The Olive Branch: April

Spring is swiftly moving towards summer and today (in mid-May) we’ve got temperatures of 36 celsius! Better have a quick look back at April before spring becomes a far-off memory and I forget what the colour green looks like (Israeli summers have a rather yellow/brown tint!).

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This and the first pic are from a little hike we did up Napolean Hill in an area called Rosh Tzipor (Bird Head) in north Tel Aviv. I love these little pockets of wild nature in the middle of the city.

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We celebrated Passover with Tom’s kindergarten by going on a trip to Sharon Beach just up the coast. It was a lot of fun and a little bit wacky as we all dressed up as Moses and his followers and pretended to be fleeing Egypt. Tom made just about the cutest little Moses I’ve ever seen 🙂

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I enjoyed using these vintage bone china dessert plates my parents brought over when they visited. They used to belong to my Nan so they’re very special to me. Just one look at those blue cornflowers and I’m back in my grandparents’ dining room with the net curtains and the electric organ in the corner, drinking tea and eating trifle!

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We shared a recipe for Coconut Cream Malabi, a traditional Middle Eastern dessert which is very trendy in Tel Aviv at the moment. It’s ridiculously easy to make and absolutely delicious! This version is vegan too…

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My little dreamer…

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We went on an epic camping trip in the desert with old friends. There was running through sprinklers, ibex and camel spotting, TWO glorious desert water holes, a bedouin tent, barbecues and toasted marshmallows… but most importantly amazing company. Miss you already, Jess and Jo!

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And finally, I picked up Middlemarch again – a book which I can honestly say has made me a better person, as well as being a jolly good read. Click through to find out how much this book means to me!

What else? A new haircut, a new capsule wardrobe, a karaoke night, a LOT of school holiday (tiring!) and lots of house viewings (but I think we might have found the one…).

How was your April?

Love Em xx

The Olive Branch: February and March

Golly gosh, where is the year going? My aim was to write an Olive Branch update at the end of every month but somehow February got away from me and now it’s already the first week of April! Time for a bumper edition!

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Back in February, we took an overnight trip to the one place in Israel where you can count on seeing snow in the winter: Mt Hermon. As you can see, we weren’t alone there. Yup, Israelis get pretty excited about snow…

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We shared a DIY for a Kids’ Art Wall Collage. Also a great way to spruce up and repurpose an old picture frame! Mmmm, look at the nice tidily-arranged toys and books (it never really looks like that).

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Sophie performed in her ballet show and I was so proud I could burst! I guess ballet love must be hereditary…

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We went on a spring almond-blossom hunt. Every year we take a trip to the Sataf, an agricultural site in the Jerusalem Hills, where they experiment with growing vegetables and orchard trees as they were grown in biblical times. So pretty!

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Yup, still working on that scarf! Pretty slow going, but it is my first knitting project after all. Hope to finish it by next winter! I’ve joined a knitting group and we meet every Thursday. Wouldn’t even have managed one row without those lovely girls…

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I finally dug out my pasta machine, which had been languishing decadently in its box for the last four years, and proceeded to make tortellini, which didn’t take very long at all. I lie, it took A WHOLE DAY! Avoid making all my newbie mistakes by checking out our post: How to Use a Pasta Machine: 10 Top Tips!

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Was it worth spending a whole day learning how to use a pasta machine! Absolutely it was! Especially when the result was Chard, Pistachio and Cranberry Tortellini with Shiitake and Lemongrass-Sage Butter. Check out our recipe and I defy not to lick the bowl at the end!

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I made a wig. Not a very realistic-looking hairpiece, I admit, but one that was befitting of a little mermaid all dressed up for Purim. For anyone unfamiliar with Purim, it’s often described as the Jewish Halloween: kid-centered, fancy dress costumed, too many sweets… you get the idea. I gave Sophie a deadline for deciding what costume she wanted and then held her to it. Although I did somewhat modify her initial request to dress up as an ‘evil mermaid’. What the heck?

