Friday, June 29, 2012

Featured Jewelry: Alex Woo Jewelry

Hi Everyone!

Today I wanted to share with you a jewelry line that has super cute gold and sterling silver charms on ball-chain necklaces. The jewelry designer is Alex Woo, who hails from New York City and has spent her life learning about making and designing jewelry. She draws inspiration from the world around her, particularly from the places around the world that she has visited.

Here are some of my favorite pieces of jewelry from her collection:

Thanks for checking out this post!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Words to Live By: Lao Tzu and Love

Last week was such a great week for my family: my aunt and my sister were both proposed to by their long-time boyfriends! I am so excited and so happy for both of them! I look forward to their weddings and I wish them both life long happiness with their fiances.

These two engagements reminded me of a wonderful quote by the ancient philosopher Lao Tzu, also known as Laozi, who wrote the Tao Te Ching and founded the philosophy of Taoism (pronounced "Daoism"). Lao Tzu wrote about many things in life, but I love this quote about love.

Thanks for reading my blog! I hope that you've enjoyed this quote and that it gives you inspiration for the week ahead!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Tasty Delights: Banana Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream Icing

I bought a bunch of bananas from the market last week, but I was unable to finish the bunch before they became over-ripe. I wanted to use them in a banana bread recipe (Danny's favorite), but I couldn't find a recipe that I liked. So I made the next best thing: Banana Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream Icing.

The recipe I used came from the Martha Stewart website, but I've added my own instructions and a few details to the cooking process. I didn't take pictures while I was baking because I was also making ratatouille and lentil soup at the same time (I'm making a lot of extra meals over the next few days to store in the freezer so that Danny has something to eat while I'm in Ohio.)

Here are the pictures of the finished cupcakes (YUMMM):

Look at those caramel streaks in the icing!! Yummy!!

Here's what you need:

For the cupcakes:
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar (I used my homemade brown sugar)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 very ripe large bananas, mashed (about 2 cups), plus sliced bananas for garnish
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
 For the buttercream:
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Here's what you do:

For the cupcakes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and line the cupcake tins with paper liners.
  2. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into a large bowl, then set the bowl aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. 
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well until each egg has been incorporated.
  5. Next, add the mashed bananas, vanilla and buttermilk. Mix on a medium speed until everything is incorporated.
  6. Slowly add the dry flour mixture to the wet mixture. Mix until just incorporated. Do not overmix!
  7. Divide the batter among the cupcake tins. Make sure your cupcake liners are 2/3 full. 
  8. Bake the cupcakes for about 18-20 minutes. The tester toothpicks (or knife) should come out clean when placed in the center of the cupcakes. You'll know they're done when they start filling the kitchen with a beautiful banana and cinnamon scent.
  9. Let the cupcakes cool on a wire rack. They must be completely cool to the touch before you can ice them. 

For the buttercream:

  1. Bring 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar and the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Wash sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. 
  2. Cook, undisturbed, until caramel is dark amber. (THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT: It is very easy to burn the caramel! The sugar keeps cooking for a few minutes after it has been removed from the heat, so make sure that you keep an eye on the caramel!) Once it starts to turn dark amber, remove it from the stove. 
  3. Remove the caramel from heat, and slowly add cream, stirring with a wooden spoon until smooth. Let cool.
  4. In a large bowl, beat butter with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy.
  5. Place whites and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer (I used my meat thermometer because I don't have a candy thermometer).
  6. Remove from heat, and attach bowl to a mixer. Whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, and add beaten butter, cup at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in vanilla.
  7. Switch to paddle attachment. With mixer on low speed, add caramel, and beat until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes.
  8. Once the cupcakes are cool, put the buttercream into a piping bag and ice the cupcakes.
  9. Enjoy!
I hope that you enjoy this recipe! These are such good cupcakes!

Thanks for reading my blog!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Words to Live By: Buddha and A Thousand Words

This weekend Danny and I watched a new Eddie Murphy movie which came out this spring called "A Thousand Words". The premise of the movie consists of Eddie Murphy's character, a notorious liar, who magically becomes linked to a Bodhi tree. Each word that Murphy's character speaks or writes causes one leaf falling from the tree; when all of the leaves have fallen off of the tree, Murphy's character will die.

The movie explores the themes of introspection, forgiveness, and the power of words. The movie reminded me of a great quote by Buddha, which says that one word of peace can be more powerful than a thousand hollow words. I think both the quote from Buddha and Eddie Murphy's movie inspired me to think more carefully about what words I choose to speak and how I speak to people.

If you only had 1,000 words left to speak, what would you say?

Thanks for reading my blog! I hope that you've enjoyed this quote. Please feel free to comment below!

