My name is Lisa and I'm a crafty girl with wanderlust working as an engineer by day. My blog chronicles projects in my home as well as pictures and stories from my travels.




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Entries in Drinks (10)


Making Masala Chai

I love drinking my tea sweet with lots of milk so when I discovered masala chai back when I was in college I was instantly hooked. It is such a lovely sweet and spicy drink and is definitely among my favorite beverages, especially when it is chilly outside.

Masala chai originates from South Asia and literally means "mixed spice tea." It is often referred to as chai tea in the West, but since chai actually means tea calling it chai tea is redundant.

Two years ago my friend, Pam, who spent time living in India, gave me a lovely present of some spices, black tea, a tea strainer and instructions for making masala chai. I had never realized how easy making your own was until receiving that thoughtful gift. As an added benefit it makes your home smell wonderful while you are boiling the spices.

There are about a million different ways to make masala chai (varying the spices, changing the ratio of water and milk, what step in the process you add the milk, steeping or boiling the tea, etc.) but I thought I would share a simple recipe that I enjoy which makes enough for about two cups. If you have never made masala chai at home before you can use this as a starting point and experiment to find what recipe fits your tastes.

Ingredients List
- 4 whole cloves
- 4 green cardamom pods, crushed
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 thin slices of fresh ginger
- 1 star anise pod
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons loose black tea (Assam, Ceylon) 

- Place spices, water, milk and sugar in a small sauce pan and simmer for 10 minutes

- Remove from heat, add tea leaves and allow tea to steep for 4 minutes 

- Pour masala chai into cups through tea strainer, straining out the spices and tea leaves

Tips and Tricks
- If you plan to make chai masala often I recommend buying spices in bulk at an Indian grocery which is much cheaper than buying small jars at the regular grocery (If you are in Ann Arbor I like Bombay Grocers)
- Have fun experimenting to find what recipe you like best! 


Flavored Water Three Ways

I love soda. Whenever I travel I try whatever sodas I can find. Melon soda in Vietnam? Why of course! Guaraná soda in Brazil? Absolutely delicious! If a drink is sugary and carbonated it's for me.

Unfortunately, drinking a lot of soda isn't the healthiest and I decided that I should try to cut down a little bit on my several soda a day habit.

I know that I should replace at least some of my soda intake with water but unfortunately plain water doesn't really do much for me. In an attempt to get more water into my life I've been trying out different homemade flavored waters. With my herb garden outside the sky is the limit for experimenting with different combinations.

I've made infusions with strawberry and mint, cucumber and watermelon and sage. All you need to do is cut up your ingredients, place them in a bottle of water and let the fruit and herbs steep for at least and hour.

I can't say that I still don't crave my soda, but the flavored waters are a tastier alternative to plain water for me. So far the strawberry and mint is my favorite.

Do you like flavored waters? What combinations are your favorite?


How to Rim a Glass with Sugar or Salt

After sharing about Trisha's going away dinner party I thought I would provide the details about how to do one of the party elements, namely how to rim a glass with sugar. Although I used sugar for the party since I was serving a sweet Sangria and flavored waters, this technique works equally well with salt.

The process is really simple and easy. You just need limes, sugar or salt and two flat dishes with a lip that are larger in diameter than the cups or glasses that you intend to decorate.

Squeeze the limes over the first dish until it has a shallow covering of lime juice at least an eighth of an inch deep. Pour some sugar or salt in the second dish and tap it to level it out flat.

Dip the rim of your glass in the lime juice followed by dipping it into the dish of sugar or salt. Keep the glass upside down between dipping into the juice and the sugar or salt otherwise the juice will drip back into the glass. Also, only lightly dip the glass into the sugar or salt because if you hit the bottom of the dish you may rub off the sugar or salt on the very top of the glass. Very lightly tap the glass to gently shake off any excess granules. Turn the glass right side up and then fill it with your favorite party beverage.

You can also try this technique with colored or flavored sugars for something different. It is a super easy and fun way to dress up your drinks.


Going Away Party For Trisha

My friend, Trisha, is moving out of state for a new and exciting job so last night I had a little dinner party for her and some friends over at my house.