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Purim was an insane week of costume making, egg decoration (not just for Easter, apparently), goodie basket prep and multiple parties. Super fun and rather knackering! Here are Sophie the Mermaid and Tom the Pirate just before we headed off to Mr Olive’s office Purim party.

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Current obsession: The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees. This is a book which is basically a step by step system for discovering your own personal style and curating the perfect wardrobe of clothes to meet your style and lifestyle needs. I’ve worked through most of the exercises and am now on the section about working with outfit formulas. Doing the exercises in this book is basically what I would prefer to be doing over almost anything else at the moment and I’m already feeling so much more confident in how I dress. Did I mention I’m obsessed?

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Last but not least, my parents and brother came from the U.K. to visit for a week so I went all quiet on social media so I could focus on really being with them. It was so wonderful having them here and getting to share my Levantine life with them! We did beach walks, hummus lunches, extended family gatherings, road trips… ah, missing them  so much already…

All that plus a baby shower, a Mums’ karaoke night, closing on a kindergarten for Tom for September, and house hunting. LOTS of house hunting.

Sometimes it feels like time is moving so swiftly without much being achieved so it’s fun to look back and see how much we really did in these months! How is spring treating you so far?

Love Em xx

 

Picking up a pen…

Who doesn’t love going to get the post and finding a letter or a card, or even better, a little parcel from a friend or family member that you were not expecting? There is something so lovely about knowing that someone took the time to sit down and tell you just a little something about their day, or what is happening in their life at that moment. There is also something really nice about receiving something tangible and real – a piece of paper that they have touched that is now in your hands.

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February is International Correspondence Writing Month or INCOWRIMO. I have decided to participate this year. So what does this mean? It means that I am committed to writing one letter or card every day for the entire month – that’s 28 cards or letters to people I love and care about (though I am sure that this number will also include a few letters and cards to people in Washington DC expressing my displeasure about a few things too!)

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Letters really do have the power to change history. Just a few weeks ago I was listening to a podcast about something or other and it included a story about the passage of the 19th amendment to the US constitution that gave women the right to vote. I won’t spoil the story for you, suffice it to say that a letter to a young legislator from his good old mum played a pretty critical role in women in the United States having the right to vote! If you are looking for more inspiration for writing a good missive, check out some of these famous correspondents. My favorite – Edward Gorey.

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I will keep you posted (get it?  posted?  haha!) on my progress! In the meantime, who would you most like to receive a letter or card from today? Is it me? Let me know (by mail, please!)

Love, Ave xox

The Olive Branch: January

So the first month of 2017 has come and gone and if the photos I’ve taken this month are anything to go by, it seems like our January was mainly filled with baking sweet treats, eating aforementioned treats and then hiking in the countryside to make our bodies think the sweet treats never happened.

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At the beginning of the month I shared my go-to cookie recipe: Chocolate Chip Raisin Oat Cookies. Yummy, simple to make and not even really all that bad for you (ignore the butter, ignore the butter… what? Of course I wasn’t trying to send you a subliminal message). Bake up a batch and then you won’t have to offer your guests your kids’ Pez sweets as refreshment.

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Also, I tidied up Sophie and Tom’s shared bedroom so I could share this Kids’ Room Tour and it stayed tidy from the exact moment I finished tidying it until the exact moment the kids entered it. Sisyphus, I feel ya.

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We took a couple of lovely trips out of the city. This one was our hike at Yaqum Lake in the centre of Israel. It’s a lake that only exists in the winter, after the rains begin. Tom enjoyed scanning the wide skies for airplanes.

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I bought a new plant! Such an indulgence, I know. It’s a Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (Sanseviera) and here it is peeking out from behind the lamp. Apparently it’s one of those ones that’s impossible to kill. We’ll see. Already this month we had some crazy strong winds which literally dislodged our window boxes and smashed them onto the ground below (we live on the fourth floor). Only the lemon geranium survived… sniff sniff.

