Monday, November 30, 2009

This Week at Olive Writes

Just step out your door for a moment, if you please. Delicately sniff the air like a fawn on a morning of new fallen snow. It's there, isn't it? That whiff of holiday times as they sweep nearer and nearer to us, bringing on their wing much convivial atmosphere, toothsome goodies and packages full of hidden delights.

Yet, these glad times must be nurtured along with our own festive preparations, and so we busy ourselves in feverish anticipation. Olive is simply abuzz with ribbons that threaten to roll hither and thither, parcels precariously carried through wet winter weather and lists as long as those of Santa's workshop.

Speaking of workshops, this week Olive Writes becomes just that! With mirthful merriment and the efficiency of elves, we shall fashion our own gifts for those very close to our holiday hearts. Nothing too taxing, mind you! Elegance and simplicity - that is what we will aim for.

It's homemade gift week at Olive Writes!

Image: We Heart It

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Handmade: Silhouette Portraits

While most of Olive's elvish friends are busy working away on train sets and rocking horses, board games and windup toys, she has managed to steal a couple sprites from St. Nick's bench to assist with her first homemade gift: silhouette portraits!

So smart and dignified, isn't she? Sip your Earl Grey tea with honey whilst creating either a two-tone or traditional black silhouette using Photoshop. For a bit more tactile satisfaction, snip your way to a finished product. Of course, if you are already drowning in a sea of ribbons, shopping and baking, simply...

Custom Cut Silhouette
Paper Cuts by Joe

...order a portrait! Paper Cuts by Joe creates hand-cut silhouette portraits with an easy "add to cart" click.

At last, a portrait Olive is happy to sit for. Didn't you notice, it requires neither makeup nor perfectly coiffed hair, an outfit choice or a perky smile!

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Chocolate Dream

From New York to Arizona, Olive has delicately sipped frothy cappuccinos, foam tickling her nose, slurped up a white chocolate mocha that sent her spinning happily about her day and licked up thick, thick whipped cream. Squeezing into her favourite pair of leggings, Olive wonders if she has room for any more indulgences. She must! Her home town is last on her voyage and it's time to show it off. Mercifully, there is but one plane ride left. She buckles in, declines the peanuts and, surprisingly, drifts off into a gentle, dreamy slumber...

A chocolate maker appears before her eyes. A man from the Black Forest region of Germany (how Hansel and Gretel!), one who blessedly decided to immigrate to Vancouver and fill all its residents full of the most sublime and celebrated chocolates they had ever tasted...

He opened a shop with a crimsom ceiling, a little plant where one could watch the white-coated Willy Wonkas craft award-winning chocolates infused with cinnamon and Earl Grey tea, fresh oranges and chili

And the famous Sparkle cookies! Dubbed the "World's Best Cookie" by some, these are creations of deeply chocolate, truffle-like rapture...

Olive is swooning in her sleep, but there is more! Yes, it is chocolate, but too pure to be labelled mere "hot chocolate." This is a liquid sensory experience of the richest Aztec fantasy. Olive licks her lips just a little, the heat of primal cocoa rises up, a touch of chili...

Oh my! With a grunt and nary an apology, Olive's seat mate is making his way heavily across her toes. How cruel that such a dream should be interrupted just as she was taking her first sip. Nevertheless, she knows what her first stop will be once this wretched plane lands... To Thomas Haas Chocolates she will head!

* * *

If you are feeling faint for a nibble of chocolate, Olive suggests ordering something from Mr. Haas himself (Sparkle cookies can now be ordered and baked at home!). For more visual satisfaction, click your way over to me Hungry! and read about this New Yorker's very welcoming trip to said chocolate shop and patisserie.

Images: Thomas Haas and me Hungry!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Wee Tale in Tucson

Olive had such a terrific time sipping her way through New York earlier this week that it was with regret and a sad glance backward (perhaps also induced by her fear of flying) that she buckled her seat belt and continued her journey towards lattes unknown. Yet, she should not have despaired! Tucson was her next stop and oh! How it has charmed her. Of course, she has had another expert guide to push her through the most delightful of cafe doors, Vanessa of A Fanciful Twist. Whenever Olive desires true originality and magical artistic talent, it is to A Fanciful Twist she turns. Today, Vanessa sweeps us away on a narrative journey of coffee bliss. Do enjoy!