To set the table I started off by laying out a kraft colored linen tablecloth and then laid out a pink table runner and pink napkins at each place setting. I also laid out two glasses at each place setting. The short, wide glass was for sangria decorated with a sugared rim and a lime slice with a short pink polka dot straw and the tall, skinny glass was for water with a tall pink bendy straw. 

For flowers my grocery store had bunches of alstroemeria on sale for $3 each so I bought four bunches in two shades of pink and placed them on the table in little white flower pots.

For drinks I made two different flavored waters, strawberry-mint and watermelon-sage, and set them out in glass carafes. For those who wanted alcohol, I sliced up some oranges and put them with some sangria in a pitcher. I placed my drinks in a pink metal tray at the center of the table.

For food I had to be careful of my menu to make it gluten-free. I used a quinoa-corn pasta to make a pasta salad with cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, kalamata olives and parsley. I also made a spinach salad with goat cheese, raspberries and sugared pecans and tilapia wrapped in sage and prosciutto. 

We had a fun time and it was so nice to have everyone over and celebrate our friendship with Trisha. Good luck with your move, Trisha! We love you!


Picture of the Day: Woman Crushing Sugar Cane for Nuoc Mia

Hoi An, Vietnam


DIY Monogrammed Cocktail Picks

Tomorrow I am attending a wedding and me being me, I just finished up making the gift today. Nothing like waiting until the last minute!

For the bride's wedding shower gift I had purchased some bar related items from the couple's wedding registry and then made white and navy drink coasters to go along. I thought it would be fun to coordinate the shower gift with the wedding gift so I bought a set of martini glasses that they had registered for and then made these navy monogrammed cocktail picks for them.

To make the cocktail picks I started by purchasing some plain, inexpensive stainless steel cocktail picks to use as my base. I cut eight small equal size pieces from some navy clay and then rolled each piece into a ball between my palms. I pushed a cocktail pick into each ball and then reshaped them to make them into flat discs. I finished them off by stamping an initial into them and then baking them in the oven per the clay manufacturer's instructions.

The cocktail picks were easy to make, but it did take me awhile to be able to stamp the clay in the center evenly. I had several at the beginning that were off kilter and that I had to reform and restamp. If you are going to try this at home, make sure to use a clay that is safe around food.

I think the picks turned out cute and I hope that the soon to be Mr. & Mrs. H enjoy them!


DIY Etched Glass Bottles for Limoncello

After making my limoncello I couldn't just store it in any old bottles so I decided to gussy up some bottles that I bought at Ikea with some glass etching.

To start I sketched out a lemon slice design on a piece of cardstock. I traced around the bottom of two different sized bottles to make the inner and outer circles. I then drew three lines through the circles to mark where I wanted to draw the segments and then sketched them in. Once I was satisfied I colored in the areas to discard and then cut it out to make a template. I then traced the pattern onto pieces of shelf liner vinyl, cut it out and then adhered it to my glass bottles.

Following the instructions, I applied a thick layer of etching cream to the bottle over the design area not masked by the vinyl. The etching cream is corrosive so it is important to take safety precautions by using gloves and protecting your work surface. Also with the round bottle I had problems with the cream sliding down the side so I had to keep an eye on it and wipe drips before they went past the vinyl and onto the glass.

After the cream set on the bottle for 10 minutes, I rinsed it off and removed the vinyl from the bottle. By being careful when I was removing the vinyl I was able to reuse it on another bottle. The etching is light so it is a subtle look, but I like it. Also, since this could be any citrus slice I can easily reuse the bottles later for lemonade at a party or orange juice at a brunch.

To finish off my bottles I added a little tag with "limoncello" written on them and tied them to the bottles with some string. Now my bottles look cute enough to match the deliciously sweet limoncello inside.

Have you ever done any glass etching? Did it work well for you? Did you try a different method?


Making Limoncello

Having recently come back from being on vacation in Italy, I have been missing sipping on some limoncello after finishing my dinner. When I spotted some Sorrento lemons on sale at my grocery store for half of the price of regular lemons I knew it was a sign that I had to make some.

Although it requires some time for the lemon peels to steep in the alcohol, limoncello is really quite easy to make and is wonderful either by itself or as part of a mixed drink.