Be sure to visit the Venture & Roam Facebook page and the Venture & Roam Etsy Shop!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Featured Jewelry: Anna Beck Designs

This week I wanted to feature a jewelry designer that has very simple jewelry designs which are still elegant and unique. I first came across this jewelry designer after seeing it at Mulholland & Sachs. There are a few pieces available on their website, however more can be found in the store. Anna Beck Designs incorporates the use of ancient jewelry-making techniques from the Far East to make simple yet visually stunning pieces of jewelry. The inspiration for the jewelry comes from the island of Bali, and the jewelry features beautiful intricate silver and gold-plated elements.  

In addition to the beautiful jewelry, Anna Beck Designs supports the Bumi Sehat charity in Bali. This organization is a women's clinic which operates financially solely on the donations that it receives. This local charity in Bali helps to provide medical care and attention to women in Bali. For each purchase made at Anna Beck Designs, a donation is made to the Bumi Sehat charity.

Here are some of my favorite pieces of jewelry:

I absolutely love this Beaded Saddle Ring by Anna Beck.

This Dome Skinny Cuff by Anna Beck is simple but still classy.

I love the color combination of the Green Amethyst and Gold in these Chandelier Earrings by Anna Beck.

These Open Drop Chandelier Earrings by Anna Beck are so simple but super elegant!

This Gold Woven Knot Necklace by Anna Beck is my favorite piece of jewelry by this designer!

This Mini Reversible Starfish Necklace by Anna Beck is super cute!

I hope that you've enjoyed this featured jewelry line! Thanks for reading my blog!

Words to Live By: Mahatma Gandhi

Hi Everyone,

I hope that you've had a great start to your week. I have been enjoying my first few days of summer break, but I have to get started on two of my graduate papers tomorrow. I am aiming to have my work finished before I head home to Ohio at the beginning of July.

I wanted to share with you another of my favorite quotes today. This particular quote was said by one of the world's most iconic figures for non-violence: Mahatma Gandhi. He spread words of peace, tolerance and acceptance, and his philosophy impacted the world. As an activist in the struggle for freedom and independence of India, Gandhi sought to make a change. His words about making a change in the world are just as relevant today as the were in the early 20th century.

I think that it is absolutely important that we remember the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi: we ought to practice tolerance, acceptance, and peace. We need to take action to bring about change in the world, because if we do not take action, no one will.

Thanks for reading my blog. I hope that you enjoyed this quote.

Please feel free to comment below. Tell me what you think about this quote!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Jet Set: The Duomo in Milan, Italy

All week I have been dreaming about the trip that I took to Northern Italy last fall. I had a wonderful time visiting some truly beautiful and less-traveled cities with my aunt, and I was also very lucky to spend my birthday with her while we were in Italy.

The first city that I visited in Italy was one of the most famous fashion capitals of the world: Milan. I have never seen so many people conscious of how they looked and dressed. And I'm not talking about just the young adults, but the young and the very old alike dressed in the chicest clothing.

One of my favorite places that my aunt and I visited was the famous Duomo di Milano. The Duomo is a large Gothic cathedral in the heart of Milan, and it is also one of the oldest standing cathedrals in the world. It's construction began in the 1300's, but the cathedral is built on top of ancient basilicas which predate the 5th century AD. The cathedral is absolutely stunning, especially viewing the city of Milan from the top of the towers. It was incredible walking into the cathedral and staring up into the vaulted ceilings. It was truly one of the most beautiful cathedrals that I have ever visited.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from my visit to the Duomo di Milano:

This is the front of the Duomo in Milan. As you can see, the entire courtyard was packed with people, which made it really difficult to take a decent shot of the cathedral.
I loved the floor of the Duomo. I thought that the marble and stone inlay was absolutely gorgeous.
While you cannot see how long this candle box extends, I was amazed by the sheer number of prayer candles. I lit one in remembrance of my grandfather.
These are some of the outside structures of the Duomo. They are huge flying buttresses which extend from the roof to the side of the Duomo.
Here you can see one of the spires protruding from a flying buttress. (Insert giggle here.)
I love this picture. It seemed that the towers and buttresses extended forever!
Here are three towers. I'm not sure what the significance of the three figures atop the towers represents, but I loved how they almost seem to be reaching the heavens.

Have you visited the Duomo di Milano before? Have you visited Milan? Feel free to leave a comment below!

Thanks for visiting my blog! Be sure to check out the Venture & Roam Etsy shop and the Venture & Roam Facebook page!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Venture and Roam Update

Hi Everyone,

I've been terrible at posting the last two weeks. I am finally done with the semester (though I have to papers to write which aren't due until the end of August). Now I have time to devote to the blog and to my jewelry!

I will be going back home to Ohio for a nice long stay (with a short trip to New York City and Connecticut) and then I will be going to the Bahamas to visit Danny's family before I return to Switzerland. While I'm in Ohio, I will be changing my shipping and handling policies to allow for free shipping within the United States. I have yet to decide what I will do about shipping my jewelry once I'm in the Bahamas...

Here are a few pieces that I made awhile ago but have yet to put up on Etsy (procrastination is my middle name...)

This is a stretch bracelet that I made using boxwood beads and a paua shell.