Tucson has many places to indulge in warm sipping delicacies. However, as a special treat I like to visit The Cup Café, located inside of Hotel Congress in downtown Tucson.

For today, one of my alter ego illustrations, Fungi Waitress Girl, is itching to take us there.

In my opinion, The Cup Café has many facets to it. First of all, you access the café entrance through The Hotel Congress lobby, which imparts a vintage/historic quality to the café.

The café embodies a feeling of quaintness and charm mixed with funky and fabulous (all the while offering a wide scale menu, including fine dining and renowned desserts). You can sit out on the patio or sit inside and feel an unusual times past vibe.

I love to find myself alone or with friends, seated at a little table right in this space...

In the past few years I have become an avid coffee drinker, and while I prefer my coffee served black-

I love the cappuccinos at The Cup and will indulge in one whenever possible. Frothy, hot, smooth goodness...

And while you sip, you can sit around and read saying on the wall...

However, if I am feeling extra naughty and long for a hot sip-able dessert -

I will partake in their scrumptious hot chocolate topped anyway you like. My favorite way is with a dollop of sweet cream and sprinkled with cinnamon. Yummy!

Now, if you would like to create you very own decadent hot perfect for chilly nights sip-able dessert chocolate in the privacy of your own home, than I have just the idea for you.

If you make your hot chocolate at home with milk (say 3 cups of milk or so), try popping a vanilla bean into your milk before cooking. Then cook your milk to just below boiling (about 5-6 minutes at medium heat).

Remove the vanilla bean from your milk and scrape out the seeds from inside of the bean, stirring the seeds back into your milk still in the saucepan. Then, let the seeds sit in the milk to infuse it with flavor, covering it for about 10 minutes. Then add your chocolate however you normally do. If you use syrup, turn your flame on to a low heat and add the syrup to the milk mixture, stirring until the chocolate is fully blended.

If you prefer using block chocolate, I like to melt my block chocolate in 1 cup of milk (amount of chocolate to taste 3-5 oz.) in a separate saucepan, while my milk infuses with my vanilla bean seeds in a separate saucepan. Then I combine both mixtures after I have infused the milk for ten minutes in one saucepan and the chocolate has melted in another stirring until well blended. Top with cream and freshly grated cinnamon.

A vanilla bean is a simple way to take your hot chocolate to a whole other level of deliciousness.


Vanessa Valencia {A Fanciful Twist}
A Fanciful Twist {Through the Secret Keyhole}

PS. Olive apologizes for the variety of fonts in this post... She is tempted to retreat to pen and ink!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sipping in the City: Part 2

As promised, Cafe Fashionista is back to guide us around the cafes of New York and tantalize us with some truly decadent recipes! Start perking your coffee and settle in; this post, like a really good cappuccino, deserves to be savoured.

“No coffee can be good in the mouth that does not first send a sweet offering of odor to the nostrils.”

Henry Ward Beecher

Financier Patisserie – Stone Street

Please ignore the fact that Brooks Brothers reigns within the four walls of Stone Street’s Financier Patisserie. You really can’t be surprised; after all, it’s located in the heart of the Financial District. At the same time, whenever I so much as glance upon the exterior of this Wall Street wonder, I feel as if I’m transported to picturesque Paris or idyllic Italy. While many cafes embrace dark color schemes, Financier Patisserie sets itself apart by flaunting light and airy hues, outdoor tables, and elegant windows – all of which work as one to create an adorable atmosphere perfect to indulge in two of my favorite things: mochaccinos and madeleines. A word of warning…since Financier Patisserie is known for their scrummy pastries please, please, please do not walk out that door without at least a chocolate croissant or brownie in tow. They are a heavenly complement to any warm drink you happen to order. 62 Stone Street (between Mill Lane and Hanover Square), New York, NY 10004.

Pumpkin Pie Latte


-1 tablespoon canned pumpkin

-2 tablespoons vanilla extract

-1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

-1 cup milk

-1/2 cup strong coffee, or ¼ cup espresso

In a saucepan, heat milk and pumpkin until steaming. Stir in vanilla and cinnamon. Put mixture in a blender and blend for 15-20 seconds until thick and foamy. Pour into tall glass, then add coffee (or espresso). Top with a sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice or ground nutmeg. Makes 1 serving.