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We did another trip up to the Carmel region to Ramat Hanadiv, a nature park with formal gardens and a separate wilder section with hiking trails. We loved the rose garden, which was in full bloom – it’s always funny for me to see flowers and plants that I associate with summer thriving in the Mediterranean winter! By the way, the pink roses smelled the sweetest. No surprise there then. #ihavethisthingwithpink

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In important family news, Mr Olive’s sister gave birth to their first baby and I’m so looking forward to all the cuddles! I baked this Vegan Chilled Chocolate Torte with Toasted Hazlenut Crust to celebrate (my sister-in-law and her husband are vegan so we eat a lot of plant-based food in our family). I based the recipe on one from the first Oh She Glows cookbook (which was a gift from Ave, incidentally ♥ ♥ ♥ ). Let me know in the comments if you’d like me to post the recipe!

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And finally, right at the tail end of the month, I finally got round to posting the recipe for Savta Clara’s Tomato, Carrot and Rice Soup. It’s a winter warmer that packs a lemony peppery punch and it’s an old family recipe passed down by Mr Olive’s granny. Generations of soup-lovers can’t be wrong!

Apart from that I went on a girls’ karaoke night, had a date night with Mr Olive, added a few more rows to a scarf I’m knitting (first ever knitting project – wish me luck!), signed a fair few petitions – no need to guess the subject 😦 – and, as always, did a sh*tload of laundry!

So how about you? How was your start to 2017?

Em xx

Chocolate Chip Raisin Oat Cookies

These are my go-to cookies. I can make them without even looking at the recipe. Well, almost. Actually, I always look at the recipe. I’m pretty bad at remembering quantities of things. And counting. Let’s just say that I’ll never give Fermat a run for his money. Not at maths, anyway. I don’t know how he was at baking.

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The recipe in question comes from Julia Suddaby, one of my favourite artists, who also happens to be a delightful person and my mum’s best friend. I remember first eating (far too many of) these cookies as a child while visiting with Julia and her family at their home in the Essex countryside. They were such a hit with us kids on that visit that my mum copied down the recipe and started baking them for us. Now I bake them for my kids, for any kindergarten event where refreshments are required, for leaving parties, for unexpected guests, for expected guests, and just generally all the time, for no reason. Nobody ever gets bored of them and somebody always asks for the recipe.

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Julia’s original recipe source was Joy of Cooking, which she says was her favourite escapist reading material while living on a Belgian commune in 1975. She told me that the nostalgia of reading about 1950s American cocktail parties was the perfect balance to the environment in which she was then living, which she describes as, “the bohemian world of 1970s travellers and artistic Belgian aristocracy”.

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Despite not being very aristocratic, there are so many things to love about these cookies:

  1. They are absolutely, positively, unquestionably scrummy. Chocolatey, fruity, chewy, a little bit cakey, a little bit crumbly, and extremely satisfying without being overly rich or sweet.
  2. You don’t need any special equipment. Just a mixing bowl, a wooden spoon and a baking sheet.
  3. You are quite likely to have all or most of the ingredients in your cupboard already, which means you can have a batch baked and cooling on your counter (and smelling heavenly) within about 25 minutes. This is obviously a boon when you have people coming over for coffee in half an hour and nothing to offer them but Ninja Turtle Pez sweets. (This has never happened to me. Ok, this has definitely happened to me). Which brings me to…
  4. Even if you don’t have all the ingredients, the recipe is pretty forgiving. You can use just chocolate chips or just raisins or neither. You can sub nuts, seeds, desiccated coconut or whatever you fancy. I’ve made the cookies with flax egg and non-dairy butter for a vegan version. And I’ve made them with half self-raising and half all-purpose flour and they came out totally fine. Hooray for lenient cookie recipes!
  5. While they do contain a ton of butter (not literally – that would be gross), I would say they are on the healthy cookie spectrum. Only a half cup of brown sugar AND vast quantities of oats. In fact, you can rest safe in the knowledge that, while the butter may not be doing anything great for your cholesterol levels, the oats (as well as enhancing your immune system, providing wholegrain fiber, and protecting against heart disease) definitely are. So it all evens out in the end. Right? Right!