These are bracelets that I made using paua shells and a bone charm.

I made this Chan Luu inspired wrap bracelet with brown leather cord and Swarovski crystal beads.

Thank you for your patience with my lack of regular posts these last two weeks! As always thanks for reading my blog!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tasty Treat: Italian Meatballs (inspired by Chow Ciao Fabio Viviani's Perfect Italian Meatballs)

I have always loved Italian food, and one of my favorite Italian dishes has always been spaghetti with meatballs. Pasta is a weekly staple in our household, and whenever I make meatballs I usually just eyeball the ingredients. They always come out very tasty. However, recently I was watching one of my favorite online chefs, Fabio Viviani from Chow Ciao on Yahoo, and I decided that I would try his "Perfect Italian Meatballs". I strayed a little from his recipe, but the meat balls turned out pretty darn good.

Here's what you need:

* 1 pound of ground beef or ground beef mixture
* 1/2 cup of marscapone cheese (Fabio Viviani uses ricotta)
* 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
* 1 cup bread crumbs (I used homemade bread crumbs, but Fabio Viviani uses Panko bread crumbs)
* 1 egg
* 1 onion, chopped
* 3 garlic cloves, minced or put through a garlic press
* 1 tablespoon of good olive oil
* kosher salt
* pepper 

Here's what you do:

1. Combine all of the ingredients into a large bowl.
2. Mix all of the ingredients together so that the mixture is fully incorporated. Do not over-mix. (I had to switch to a larger bowl!)
3. Coat your hands with olive oil and roll the mixture into small balls of meaty goodness.
4. Add olive oil to a pan and heat on medium. Place the meatballs in the pan, and cook all sides until they are seared lightly brown. Once they have been seared on all sides, remove the meatballs from the pan and drain the fat and oil.
5. Once the pan has been drained, place the meatballs back in the pan and cover them with tomato sauce. Cook until the sauce is heated and the meatballs are thoroughly cooked.
6. Eat and enjoy! Yummmmmm

I hope that you've enjoyed my slight twist to Italian meatballs! They are absolutely delicious and make perfect leftover meatball sub sandwiches!

Thanks for reading my blog! Be sure to check out my Venture & Roam Etsy shop and like the Venture & Roam Facebook page!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Words to Live By: Dave Matthews Band Quote

Hi Everyone,

I hope that you had a good weekend and that you have a great week ahead of you.

This weekend Danny and I were reminded of how precious life is and how each day of living is a gift. We'll always hold fond memories of those who pass away, but the loss of life causes us to remember that we ought to live each day to the fullest.

One of my favorite quotes comes from the song "Two Step" by Dave Matthews Band. While I'm not the biggest fan of this band, I have always loved this song, specifically the chorus. Here's my favorite line from the song with a picture that I took in the Bahamas:

Thank you for reading my blog. Be sure to visit my Venture & Roam Etsy shop and my Venture & Roam Facebook page.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Venture and Roam Update: Over 4000 Hits!

Hi Everyone!

First of all, I wanted to say thank you to everyone who has visited my blog! I reached well over 4000 hits a couple of days ago. I never thought that I would get 400 hits in just two and a half months let alone over 4000! Thank you very much for visiting my blog and leaving such wonderful comments!

I am looking forward to the summer. I will be spending over a month back home in Ohio and then heading to the Bahamas to visit Danny's family for two weeks. While I am home, I will be devoting my time to making even more jewelry.

As soon as my exams are over, I will have plenty of time to devote to putting up all of my jewelry onto Etsy (I know, I know... procrastination is my middle name!)

Here's a new necklace that I made using freshwater cultured pearls and a large paua shell:

Thanks for visiting my blog! Be sure to visit the Venture & Roam Etsy Shop and "like" the Venture & Roam Facebook Page!

Featured Jewelry: B. Fatica Jewelry

I cannot believe that it is already June 1st! This year has been flying by, and I cannot wait to see what the rest of the year has in store for me!

The past two weeks have been very busy for me. Today is the last day of classes and I have been busily preparing for exams and term papers. It should slow down after today, and I should be able to catch up with all of my posts!

Today I wanted to feature one of the many amazing jewelry lines available at Mulholland & Sachs (shameless shout out to my Grandma and Auntie's store! Mulholland & Sachs only offers a few of this line on their website, but they have a lot of pieces available in their store).

The jewelry line is called B. Fatica Jewelry and it was started by Barbara Fatica in 1990. Her jewelry features stunning gemstones, silver and gold vermeil pieces and design elements reflecting eastern philosophies.

I love the rich colors of the gemstones combined with the soft gold vermeil in B. Fatica jewelry! The jewelry is perfect for a causal day and it is elegant enough to wear on an evening out.

Here are a few of my favorite pieces from B. Fatica's website:

Thanks for reading this post and for checking out my blog! Be sure to visit the Venture & Roam Etsy shop and like my blog on the Venture & Roam Facebook page!