Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Reading List

What's on your reading list this winter?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Taco Tuesday

(via Etsy)

Peter and I have had a heavy heart these last few days, and I know you all have, too.

On Facebook yesterday, my friend Katie shared the eulogy for a little boy named Noah, given by his mom at his funeral. Noah's mom mentioned all kinds of wonderful things he loved - Wii Super Mario Brothers, his sweet twin sister Arielle, and tacos. In that brilliant way that only kids can do, Noah came up with one of the greatest slash careers ever: doctor/soldier/taco factory worker.

One of Katie's friends commented that she was going to make tacos for dinner in honor of Noah, and I thought, yes, that I can do.

It's easy to see why Noah loved them so: tacos are fun, and they bring people together. They can make an otherwise ordinary Tuesday seem extra special. Picking from communal bowls, eating something messy in front of people you love - these things seem silly at the moment, but that probably means we all need a taco dinner more than ever.

So tonight, I'll be making tacos in honor of Noah, and everyone else that we lost in Sandy Hook last Friday. I'd like to invite you to join me, if you are so inclined.

P.S. Here are a few easy recipes, in case you're stuck.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

All is Bright

I took the 8:30 train this morning into work, instead of my usual 7:55. Only, I didn't officially decide to take the later one until 7:52. I was all ready to go, and then I just didn't leave. Thirty minutes of unexpected time at home! I watered my tree, finished my coffee, read some blogs. Stolen time is glorious time.

*     *     * 

We've decided on Montreal for our winter trip. A few years back we toyed around with going to Canada, and now it's happening! I'm excited to be getting a fake-Paris fix. We have lots of restaurants on our list (too many!), but we could probably use a few activities to do in between all that eating. If you have a favorite museum or attraction, please share!

P.S. Happy Santa Lucia Day! Any Kirsten fans in the house? I wanted the opportunity to wear a crown with candles so bad when I was a kid. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tomato Sauce Alternatives

This is one of the more random tidbits I've blogged about, but I wanted to share a few "sauce" alternatives for pizzas that don't involve tomatoes (darn you, tomato allergies!). Many of these also work as pasta sauces!

The one has pureed butternut squash as a base (it also has caramelized onions, salami, goat cheese, and parsley). I've also used:

These might sound super strange, but I promise, they're really good! Especially the tapenade :) 

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Best Way to Spread Christmas Cheer

Big weekend! We're going to get our Christmas tree and attend the Harvard-Radcliffe Chorus concert tomorrow night. Our friend Greg is performing in it, and I'm so excited to cheer him on! Ladies, he is single and wonderful. (I know very few single people in Boston, which is too bad because I harbor a deep desire to set people up and then have them go on an amazing date and then have them live happily ever after. Are you a single lady in Boston who loves history teachers?! Email me.)

As for the tree trimming, I always have grand plans for Peter and I to sing along to Christmas carols, lovingly looking into each others eyes, exclaiming that this is the most wonderful time of the year. In reality, I end up doing most of the ornament hanging while he watches football/tracks his fantasy football players/trash-talks his fellow fantasy football league members. And I am all, "Don't you CARE where this sparkly bauble goes?! DON'T YOU CARE."

So! Last year, I got a bottle of Prosecco and set up a big antipasto plate with lots of cheese, salumi, olives, and pickles. And even though we were both just in the same room, doing our own thing, we came together for cheese and to fill up the wine glasses. It was (slightly) more magical than in years past, and I intend to do it again.

Speaking of managing holiday expectations, I loved these two posts on that very subject. Happy reading, and happy, happy weekend!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Quick Craft: Holiday Pillows from Napkins

I love all the special holiday pillows from Pottery Barn and West Elm so much, but I stopped myself from buying them. Making pillows is so easy - all I needed was some fabric.

At Marshalls, I took a peak at the seasonal tea towels and cloth napkins, and found these pretty ones from April Cornell. I got four for only $5.99! I made a simple envelope pillow cover (using some old Ikea fabric for the back), and put it over 16 inch pillow fillings I already had.

There are still two napkins left. Hopefully I'll get my act together to make a few little stockings or ornaments, too!

P.S. Even easier napkins turned pillow :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Bring Out the Holly

We're not getting our tree until this weekend, but the rest of my Christmas goodness is out in full force! An amaryllis bulb will hopefully sprout up from the above in the next few weeks, and my village and carolers are all set up.

And! I have grand plans to expand the post card heart into a Christmas tree once holiday cards start to arrive. Send me your baby's photos and snowy scenes in the name of festive decor!

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Year of Enjoy: Home Stretch

In early January, I declared this to be the "year of enjoy." The final half of 2011 was stressful, and I was longing to impose some pleasure into our lives in an official way. It doesn't quite work that way, of course, but I'm happy to have made the effort.