Limoncello is a lemon flavored liqueur from Southern Italy that is often served chilled as an after dinner digestivo. Traditionally made with Sorrento lemons it is especially famous in Sorrento, Capri and along the Amalfi Coast.

My first time drinking limoncello was when I was in Italy ten years ago and a waiter brought me a tiny glass for free after a meal.  The sweet, lemony flavor always bring back memories of that trip and now memories of my recent trip as well. Salute!

P.S. If you want to know how I made the lemon design on my bottles, check out my DIY glass etching tutorial.

Ingredients List
- 10 lemons
- 750 ml bottle of vodka
- 2-1/4 cups sugar
- 3 cups water

- Clean lemons and then using a peeler, peel the skin in wide strips
- Using a paring knife, remove all traces of the pith (white part)
- Place peels in a glass jar with vodka and let sit at room temperature for at least seven days
- Make simple syrup by bringing water and sugar to a boil
- After boiling for 15 minutes, allow simple syrup to cool to room temperature and stir in vodka mixture
- Using a cheesecloth, strain and then pour into glass bottles 

Tips and Tricks
- If you can, try to use Sorrento lemons, but if you can't find them the recipe still works great with other lemons
- Ten lemons is based on a typical sized lemon so if your lemons are much bigger or smaller you can adjust the number
- Make sure to remove all of the pith otherwise the limoncello may have a bitter taste
- Instead of peeling the skin, you can use a zester but I like the large strips because I can save them to make into candied lemon peel
- After peeling the lemons, squeeze them for their juice which you can use in other recipes
- Allowing the lemon peels to steep longer is supposed to give a better flavor, but the most I can usually make myself wait is a week 
- Adjusting the sugar to water ratio will make the limoncello more or less sweet depending on personal preference
- Storing your limoncello in the freezer ensures that it is always ready to be served 


Treasures From My Travels: Italian Coffee Grinder

When I travel I love to bring back things for my home. It makes me so happy to be surrounded my mementos from my trips and the memories each item brings back. I've been meaning for a long time to start writing down the stories behind all the treasures from my travels and I thought it would be fun to share them on my blog.

Picked up in Sicily on my Italy trip last month, this little coffee grinder is a recent addition.

Frank and I were wandering through one of Palermo's many colorful street markets (where we also got a spleen sandwich) when I spied it sitting amongst a pile of other random used items for sale. I had been meaning to get myself a coffee grinder so it was a perfect item to bring home. The seller wanted 20 Euros for it, but after a few rounds of bargaining back and forth (20-10-15-11-13-12-sold!) and approval from his wife the coffee grinder was mine for 12 Euros.

I love the worn patina that the wood has acquired and the red metal on top is a great match for my kitchen. It is not very big which is fine since I only plan to use it for grinding small amounts. As an added plus the small size made it easy to bring home and it doesn't take up much storage space. Cute and functional: that's what I call a perfect souvenir. Off to make some coffee... 


DIY Drink Coasters

As a part of a wedding shower gift for my friend, Kristen, I decided to make drink coasters. I had purchased some bar related items from her wedding registry and thought this would be a nice compliment to the gift.

To make the coasters I used white twill fabric, 3/8" navy grosgrain ribbon and white thread. I wanted the coasters to be 4" square so I started by cutting two 5" squares from my twill (4" plus 1/2" seam allowance) for each coaster.

I cut four 5" lengths of ribbon for each coaster and pinned them to the top of a twill square 1" from the edge. To tack the ribbons in place I sewed around the twill 1/4" from the edge and removed the pins. I then pinned a second twill square to the beribboned square with right sides together. I sewed around the edges with a 1/2" seam allowance leaving a 2" gap for turning the coaster right side out. After I finished sewing I clipped the corners and ironed the seams flat before turning it right side out. I ironed the coaster again and then finished it by using a blind stitch to close up the gap.

The fun thing about the coasters is that if you are using them for wine glasses you can slide the ribbons around the base of the glass and the coaster will stay attached to the glass. For wine glasses with a smaller sized base my pattern would need to be tweaked to place the ribbons closer to each other and for larger ones the ribbon should be a little farther apart. Cheers!