“The morning cup of coffee has an exhilaration about it which the cheering influence of the afternoon or evening cup of tea cannot be expected to reproduce.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

B Cup Café – East Village

If given the choice between moving into the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, or residing at the East Village’s B Cup Café for all of eternity, darlings I have no qualms about proclaiming that I would not even hesitate before announcing my decision…the B Cup Café, of course! While the free WiFi, Caramel Café Mocha, White Chocolate Café Mocha, and Hot Chocolate have lured me into the charming hot spot time and time again, these are not the main reasons for my frequent visits. Mais non! The truth of the matter is that I am convinced that one could find love in this enchanting East Village nook.

There’s something about the ambiance found within that makes you feel as if you will meet the cute boy of your dreams while standing in line awaiting your Frozen Vanilla and White Chocolate Café Mocha, or cozily perched upon the olive green couch flipping through the latest issue of ELLE. Perhaps your eyes will lock between sips of splendor, leading the two of you to share a Bagel with Cream Cheese before strolling into the sunset, destined to live happily ever after. It sounds outlandish, but I truly do believe that there is potential for such a tale to take place within the alluring atmosphere. 212 Ave. B. (Corner of E. 13th St.), New York, NY 10009.

Toffee Hot Chocolate

from Rachel Ray


-4 cups whole milk

-1/2 cup water

-1/2 cup sugar

-6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

-2 ounces butterscotch chips

-1 canister whipped cream

-1 toffee bar, crushed (recommended: Heath bars)

Heat milk, water, sugar to a boil, remove from heat and stir in chocolate and butterscotch chips until they melt into milk. Pour into small mugs or cups and top with whipped cream swirls and crushed toffee. Makes 4 servings.

Fashionably yours!
Cafe Fashionista

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sipping in the City - Part 1

Could Olive really begin her quest for a bracing bit of winter refreshment anywhere but in New York City? Hardly. And could she have found a more agreeable guide than Erika of Cafe Fashionista? Not likely. A required stop on Olive's daily tour of the blogging world, Cafe Fashionista is spot-on fashion and the most charming writing this side of the library stacks! For the next two days, she shall indulge us with her favourite N.Y.C coffee haunts, as well as some truly delectable recipes to try yourself. And so, to New York...

“Given enough coffee, I could rule the world.”

Believe it or not, I was not always the coffee lover that I am today. In fact, if memory serves me correctly, it was just shy of three years ago that I was turning my nose up at the steaming cups of caffeine, refusing to so much as smell the muddy blend let alone allow it to pass my lips. Even at this stage of the game, as much as I adore a kick of java every few hours, I can’t credit myself with being a coffee connoisseur or aficionado in any way, shape, or form; I’m simply a passionate individual with a desire to sip on something warm and cozy – a beverage synonymous with the comforts of a well-loved knit sweater. The fact that it helps me to get through the day…well, that’s just frosting on the cupcake!

But I digress; admittedly I would never survive without a cup of Joe early in the morning, or a calming cappuccino in the afternoon, or even an invigorating mug of hot chocolate right before bed. How I ever survived without such luxurious concoctions is truly unfathomable.

For me, warm beverages are the equivalent of an old friend re-entering one’s world, or a cute boy doing something unexpectedly romantic just to make you smile. They are a part of the simplicities in life that make one’s existence enchanting, charming, and magnificent with a singular sip. Therefore it is truly no surprise that I have my favorites; Toffee Hot Chocolate, White Chocolate Coffee, and Pumpkin Pie Lattes being amongst my most beloved brews. But I’ve learned over time that savoring such delicacies in the privacy of one’s home can often leave a bitter taste in the drinker’s mouth.

It may sound silly. Perhaps a whimsical notion, you might say; but it’s the truth. I feel that ambiance and a charming surrounding truly do play roles in how much or how little an individual enjoys ones warm drink du jour. Cobblestoned patios add character; brick walls provide history; and very light jazz music murmuring in the background establishes old-fashion noir and glamour. Thus, when I find myself navigating the concrete jungle that is New York, I do not seek out, or comb various neighborhoods searching for the most commercialized, well-known coffee shops.