The things on that list did bring me joy - I love vacations and making new friends as much as the next person - perhaps even more so. But even a year filled with goodness has many moments of stress and sadness and frustration. At times I wonder about my extreme commitment to all-things-fun. Is it shallow? Completely self-absorbed? I tend to maintain that it's a tough world out there, and you need to fight for as much happiness as you can get. It's my responsibility to make things in my life as good as possible. But sometimes I think my focus should shift more toward kindness, hospitality, forgiveness.

Oh, I don't know. Let's awkwardly transition back to my catch-up on the list, shall we? For the most part, I successfully did everything I set out to do. I still need to make pate - hopefully this weekend. We have an adventurous couple coming over for dinner on Saturday night, and I think they'll be up for trying my experimentation. We're also short one weekend trip. That should happen over Christmas break, though we are vacillating wildly between being brave and doing a long road trip down to Charleston and Savannah, or just going to...Maine. I know. We need to just decide.

I'm going to try to fully embrace this last month of the year with a full and happy heart. I want to watch Elf, do lots of yoga, drink a little too much Prosecco, and go to Christmas concerts. And I want to finish up all my shopping in the next few days. For the past few years, our list of people to shop for has grown (a happy problem to have, all things considered!), but all the angst of finding the perfect thing at the perfect price point was bringing me down. This year, I started shopping in August (!), picking up the pretty great thing at the good-enough price. I know most people were clued into this trick ages ago, but I'm thrilled it finally sunk in for me. I love actually giving people their gifts, but I'm very happy that the acquiring process is nearly done. It's cleared the decks for more Prosecco!

As we turn the page onto December, I wish you all a very happy weekend. Let's all try to enjoy it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Loving Lately

I have a long walk as part of my commute now, and need some good everyday boots for the journey. Going back and forth between brown and black, I found these guys. I can't tell if this is actually the worst of both worlds, though? Please weigh in if you have any brilliant boot thoughts to share. 

Bringham's Peppermint Stick ice cream is just about the most perfect holiday treat, and it's in stores now. Peter's family introduced me to the magic of Bringham's, and I'm a total convert - best store-bought ice cream out there. I think this is a New England-based company, and I do apologize if you can't purchase it in your neck of the woods. I'm taunting you with the perfect seasonal ice cream.

Most of you probably saw The Big Lebowski sometime between 1998 and now. But I am uncool and had never seen it until last week. Oh my gooooooodness, I am obsessed. The chair scene? The phone scene? The bowling?! Public service announcement: it's only on Netflix Instant until 12/1!

A few fun links:
What are you loving lately? And seriously, please weigh in on the boots.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Pumpkin Crunch Day!

I whipped up my pumpkin crunch this morning to take down to my parent's house, and I finally snapped a picture for you. Are you making it this Thanksgiving?! Your family will love you extra if you do!

I've posted this before, but here's the recipe for your convenience. Happy Thanksgiving to all! XO

Pumpkin Crunch
15 oz can of pumpkin
12 oz evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups pecans, crushed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 teaspoons brown sugar
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 box yellow cake mix, *without pudding
2 sticks butter or margarine, melted

Preheat oven to 325 F

In a large bowl, mix pumpkin, milk, cinnamon, brown sugar, sugar and eggs in a bowl with a fork or whisk until smooth. Pour into a 9x13 inch glass pan (spray first with non-stick coating). Sprinkle dry cake mix over pumpkin mixture. Sprinkle pecans over cake mix. Drizzle melted butter on top. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the middle is just slightly jiggly.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Game Day

I went to an entire football game! And it was fun, you guys! Mostly because the team we were cheering for won. My main problem with my budding sports fan-dom is that things regularly don't go your way. I know this is the deal - sometimes you win, sometimes you lose - but I'm really bad at that. I'm always threatening to jump ship when things look dire to root for the other guys.

After the game, Peter's parents and siblings all came to our house for dinner. We made cassoulet, and it was really good - perfect post-game food. My brother- and sister-in-law were so impressed. "This looks so good! You should take a picture and blog about this!" I claimed it would be terrible - a photo that would inspire absolutely no one to make it. No greens, lack of natural light, live sausages poking through! I'm showing you anyway (obviously).

Try not to crash Pinterest with this one, okay?!

P.S. My favorite players on the team.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Dud Avocado

I had an idea to post a bunch of rah-rah America books to get you in the spirit for the Thanksgiving holiday next week (stuff like this and this). But Thanksgiving can be sort of intense, and I decided it would be more helpful to recommend a bit of escapist fiction that is truly good. Something I think everyone under the sun will get a kick out of, you know?

My most recent discovery in this elusive category is The Dud Avocado. Set in Paris in the '50s, narrator Sally Jay Gorce takes you along on her (many!) romantic escapades, wardrobe malfunctions, disappointing vacations, and acting stints. She's a brat, and I love her completely.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dinner Party Times Two

Peter and I are hosting two large dinner parties over the weekend. One for eight on Friday night, and another for a different eight on Saturday night. Oh my!

