Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wardrobe malfunction + ribbon bookmark

I had one of those mornings where I tried on about ten different things and then decided I hate my entire wardrobe. Snobby girl problems, I know. I did end up wearing my fabric flower though, so that salvaged things a bit.

On a another note, I made this book mark! Do you use bookmarks? I'm one of those people that has an almost allergic reaction to folding over the corner of a page. Eww, so inappropriate. I realize not everyone is insane, though. But if you happen to share this affliction, maybe you want to make one too? You're welcome, crazy ladies.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Simplest Chicken and Leek Stew

I have a penchant for recipes that declare themselves to be easy but also feel just a tad bit fancy. I fell hard for this lovely looking dish from Jamie Oliver. It only spent a couple of days on my things that look yummy list -- I couldn't wait any longer! You will just love this one, I know it. 

Simplest Chicken and Leek Stew, adapted from Food and Wine

You will need: 

Olive oil
2 medium leeks, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
1/2 pound asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces (original recipe calls for mushrooms!)
Salt and pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2 inch pieces
All purpose flour or cornmeal, for dusting
1/2 cups chick stock or broth
1 teaspoon rosemary or thyme
2 tablespoons ricotta or sour cream
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the leeks and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the asparagus and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring, until tender, about 4 minutes. Scrape the vegetables onto a plate.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and lightly dust with flour or cornmeal, shaking off any excess. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the skillet. Add the chicken and cook over moderate heat until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Add the chicken stock and rosemary/thyme and simmer over moderate heat until the chicken is just cooked through, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to the plate with the vegetables.

Simmer the stock over moderately high heat until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Return the chicken, leeks and asparagus to the skillet and simmer over low heat until warmed through, about 1 minute.

In a small bowl, blend the ricotta/sour cream with the mustard and stir into the stew. Remove the skillet from the heat. Season the stew with salt and pepper.

Serve over rice, polenta or noodles and with a chilled glass of Chardonnay (per the Naked Chef's recommendation). Absolute perfection!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Things I restained myself from buying for your baby

My peers are starting to have babies. My peers! The idea of it has been settling in for months now, and I'm finally getting used it. Some dear friends are going to have actual (darling, precious, sweet-smelling!) babies living in their houses. And not at some far off date in the future - in less than nine months!

The best-est bonus from this new development is that I feel like I have full license to venture into the baby aisle of every store. I totally need fun gift ideas! Here are a few cute things I've restrained myself from - so far.

1. Polka Dot Swim Suit
2. When I Have a Little Girl
3. Liberty Baby Bibs (on my to-make list!)
4. Floral skirt leggings
5. Baby sunglasses

P.S. I guess all the babies I fantasize about shopping for are girls?! No real surprises there - most of my wardrobe is tinted pink.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The lazy girl's guide to making a photo collage

If I had a frequently asked question here on Fresh Basil it would be, "How do you make those awe-inspiring photo collages?" Coming in at a close second would be, "How did you get so darn cute?" Just kidding. No one has ever asked me that. Aren't you dying to know?!

Alright then, I will settle for answering FAQ #1.

I know there are lots of fancy ways to make collages in various Adobe programs, iPhoto, and even through Pinterest and Polyvore, but I make my with some super sexy tools available on nearly every computer -- PowerPoint and Paint. Oh la la!

Here's what you do:

  1. Save all the images you want to use in your collage on your desktop. For organizational purposes, I like to name my file the source where it came from. I have a bad memory, and this helps when the time for linking eventually arises. 
  2. Open a blank slide in PowerPoint. Erase those two standard boxes where Bill Gates want you to write your gripping title and subtitle. We do not need those!
  3. Click on Insert then Picture and grab your image from the desktop. Repeat for all the images you want to include, resizing and rearranging along the way. 
  4. When you're happy with it, click on the Print Screen button to capture the image on your computer screen. This is (usually?) right next to the F12 button at the top keyboard. 
  5. Open Paint and paste your screen shot into the blank page. Crop the image to get rid of the extra stuff. Open a new Paint page and paste in your collage. Save as a jpeg. 
  6. Now insert this image into your blog just like you would a photo!
This seems a bit elementary and lame now that it's all written up, but maybe it will help someone? If you have any tips or tricks, I'd love to hear them. Happy collaging!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fabric flower pin

I fell in love with Liz Stanley's adorable fabric flower pin when I saw it last week (so cute!), and I had to make my own. If you have a tiny scrap of fabric around, you can easily throw one of these together.

On another note, how sad was it to wake up to snow on the ground this morning? I will tell you: very, very sad. I put a bottle of leftover wedding Prosecco in the fridge and have plans to pick up a few goodies from Brooklyn Larder on the way home. This icky grey day will be salvaged!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Welcome spring salmon

"Welcome spring salmon" could also very easily be called "What to feed your husband when he returns from a bachelor party in Las Vegas."