In a city as full of life and personality as New York I see these locations as clichéd. When experiencing a new place, it is best to immerse yourself in the culture and aestheticism that you would be unable to experience anywhere else. Therefore I rummage for regal little gems with the ability to tantalize my taste buds and proffer an ambrosial atmosphere. These are just three of my absolute favorites.

“No one can understand the truth until he drinks of coffee’s frothy goodness.”

Sheikh Abd-al-Kadir

Red Horse Café – Park Slope, Brooklyn

Despite the fact that I think of Park Slope’s Red Horse Café as a blogger’s paradise, I am truly not being biased by stating that this is one of my favorite little places to hide out in whenever I find myself in New York. Located on the corner of 12th Street and 6th Avenue. Red Horse Café is, without a doubt, one of the most darling places I have ever found myself dwelling in. Due to the fact that it’s located in Brooklyn, you have the New York City cultivation and attitude, coupled with the captivating quaintness most often seen in the suburbs – a fact that is pinpointed by the tree-lined streets visible through the windows; hence, you get the best of both worlds.

But outer sights don’t even begin to compare with the beauty found right within Red Horse. The walls are lined with pieces created by the hands of local artists; while overstuffed couches, armchairs, café tables, and window-mounted bars with stools create heavenly seating options for everyone. The true charm of Red Horse, however, comes from the fact that it’s a multifaceted venue that serves yummy iced coffee (with coffee ice cubes as opposed to water-based ones!) and mind-blowing mochas to bloggers, couples, old friends, and families throughout the mornings and afternoons; then transforms into a hipster hangout featuring live musicians, and other special events come nightfall. It’s the type of place one never wants to leave; but since you ultimately have to, don’t do so without grabbing a cupcake or handful of macaroons! 497 6th Ave. (between 11th and 12th St.), Brooklyn, NY 11215.

“I orchestrate my mornings to the tune of coffee.”

Harry Mahtar

White Chocolate Coffee


-3 ounces white chocolate, chopped

-2 cups half-and-half or whole milk

-2 cups hot freshly brewed coffee

-Whipped cream and chocolate curls

Microwave the chocolate and half-and-half in a medium microwavable bowl on HIGH for 2 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the coffee. Pour into large cups or mugs. Top each serving with whipped cream and chocolate curls, if desired. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

Cafe Fashionista will return tomorrow with two more cafes and two more recipes to tempt you with. In the meantime, read her post on three of San Diego's best coffee shops. Olive is sorely tempted to hop the next flight to California just to visit these little gems!

Monday, November 16, 2009

This Week at Olive Writes

There is a chill whipping 'round Olive these days, tossing her freshly straightened locks into a tangle and sending sprays of worrisome water across her precious handbag. Where to escape to when the weather doesn't agree? I am not particular, says Olive, as long as it offers a welcoming environ, genial company and most most of all, lusciously steamy drinks to quaff with a grateful heart.

If you too are feeling a numbness from outside in these days, Olive Writes is the spot to thaw out. With the help of some lovely guest bloggers, Olive shall be nipping into the most charming of spots and discovering some delectable drink recipes along the way. Perhaps she will even brave the bleak forecast and venture out, Thermos in hand. Wait and see!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Like its namesake, British catalog Toast is warmth and comfort, simplicity and ease. Olive loves the raw styling of its pages, which speak to her of a cabin on a breathless lake, a wild horse on a windswept moor, thick mugs and flannel sheets. Indeed, she wonders, what would a day of Toast look like? Perhaps as follows.

Jam, Marmalade and a Herringbone Napkin

Breakfast, not in bed, but tucked beside your little wood burning stove. The bread is thick, fresh. You cut two slices so as to try both the raspberry and the marmalade. Take a bite while the kettle boils!

Cord Skirt, Roslea Shirt, Wellies, Satchel

The house was stuffy and confining today and your writing was suffering from it. You crave fresh, biting air and a satisfying walk over hard ground. Just in case inspiration should strike, you fling a notepad and pencil in your satchel.