For Friday, we've settled on cottage pie and a giant salad. On Saturday, we'll serve cassoulet and a giant salad. I'm going to make two homemade ice creams this week, and serve those at both. No matter how many people we have coming over for dinner, I always do the same basic thing for appetizers - a platter with cheese, salumi, nuts, olives, and crackers.

In a strange way, it feels almost easier to do them both back to back, buying and making everything times two and then swapping out the main dish! We'll see if I'm singing the same tune in the aftermath next week :)

Anybody hosting Thanksgiving next week? We get to be guests on Thanksgiving, but I feel like I'm getting my fix of cooking for a crowd over the weekend!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apple and Pancetta

I made these Brussels sprouts last week, and they were so good and easy, I had to share. Anybody still looking for Thanksgiving sides? These would be lovely.

The Brussels sprouts were quartered, doused in olive oil and salt, and went into the oven at 400 degrees. While those were getting started cooking, I peeled and chopped an apple, and added the apple and about 1/4 cup of chopped pancetta to the roasting pan. I gave it a shake, and let it hang out for another 15-20 minutes - just until the Brussels have some dark spots and a few crispy leaves.

I served it all on top of blue cheese grits (You know the secret to making any side a main, right? Add a grain).

Hope you are all have a fantastic November! Peter and I are home today for Veteran's Day, and we're going to bop out to Concord for a healthy dose of the natural world on Walden Pond.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

To Catch a Thief (you will need to get this on Vudu - it's worth the $2.99 investment) + Irony wine + Reese's pumpkins

Happy Halloween to all! I am excited to pass out candy to all the littles in our neighborhood tonight. Last year, I nearly ran out of candy! And it was not (entirely) because I ate a lot of it!

Yesterday Peter was off again because of the hurricane, so I left him with the task of purchasing the candy. Stress inducing, I tell you! That is a job I very much enjoy. I gave him strict instructions that ended with, "No Star-bursts  Eww." Of course, he succeeded in getting the best candy bag mixes filled with mini Snickers and mini Reese's.

Kids, come to our house early if you want these things. By 8:00 p.m., we might be giving away dusty snack bags of trail mix.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Waiting it Out

Peter and I are both home today, waiting out Sandy.

I've already had breakfast, done yoga, cleaned out my dresser drawers, vacuumed, and took stock of my cabinets (lots of canned beans and grits, soooo...). It's sort of a strange feeling, to be home waiting for the power to (maybe) go out.

If you have power, and are looking for something cozy to make for Halloween week, might I suggest pumpkin mac and cheese?

I made this last week, cooking 1 lb corn pasta to al dente. While the pasta was cooking, I whisked together a can of pumpkin, 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese, 1 cup whole milk, and salt and pepper right in my gratin dish. When the pasta was done, I stirred everything all together, and topped it with 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes at 350, and top with parsley if you have some around and agree that everything looks better with a touch of green :)

Hope everybody is doing okay on this windy Monday! See you on the other side of Sandy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

High on the Hilltop

I have more to say about our trip to North Carolina! You probably thought I was finished since I already showed you 29 photos of cute Asheville, but I was a prolific photographer that weekend! And North Carolina was just so photogenic.

On our drive out to Asheville (after the most wonderful visit with our dear friends in Charlotte!) Peter convinced me that we should make a quick stop for barbecue at Bill's Spoon. North Carolina BBQ and I are BFFs since vinegar base = no tomatoes! Yay for fabulous pork, mustard slaw, hush puppies, and sweet tea.

Everyone kept saying, "Oh, it's going to be so beautiful out in the mountains this weekend!" And I will admit to you that I was a snobby-snob about it and didn't really believe them. I mean, New England in the fall is pretttttttty spectacular, know what I'm saying?

But they were right. Asheville was gorgeous - much more red and orange than my local leaves. I didn't do a great job capturing how crazy colorful it was, so you'll just have to go next October to see for yourself :)

Marissa and Adam got married on a lovely hill top. Their ceremony was one of our favorites - they absolutely radiated joy. Afterwards, we drove down the mountain a bit to a lovely tent set up alongside a stream. There was a fire pit and fantastic wine, cupcakes and a DJ who knew how to play the songs everyone would dance to. My heart is still so happy! And I want to do it all again next weekend.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Postcards from Asheville, NC

North Carolina was GLORIOUS! My only complaint is that this trip was far too short. Luckily we got to cram in lots of friend time, though. And so much eating!

I had that Cookout milkshake (peanut butter, M&M, and Reeses: a favorite old combo) at 11:00 a.m. on our way to the airport after eating a fantastic breakfast at Trupelo Honey Cafe (thanks to Emily for the rec!). When you find yourself in Asheville, be sure to go to Trupelo and order the goat cheese grits. I'm missing them already.

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