battle gear on - Market Basket - the grocery store - is sure to be insane!

The Menu
§  Brown Sugar Candied Carrots
§  Farm Fresh Green Beans w/ sour cream lemon dressing
§  Apple Cider Braised Pearl Onions & Leeks
§  Tuscan Loaf Baked Stuffing

Grocery List

§  Onions – 8 (good to have on hand)
§  Celery
§  Pearl Onions
§  Leeks (garden)
§  Chives (garden)
§  Rosemary (garden)
§  Lemons – 4
§  Sweet Potatoes - 5
§  Russet potatoes – 5
§  Turnip – 3
§  Thyme
§  Green Beans
§  Carrots
§  Loaf of Fresh Bread

§  Unsalted Butter – and A LOT of it
§  Bacon
§  Whole Milk – 1 qt
§  Heavy Cream
§  Sour Cream
§  Sausage

§  Flour
§  Yeast
§  Sugar
§  Brown Sugar
§  Honey

§  Turkey
§  Chipolte peppers in adobo
§  White wine
§  Cheese Cloth

     What prep have you finished? Has anyone started their grocery shopping? Does anyone want to do our for us?

Thanksgiving @ 18 Preston - The Way in Advance List

Yesterday we shared our Turkey Day Menu.

To get ready for a feast like this - and to be able to execute this meal myself, it takes some serious preparations.  The list I'm sharing today is the "Way in Advance" list.  And by way in advance I mean before the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  (Unless it's a frozen turkey - then you better pick one up this week and get your defrosting on!)  While I'm writing some of these posts I'm actually taking up some valuable prep time.  But here is my list that I plan on having complete before the Sunday before Thanksgiving:

  • Guest List Confirmed - a count is helpful to order the turkey.  I went with 1.5lbs per person
  • Order the Bird - I placed my order with a local butcher for a fresh turkey, I don't want to be defrosting one 
  • Table linens & serving wear collected - I washed all my dishes this past weekend that  had been in the china cabinet for a while, we don't use 12 plates very often.  And since this is my first Thanksgiving I purchased some table linens and a set of 12 stemless wine glasses
  • Grocery Shopping - non perishables.  The store is going to be nuts leading up to the big day, get anything you can out of the way early.
  • What Other can Bring List - your guest will start asking what then can bring.  Have your menu ready and a list of answers you can give them.  Leave this by the phone so you husband can just read off the list when he's speaking with your guests too.     Our list includes:
    • appetizers
    • wine
    • dessert
  • Make Ahead Items - I have a few things I am comfortable making way ahead.
    • herbed goat cheese - for pre meal apps
    • herbed butter - sage and brown butter for rolls and gravy
    • rosemary salt - to season the turkey
    • rolls - I use this recipe, freeze them as instructed and cook from frozen 
  • Plan the Time Line - I'm really glad I got this out of the way early - I'll be sharing mine the weekend before the big day - stay tuned.
What have you checked off your list?  

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thanksgiving @18 Preston - The Menu

We've decided to make Thanksgiving a big deal over here on the blog.  We don't post often - due to a hectic schedule and only wanting to share quality information and photos.  That being said, I am tackling cooking the Thanksgiving meal for the very first time this year and want to share my prep plan as I get ready to host my favorite Holiday of all time.

The Plan: 12 guests - we're getting together both sets of parents for the first time since our wedding!
The Place: Our new home - 6 in the dining room and 6 in one half of our living room converted to a temporary dining room
The Time: we're planning a 3:30 dinner time
The Bird: we've ordered a fresh turkey which we will pick up the Sunday before Thanksgiving to start prepping
To brine or not to brine: we will not be brining our bird

The Menu

§  Parker House Rolls w/ Spent Grain

§  Rosemary Lemon Turkey

§  Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes

§  Potato Spears Wrapped in Bacon w/ Honey Chive drizzle

§  Butter Turnip w/ homegrown Lemon Thyme

§  Brown Sugar Candied Carrots

§  Farm Fresh Green Beans w/ sour cream lemon dressing

§  Apple Cider Braised Pearl Onions & Leeks

§  Tuscan Loaf Baked Stuffing

     We'd love for you to follow along in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.  We will be sharing our prep lists, grocery list, links to all of the recipes for most of our menu, Thanksgiving Day timeline, and the tips and tricks we picked up that we're planning on implementing on the big day. 

     Who else is this excited about the best holiday of the year? If you're not - I hope this menu has you drooling enough to jump on board.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Veggie Garden Update

I can't believe I haven't updated you on the vegetable garden since June!
Well - before I give you the current update, lets look at the progress for my first year with a garden.