Flannel Gown and Pajamas

Yes, sir, you will sleep well tonight! That walk took you over hill and dale and all the way over to that nice shepherd's house by the river. He does make a good cup of hot cocoa. Still, you are glad to tuck in early tonight... Your feet demand it. Maybe a piece of toast before bed?

If still photos aren't enough for you, watch Toast's Winter '09 catalog come to life in this four minute film.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Olive almost wishes there was less to like about Pedlars, the too friendly, too fun and too fantastic mail-order catalog from Scotland. How on earth to choose what to feature, she wonders? Specializing in wholly unique objects for the home and beyond, including vintage items, Pedlars is the mail-order version (online or storefront, if you're in the UK) of a classic shop run by really jolly people. Not only do they love everything they sell you, their "never quibble guarantee" proves the won't hate you if change your mind.

As she could post an absolute riot of her favorite Pedlars finds, Olive appropriately chose three with a British theme. We hope they put you in the mood for a pot of tea and a biscuit.
I Love London Mugs

London Cityscape Tea Light Holder

I Love London Cushions

P.S. If you are a lazy music listener like Olive, the people at Pedlars have a great ear. Their music selections are usually far ahead of the curve, allowing you the satisfaction of appearing so as well.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Delight of Catalogs

Olive can't help herself. The Olive family tree is just bursting with lovers of mail-order catalogs! As a toddler, she waddled through piles of L.L Beans and Lillian Vernons, growing up with the delicious expectation of fresh, glossy ones to come. As a sensible, mature person do you think she's outgrown this pleasure? Hardly! Now it's all J.Crew and J.Peterman, Pedlars and Toast cramming the mailbox, being read before they're even in the door.

If you, too, fling aside the colourless bits of paper mail in favour of the delights within a catalog, you and Olive are going to get along just fine.

It's mail-order catalog time at Olive Writes.

Image: Rodney Smith

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The J. Peterman Company

So much more than a Seinfeld reference, The J. Peterman Company's "Owner's Manual" catalogs express what we've all felt about an object, a piece of clothing at one time or another. With gentle illustrations, it's really the words that sell Mr. Peterman's goods. One minute you are that gamine girl who goes to Paris in that jacket, you can live an Out of Africa fantasy with those boots. Never trying to be up-to-date fashionable, these catalogs are exotic fantasties brought to life through "uncommonly good stuff." To see why Olive is swept away by the dear J. Peterman, enjoy her three favourite items and the words of the man himself.

Sabrina High Button Jacket

"When Sabrina was in France going to cooking school and soaking up some savoir-faire, one of her many mentors took her to an exclusive shop and bought this jacket for her.

(The part of the movie you didn't see.)"

Pleat Front Pant

"Charles de Gaulle Airport. The usual madhouse. I was waiting in line to check my luggage, wondering, as I usually do, if I will ever see it again. When I saw a most graceful pair of pants darting past me....I would imagine these would look good standing still."

20's Feathered Headband

"This item is handmade, as you might suppose. It's from a company making hats and accessories since the beginning of the 20th century. Well-known for high style and workmanship. Italian, of course. One picture, as they say, is worth…

You're not the life of the party. You are the party."

Monday, November 2, 2009

Say hello to... November

If October is all burnished golds and cranberry reds, woolen sweaters and the crunch and slip of leaves, November is a cooler, more brittle cousin. The blue frost scratches at your window, the vacant trees stand etched against a low and graying sky. Beautiful, but a distant, less accessible beauty, Olive says. The White Witch of the cooler season, if you will allow. Olive thinks the following is in order to crack November's regal, albeit icy allure...

Old-fashioned mail order catalogs; Cordial drinks and the best spots to drink them; Quick- as- a- flash gifts to create...

What think you of the coming month now? Olive thinks November may turn out to be much better than expected!

Halloween at Olive's

Did you enjoy it? The full moon, the crisp Autumn air and the general air of glee? Olive did! She had a truly festive Halloween. Take a peek inside her fun and then tell her about yours!

Monsieur James Bond, clad in the requisite tux,
lights candles with silhouettes outlined behind him.

Trails of cheesecloth hang above candles in Olive's now flowerless window boxes.

Creepy! Sad ghosts hang limply on this still, windless night.

And finally, our pumpkins light the way up the stairs for
the trick o' treaters.


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