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The recipe has gone through a couple of changes on its journey from ’50s America to ’70s Europe to my little kitchen in Tel Aviv today. My original note-book scrawled recipe (entitled simply, ‘Cookies’, as if to emphasize that you really don’t need any other cookie recipe in your life), calls for margarine. I don’t tend to buy margarine and I like the rich flavour that butter brings to baking, but feel free to sub a trans-fat free margarine if that’s what rocks your casbah. I added a pinch of salt and some vanilla extract to the recipe because, you know. I give a quantity guideline here for the chocolate chips and raisins, although my original notes are unspecific and, to be honest, I usually just eyeball it.

And that’s it! If you don’t already have a go-to cookie recipe, then try these – maybe this is the ONE! And if you already have a go-to cookie recipe, then try these anyway! Because they are freaking delicious.

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Chocolate Chip Raisin Oat Cookies

MAKES APPROX. 16 COOKIES

PREPARATION AND BAKE TIME: 25-30 MINS

Ingredients

100g / 1/2 cup / 3.5 oz brown sugar

175g / 3/4 cup / 6.17 oz butter at room temperature

2 free-range eggs

128g / 1 cup / 4.5 oz self-raising flour

192g / 1.5 cups / 6.75 oz jumbo rolled oats

Pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

117g / 2/3 cup / 4.12 oz dark chocolate chips

100g / 2/3 cup / 3.5 oz raisins

 

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C (356F / Gas Mark 4).
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the sugar and butter, using a wooden spoon, until well combined.
  3. Add the eggs, flour, oats, salt and vanilla and mix until just combined.
  4. Add the chocolate chips and raisins and mix again. (Not too much.)
  5. Put rounded tablespoons of the mix onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes.
  6. Let cool for 10 minutes before gobbling them all up. The cookies will keep in an airtight container out of the fridge. I can’t say how long for because ours always mysteriously disappear before I have a chance to carry out my research. 😉

 

 

Welcome!

Hello there!

Welcome to Olives and Peaches and our very first blog post!

We are Emma and Avery (you can call us Em and Ave), and we’ve been best friends since we were 8 years old. We met at school in London’s Notting Hill, Em being a local and Ave recently arrived from Michigan.

We had sleepovers, shared a love of old Hollywood musicals, and watched far too many movies starring Tom Hanks (well, it was the ‘80s…). In our teens we had our own disco parties in Ave’s bedroom; all that was needed was a big torch on flash mode, a mixtape featuring quite a lot of Human League and Spandau Ballet, and a strong will to get our groove on. When Em’s heart was broken at age 18 by a blue-eyed mod in a polyester shirt, it was Ave who whisked her off on a family holiday to Maine; in our early 20s, Ave was in Damascus studying Arabic and Em visited her there and met Ave’s future husband, a handsome U.S. marine who was stationed in the city.

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Fast forward fifteen(ish) years and Ave and her marine (who’s stopped being a marine now) are living in Atlanta, Georgia with their two little boys, while Em is living in Tel Aviv, Israel with her clever clogs Israeli husband and their two kiddos. Each of us far from the home of our childhood. Each of us putting down new roots in the name of love (insert heart-eyes emoji here!).

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Over the years our friendship has endured and we’ve both discovered, developed and shared a love of cooking, home décor, photography and making stuff. We’ve also retained our mutual and longstanding affection for slightly cheesy music. Just not Elton John. Please. No Elton John.

Sooooooo… that brings us to Olives and Peaches, our brand new blog! A place for us to share recipes (and possibly also food disasters), interior décor inspiration, DIYs, photos of pretty things, as well as other things that are on our minds. From time to time we may post deep philosophical musings on life as an ex-pat. Or on potty training.

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Olives and Peaches will be (we hope) a home away from home, a place for us to connect with each other and for us to connect with you, dear readers.

Welcome to Olives and Peaches! It’s lovely to meet you!