In the spring, we prepared for our first Vegetable Garden by building a raised planting bed and having soil delivered.
April/May 2012
In June we started to see progress in the garden.  The tomato plant is covered in flowers and the squash are starting to grow like weeds.
June 2012
By the end of July the Garden Exploded.  I had to rip out some of my squash before they killed each other, I had dozens and dozens of tomatoes, and a bounty of basil.
July/August 2012
And this is the garden today - November 7, 2012.  We'll, not quite today.  This was before SuperStorm Sandy and, well - it's currently snowing right now!!!
November 2012
The cold frame did survive Sandy.  We do not have a tutorial on it - it's trapping and painters plastic.  We're going to improve the design next year.

In side we have more swiss chard, mixed greens, garlic, scallions, arugala, and kale growing.  Most leafy veggies don't mind the snow and the heat the cold frame traps will keep them healthy through the winter - I hope! I'll continue to provide updates!
November 2012
Is anyone else crazy like me and still have a New England vegetable garden going in November?  Is anyone else appalled at the snow outside in Massachusetts right now?!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween 2012 @18 Preston

We were super excited for our first Halloween in the new house and it did not disappoint.  We had about thirty or so trick-or-treaters, and they were all so polite and had great costumes!  It would be creepy to take photos of other people's kids - so you'll have to look through our decor (which fell under our cheap and easy project list) and costumes! 

Below is the broom I made! The lights are red Christmas Lights, the skeleton was an old decoration we had, and we purchased the mums and pumpkin with coupons and discounts.

A Dining Room Art Update.  This was FREE.  I used leftover black scrapbook paper and
 printed free Halloween printables I found here onto card stock from the stash.

The Spiders on magnets were a Pinterest inspired project found on the 
blog Delia Creates.  They were a huge success.

The window shadows were probably my favorite. I found these on Better Home and Garden website. The templates were free and I only needed to buy the black poster board.  I loved how they looked back lit with lamps.  I don't have pictures, but the kitchen window had Frankenstein and Dracula. 

 And the Costumes!  Matt was Abraham Lincoln the Vampire Hunter.  The shirt was a Marshall's purchase, just so he wouldn't mess up his nice white french cuff shirt at the Halloween party we went to on Saturday night.  The hat was $12 at a costume shop, bow tie was also purchased at Marshall's and everything else we had!  The rather large wood stake was in the garden holding up my tomatoes this summer - it's bloodied up with a red sharpie.  It's big because we needed something proportioned to Matt, he's tall without a top hat.

And I apparently chose one of the most popular adult costumes of 2012.  There were two others at the party we went to!  I can't say any of us was better than the other, but if we pooled all our items together, it would have made a great Katniss Everdeen.  I do need to point out, I was the only one with the braid.  Which you can't see in this photo.  Bummer.

And that folks is Halloween 2012 at 18 Preston.  Next up - Thanksgiving! Which is my favorite Holiday next to the 4th of July.  Let the planning begin.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What's Cooking - Fall Favorites

Hi! This will just be a quick post bringing you some of our favorite fall dishes we've been cooking lately.  They each include pumpkin or squash - true fall classics.  We cook ALOT over here on 18 Preston.  If you're ever looking for something new, quick, and fun to try we post our "tried and approved - Foods" on Meg's Pinterest Board:  Only the good and easy is allowed on this board - and I try and add our comments/tweaks to the descriptions. 

Pork and Pumpkin Chili
Ok; so this is a recipe where our small change actually should change the name of the recipe.  We make this with cubed turkey breast simply because we prefer chicken or turkey to pork.  Besides that, this is our FAVORITE fall chili because of the pumpkin.  A word of caution - the chilies in adobe are quite strong.  We back off to adding just one of these so Meg can actually eat her dinner.  You can also substitue the mustard greens for any other leafy greed such as swiss chard or kale.  If you switch it with Kale - buy enough to make the third recipe as well.  The pumpkin sour cream is also delicious!

Tortellini with Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce
This is a new favorite, recently spotted in the cooking with kids section of Food Network Magazine.  It's quick to get to the table, has that "must be fall" pumpkin flavor, and the pumpkin adds so much nutrients.  We've made this exactly per the recipe and another time with a whole can of pumpkin and skim milk instead of the heavy cream.  It's certainly more healthy with skim milk, but it needed a bit more flavor that time.  

Gnocchi With Squash and Kale
This is a Fall through Winter Favorite, and also from Food Network Magazine (have you gathered that I LOVE that magazine?!)  This year in particular we've made this dish more because we're growing our own kale and swiss chard in the garden.  We follow everything in this recipe except we substitute the gnocchi with cheese tortellini which is a personal preference.  This dish impresses and can be served from oven to table.  It's quick enough for a weekly family meal, and elegant enough to serve at a small dinner party.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

What's cooking tonight

Beer's not just for drinking anymore. Then again, it never has been for me. On more than on occasion Meg has come home late after a night with her friends or family and asked if I spilled beer or had hot dogs for dinner. If I'm not cooking hot dogs on the grill, they're being fried in beer. I've even ventured as far as using beer to boil pasta. Quick tip, add beer to the water, straight beer boils over fast and aggressively. The same tip goes for boiling lobster. Add a bottle of beer to the water and the shells will be easier to break through. But enough about me...