This is filled with so many green, healthy things, it's sure to put you on the right track whether you're preparing for the new season, or trying to get your nutrient intake back to a normal level.


  • Salad with arugula, red leaf lettuce, golden raisins and Dijon vinaigrette 
  • Quinoa with steamed asparagus, peas, green beans and chopped mint
  • Salmon stuffed with olive tapenade (recipe below, based on Dorie's!)
You will need: 

1/8 cup olive tapenade 
1/8 cup minced fresh mint or basil
Grated zest and juice of half a lemon
2 pieces of thick center cut salmon, about 5 ounces each

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Pull an oven proof skillet out (cast iron or dutch oven) and pour a few teaspoons of olive oil inside. 

Mix tapenade, minced herbs, lemon zest and juice together in a small bowl. Place your salmon on a plastic cutting board. Using a paring knife, cut a pocket in the center a few inches long that runs parallel to the skin. If your salmon is even thickness across, you could also make two pockets on either side, about 1 1/2 inches long. Spoon the tapenade mixture into the pockets. You may have to massage the fish a little bit to get it inside and prevent oozing. 

Heat the pan on high, and when it is hot, slip the salmon in, top side down. Cook for 2 minutes, flip, and cook skin side down for another 2 minutes. Put the skillet in the oven for 6 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it rest in a warm place for 5 minutes before serving. Season to taste with additional lemon zest and juice, and finish with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Pom pom branches

I bought a bunch of pussy willow branches earlier this week to put together my Easter tree. They were a bit too long, so I cut them down and wound up with a bunch of odds and ends. A little bag of pom poms was gathering dust in my craft basket, so I decided to glue them on!

I'm off to Baltimore tonight for a fun weekend with wonderful girl friends. Hope you have a happy one!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

My sister sent me an email this morning saying this would be us if we were together today to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. I'm the one with the head gear, in case you're wondering. 

Wishing you a very happy St. Patrick's day! Hope there's a Guinness Milkshake in your future :)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Practically perfect in every way

My Mom was in town earlier this week for business. She's here quite a bit, but usually has a pretty packed schedule. On Monday evening she was freed up, so we got last minute tickets to Mary Poppins!

It's one of the cutest shows I've seen. The actress playing Mary is just darling - her voice is even Julie Andrews-ish!

P.S. For a bit of further reading, here's a wonderful interview with P. L. Travers, the author the Mary Poppins books (among many other things). A wonderful quote about Mary's appeal: 
A great friend of mine at the beginning of our friendship (he was himself a poet) said to me very defiantly, "I have to tell you that I loathe children's books." And I said to him, "Well, won't you just read this just for my sake?" And he said grumpily, "Oh, very well, send it to me." I did, and I got a letter back saying: "Why didn't you tell me? Mary Poppins with her cool green core of sex has me enthralled forever."

Monday, March 14, 2011

A dresser story

My dresser has been dying a slow death for the past few months. Peter has tightened the screws up a few times, but on Friday morning the top drawer finally gave in and the front came off completely. My underwear and tights and socks tumbled out.

Peter suggested that it might have finally broken because the contents of the drawer were too heavy.

Wrong answer, darling! My unmentionables are (obviously!) light as a feather.

Anyways, I'm trying to decide between (a) buying something very inexpensive to tide me over or (b) buying something I really like that is a bit more expensive.

I really like this dresser, pictured above - the pineapple in the center is so cute! It's sold by Rich, the same guy we purchased our dining room server from a few months ago. He is delightful to work with, and will deliver stuff right to your apartment for a small fee if you're in the NYC/NJ area. You can find all of his listings on Craigslist by searching: 9735255492. Highly recommended!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Pickles + cupcakes

On Wednesday night, Peter and I went on a last minute date to Mile End (since those make me so happy!). I highly recommend the pickle plate, which includes mushrooms and fennel and the Brussels sprouts with candied walnuts and green apple. I need to make some more pickles soon!

This weekend we are heading to Connecticut for some very special celebrations, including a little belated birthday dinner for my mom. I picked up some cupcakes at Crumbs this morning, and I can't wait to have a few bites of one later tonight. Big decision - sea salted caramel or peanut butter cup?

Happy, happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

High on the happiness scale

I read this article a few days ago and found this section particularly intriguing: 
In a recent study, Schkade and colleagues asked more than 900 working women to write down everything they'd done the day before. Afterward, they reviewed their diaries and evaluated how they felt at each point. When the women saw how much time they spent on activities they didn't like, "some people had tears in their eyes," Schkade says. "They didn't realize their happiness was something they could design and have control over."
I would classify myself as quite high on the happiness scale, but the idea that I may actually be bad at understanding what makes me happy gave me pause. Yesterday I decided to write down everything I did throughout the entire day - ate granola while listening to NPR, edited an e-newsletter in the office, had a terrible, long commute home, and on and on. This morning I went over the list and ranked everything on a scale of 1 (miserable) to 10 (super happy!).