It's my birthday this weekend and I have an amazing wife that also thoroughly enjoys cooking with beer. She found a recipe for Espresso Stout Cupcakes via Pinterest. You can find the original recipe here. This is what we (Meg) made it look like. 

I was in love when I heard the idea. Espresso Stout also means that I get to buy one of my favorite beers. Great Divide Brewing Co. Espresso Oak Aged Yeti Bohemian Imperial Stout. That's a mouthful to say and at 9.5% ABV, it's a pretty hearty drink too. When we were in Colorado for our Beer Tasting Adventure (I swear I'll post about it eventually), I even bought the appropriate crystal tulip glass which, I swear, makes it taste better. 

Great Divide's motto is 'Great Minds Drink Alike' but if Meg is in charge, it applies to food, drink and food with the drink inside it. 

And just a quick FYI, I heard a local pizza company is also serving 'Adult Only' pizza with the toppings soaked in tasteful spirits. That gets a free plug from me. Salvatores Restaurants

Monday, September 24, 2012


To say we're Meg is excited for Halloween would currently be an understatement.  This is the first time since I was in 4th grade that Halloween has the potential to bring in a massive amount of trick-or-treater and for there to be a reason to decorate the house.  I grew up in Salem, MA.  Witch City, USA.  Halloween celebrations begin October 1st and trick-or-treating is the event of the year.  Now that we're in our new home - in the cutest neighborhood ever - we're hoping for lots and lots of kids and family fun.  Without kids of our own we will focus on great decorations and fun treats.  We want to be a house that is remembered.

Sticking to our free and cheap project goals though, we're picked out several budget friendly decor ideas.

  • Googly eyes - seen on
  • Window Shadows, also seen on - we're aiming for a "Ghoul and Goblin Party" appearance (I refuse to scare little kids)
  • Magnetic Spiders on the doors
  • Black Pumpkins - via chalk board paint
  • The good old - broom and with hat sitting on the coat hook at the front door (enhanced with a pirate hat and sword also hung up)
  • Possibly some yard graves and a wheel barrel full of dirt and bones
Hopefully we'll find time for all of this to happen and not get our hopes up for just a few kids.
What are your plans for Halloween this year? Will you go all out? Are you dressing up?!

I can't say the chalk board pumpkin is an original for sure, but I don't think I've seen it before.  I just painted it when I was paining everything with chalkboard paint, why not paint a pumpkin.  Plus - black pumpkins without chalk look very creepy to me.  This guy above was decor at my craft fair over the weekend.  I should have just brought hundreds of these and sold them for $10 - everyone liked him... more than my jewelry...

A tutorial really isn't needed.  Pick pumpkin, paint two coats for chalk board paint, let cure, draw faces.  (Just don't use a sugar pumpkin.  This little guy rotted out in about a week - the regular ones last for months)

And Matt though I was crazy for telling him not to throw away any of the sticks from the yard.  Well, I made this awesome witch broom for FREE! This also doesn't need too much of a tutorial - bundle sticks together to look like a broom - secure with floral wire - glue gun hemp around like so.

We've also started the hunt for our costumes - Matt is growing out his beard to be Abraham Lincoln the vampire slayer, and I already got my bow and quiver for my Katniss costume.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

In the Works...

As usual, there’s a few projects in the works that have been started and only need a little more work to get wrapped up, or at least to a better spot. That second part is referring specifically to my El Camino. It’s in Massachusetts from my parents house in Connecticut, but it’s not quite home yet. I owe a huge thanks to Meg’s uncle Mike who helped get it here with the use of his trailer, and now it’s at the shop he works at so I can take a look under it and get it in working condition.

The other major project in the works is our front railing. We bought all of the parts and pieces from Home Depot a couple of weeks ago and the special order balusters came in over the weekend and now we’re just doing some math to make sure everything works right. The good part of working on AutoCAD for over 8 hours a day is that you can whip up an accurate sketch in no time. Here’s a sneak peek of what we hope the railing will look like. We’ll put up another blog post of the work and final product after it’s done. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Just another thing we do...

I'm not sure if we've mentioned this yet, but I'd be surprised if Meg hasn't; we like good beer. A lot. We love trying new beers whenever we can. We like going to the Yardhouse because it has over 100 beers on tap. We'll skip the first pitch of a Red Sox game to try a new beer across the street at Beer Works. We've been hanging out with a brewery near our college since we could both drink, Newport Storm.

Newport Storm Brewery tour in the college days

Newport Storm also introduced us to our favorite yearly vacation spot, Block Island. They used to do a pub crawl on the island the weekend before the fourth of July. That has since stopped, but the beer is still being brewed and we still try to get to Block Island once a year. Most recently, this past weekend. We don't embrace the pub crawl the way we used to, but we still walk to the bars and visit as many as we can.

They rented a bus to take us to the Oar!
One of the best place we go to try new beers is brewfests. At the beginning of September, there is a big beer fest in Boston called the American Craft Beer Festival (ACBF). We've had the chance to witness this magnificent event twice so far, and hopefully we'll be attending again soon. This year looks a little booked, but maybe next year. Last time we were able to go with a couple of friends and we had a blast. With over 120 breweries and 550 beers, it's hard not to.

The most recent beer fest we attended was the Newburyport Beer Fest last month. Meg actually works with the coordinator, and her parents live in Newburyport,  so we had plenty of incentive to go. They had a lot of great beers, including Oskar Blues out of Colorado. We stopped by the brewery when we were on our Colorado beer trip. (What's that you ask? Well, looks like I have another blog post to write.) There was also live music and a raffle. I ended up winning the last raffle prize which was a bunch of swag from Ipswich Ale Brewery. Not bad at all.

In addition to enjoying good beer, we also enjoy brewing our own. I'll save that for another blog post too, but here's a sneak peek. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Matt's Areas

There are two areas that Meg left out of the house tour, she told me I'm in charge of blogging about them, so here we go, finally. We've only been in the house for 8 months...

I've got the basement and the garage. There isn't much to them except storage, and my AWESOME work bench(es). We also have a beverage fridge. It holds mostly beer, as well as soda and juice for when we have guests with kids. It started out as a full fridge/freezer that the previous home owners left, but that died 2 weeks after we bought the house. We were able to "donate" that to someone that was willing to take it to the scrap yard. It saved me the hassle of getting rid of it and he made a few bucks.

We had to buy a washer/dryer set before we moved in. We found a set on sale for half price and couldn't pass it up. We called our mortgage company to make sure a big purchase was OK, and got them. We couldn't be happier with them.

Somehow we were able to inherit a bunch of things for free. We got a bunch of stuff from Meg's parents that didn't make the move from their house to their new place. That included a drill press, table saw and a router with a table. We also got a bunch of cabinet pieces that we need to decide what to do with.

With our neighbor packing up and driving across the country, they're getting rid of a bunch of stuff too. So far, they have generously given us an old TV and stand as well as a bunch of stuff they put on the road for free, including a set of sawhorses. I ended up chopping the stand in half, putting the TV on the bottom half and using the top half in the garage to hide all the gasoline, motor oil and other home owner liquids. My office has also recently changed locations and got a whole bunch of new office furniture. Anything that wasn't going to the new space was up for grabs. Storage was a little confusing in the basement, so I grabbed what I thought would be useful. The first thing I put my name on was my new work bench. It's a huge table, 3'x7'. It's already been great. There was a sheet of glass on top that we'll show you in another post after we up cycle it.

The garage is a little tight, but we make it work. The lawn tools (including my reel mower!) are in the garage with the garden tools and other outdoor stuff while the workshop stuff is in the basement.

Eventually, and hopefully soon, we need to fit a 1970 El Camino in the garage. That will entail a lot more blogging from me, so stay tuned for that.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Weekend Adventures: the "athletes"

Because we already don't sleep enough with work and the new house, why not tack on endurance events to occupy our "free" time? A few years after living together we began to tackle exercise more seriously. Neither of us were getting any smaller...we ran our first 5k together about four years ago. It was the farthest either of us had ever run. Fast forward to this summer and we actually enjoy each others company during our 5:30 am runs around the neighborhood. This is possibly because we're still half asleep and don't 100% realize how crazy we Meg are is.

Matt has taken running to new levels. Last year he ran a 10 miler and this past May used his new found enjoyment of running to raise money for our troops coming home at the 9k Run to Home Base at Fenway Park. I'm really proud of him.

While I'm still trying to be a better runner, cycling has always been my true athletic passion. I'm about to ride my third Pan Mass Challenge, a charity cycling race supporting cancer research and care. It's in 9 days!!!  I'll be riding a century (100 miles) on August 4th. Training uses a good chunk of my weekend hours but the event is worth it. Wish me lots of luck this year because I haven't gotten in quite as much training as I'd like to.  It's also my Dad/daughter weekend, he rides with me.   

Wish us luck this year with our goals!

Meg's PMC profile:

Her fundraising necklaces in her Etsy Shop:

 Bicycle Necklace for Charity