Not surprisingly, my happiest times were in the morning and evening, i.e., when not at work. There were lots of 7 and 8 moments, and even a 9, but not a 10. How upsetting to not have a moment of complete happiness during the entire day!

This morning I started to write a little list of things that have made me super happy (!) in the past. Sending or receiving a note. Getting a little dressed up and going on a date with Peter. Arranging a bouquet of flowers and sprinkling them throughout the apartment. Small things, really. Which should make them incredibly easy to incorporate into everyday life.

Here's to embracing even more joy and happiness!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Global studies

Two excellent recommendations available on Netflix Instant: The Secret in Their Eyes and Carlos the Jackal. Get your glasses ready - both have subtitles!

P.S. Come back and tell me if you develop an odd crush on Edgar Ramirez. He's so bad...but so good!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Shiny Sink 101

A girlfriend popped over last week for an impromptu glass of wine, and during our little chat, she mentioned Fly Lady. Have you guys heard of her? It's kind of a kooky website, but the basic idea is that she encourages you to set up systems in your home to help productivity and fight chaos.

My house doesn't necessarily feel chaotic, but I do feel like I spend a decent amount of time picking up, cleaning, rearranging...and then doing it all again a few days later. Every few months I do a massive cleaning spree, and those are among my least favorite days of the year. It sounded appealing to tackle one project at a time -- do it well -- and put it to bed for a few months time.

The first thing Fly Lady tells you to do is clean your sink. Really, really clean it. It takes over an hour, but gosh darn if your sink won't sparkle at the end!

Shiny Sink 101

  1. Run some very hot water into the sink. Fill to the rim. Pour a cup of household bleach into the hot water. Let it sit for 1 hour. Now, pull the plug with a pair of tongs or throw some gloves on your hand to pull the plug. 
  2. Rinse your sink well. 
  3. Use some cleanser (Comet, Ajax, or Baking Soda) and scrub your sink. Ensure you rinse ALL of the cleanser from the sink.
  4. Take a sharp edge and clean around the rim of the sink, just like you would clean dirt out from under your fingernails.
  5. Clean around the faucets too. You may need an old toothbrush or dental floss.
  6. Now, get out your window cleaner and give it a good shine. 
  7. Enjoy your beautiful, shiny sink!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Anthropologie-inspired push pins

I fell in love with these cute push pins at Anthropologie, but realized I could make something similar with the same materials and technique used for fabric rosettes. How-to is over here!

Cute, no? In these photos they're pinned inside a shadow box of wedding goodies. The first picture is business cards from our caterer and the restaurant we went to the night we got engaged. It's closed now, which seems like a bad omen (!), but I try to ignore that!

Hope you all have lovely weekends! We were supposed to go to the Berkshires and ski, but the weather is warm and rainy, so we're skipping. I'm a little sad, but hoping we'll get to do some fun things here!

P.S. I know we have quite a few GK fans in the house!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Freshing Up for Spring: Under $100

1. Tamara Shower Curtain, World Market, $29.99
2. Essential Napkin Smoke, April Cornell, $9.50
3. Rebecca Egg Cups, World Market, $7.96
4. Mini Potted Fern, Crate & Barrel, $6.95
5. Rolling Terrain Half Apron, Anthropologie, $14.95
6. City Pitcher, CB2, $7.95 (Sarah, you need this!)

Total: $77.30. We could have continued pretend shopping!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Febgiving with lovely book club ladies

(Photos from real Thanksgiving at my house last year!)

I've been wanting to host a Febgiving feast ever since I saw the idea on Abbey's fantastic blog last year. How amazing does their party look?!

It was my turn to host book club at the end of February, so I took it as a sign from above to braise some turkey and whip up a batch of pumpkin crunch. Everyone was a wonderful sport about the slightly odd menu. We toasted with a bottle of bubbly at the start of the evening, and there was a pickle plate, perfectly roasted Brussels sprouts, wild rice and a creamy pumpkin soup. Oh my!

Without the pressure of actual Thanksgiving weighing on me, the basic menu was super easy and stress free. Also didn't hurt that everyone brought really wonderful things to share! It was such a fun way to celebrate a bit with friends at the end of winter.

Obviously we're past the "Feb" part of the feast, but I think there's still time to have a fake holiday with friends this winter, if you're feeling so inclined. Turkey and pumpkin crunch are always delicious.
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