Friday, March 30, 2012

Northampton, MA

We stopped in Northampton, MA last weekend on our way home from the Berkshires. I love that little city! A few favorite spots, should you find yourself in the area:

Anybody taking any day trips this weekend? Peter has a huge stack of papers to grade, and I'm trying to finish up a botched sewing project. But we have grand plans to push through the thongs of teeny-boppers to see Hunger Games! Happy Friday, all!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

2nd Anniversary Gift: Cotton

1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Our second anniversary is coming up in a few months, and I haven't hit upon something that I'm super excited about, like last year's anniversary painting for the paper year. The traditional gift is supposed to involve cotton.

Bedding, cloth napkins and a picnic blanket would all fit the bill - and I absolutely adore the selections above - but they're sort of boring, no? I would never buy a cotton candy machine, but I thought was too cute not to include :) And of course, you guys know how I feel about gin. Perfect gift for everything! It made its way onto the list because of the cotton gin - GET IT?

I have another post on the docket with some ideas for the modern second anniversary gift - China. Contain your excitement, please!

Anyone out there have a brilliant 2nd anniversary gift idea to share? I'd love to hear!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Early Spring Picnic

It feels a little cruel to share these photos on such a cold and windy day. But this was just four days ago! I was wearing capri pants and I was too hot.

This little outing was arranged after a no-good-very-bad-day. Everyone who pays their own taxes in quarterly installments has a horror story or two to share. That day, we got one of ours.

But Peter is full of wise, good sense, and I am very optimistic. The horror faded quickly, and we remembered how crazy lucky we are. We have jobs; we have money in the bank. And we have a lake to visit on unseasonable warm afternoons in March.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Roasted Chicken with Honey, Peas and Shallots

We went to the Berkshires over the weekend. Whenever I see my mom, she always passes along the magazines she gets that I don't subscribe to myself. Country Living, Family Circle, Better Homes and Gardens -- the Mom Magazines. I love them!

In the latest BHG, there is a series of recipes that all feature honey, including a glorious roasted chicken recipe. You roast a chicken (I use Dorie's hurry up and wait method, which involved roasting the bird on it's sides for 25 minutes each, and then finishing breast side up for the last ten minutes, but you can just do it the standard way, too!). When the bird is ten minutes away from being done, you take it out and slather it with honey, and put it back in the oven. It comes out all dark and glazed and glorious.

Then, using the pan drippings, you make a sauce with shallots, peas, more honey and lots of fresh tarragon. Peter declared this dish to be restaurant-worthy. We all know he's biased, but still! High praise.

Roasted Chicken with Honey, Peas and Shallots
Inspired by Better Homes and Gardens

You will need:
4 lb chicken
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons honey, divided
1 cup dry white wine, or chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 lemon, cut into thin slices
1/4 cup chopped tarragon
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Heat the oven to 450 F. Pat the chicken dry, then rub with butter and generously sprinkle with salt and pepper. If you want a juicy, super amazing chicken, truss it up, put it into a cast iron skillet on it's side, and roast for 25 minutes. Flip it to the other side and roast for another 25 minutes. Take the bird out and brush on 1 tablespoon of honey, covering the top and sides well. Roast another ten minutes, then place on a cutting board under a foil tent to rest. (We actually do this elaborate resting set-up involving a bowl and a jelly roll pan. The chicken goes breast-side down, butt in the air so that the juices trickle back down to the white meat - try it!).

While the chicken is resting, put the cast iron with all the chicken drippings on the stove over medium heat. Add the wine or broth, shallots, lemon slices, peas and the last tablespoon of honey. You'll cook this for 7-10 minutes total, until the liquid reduces by half. Scrape up the good stuff from the bottom of the pan. I know these peas look very "done," but Molly Orangette says that peas are legumes and need to cook for a while to get super delicious. I follow Molly's advice!

When the sauce has been cooking about 5 minutes, call your husband in and have him carve that chicken! Pull out the lemon slices and stir in the Dijon and most of the tarragon.

Serve over mashed potatoes. Place chicken on top of the potatoes, and then spoon the sauce on top of everything. Sprinkle the little bit of tarragon you saved on top, and enjoy!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Paris Planning: Packing

Edie purseFrill front beige trenchScalloped silk topNine West taker flatsMossimo Supply Co. white floral aquare acarf with blue pom trim3/4 boat neck sailor teeBlack skinny pants

I've been on a look out for a few new items to bring to Paris. The only thing above that I have (so far!) are the pants. They are fabulous! If you are looking for new skinny black pants, I highly recommend these. I used to be a J Crew Minnie girl, but these are my favorites now.

Isn't that pink shirt fabulous!? A friend sent me a link to Boden USA, and I'm obsessed. Has anyone ordered from there? I'm very tempted to actually order something online (I never do that - I like to try things on and see them in person).

The color theme for this trip is looking like pink, black and white. Did you see Abbey's post on the color theme she used for a trip to the Caribbean? So perfect!

Do you guys pack in themes? Or does this seem sort of crazy, and you just pick your favorite pieces to come along?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Our weekend was filled with all kinds of fun. On Saturday night, Peter and I went out for Indian food and saw a super funny comedy show. (As sort of an aside, Indian food can be tough if you avoid tomatoes, soy and gluten, but I got the most amazing dosa - it's a savory sort of crepe made from rice and lentil flour! So good.)

On Sunday, I met a girlfriend for lunch. We had such a great time talking about houses and work and dating (her dating, not mine!). I've been missing friends lately, and this was such a fun treat. I try to keep reminding myself how long it takes to build up new friendships, and reconnect with old ones. It's hard to be patient with that.

On Sunday afternoon, glorious Sunday afternoon, Peter and I drove out to Walden Pond for a walk. It looks desolate in these photos, but it was packed!

All the crazy New Englander's were jumping into the water, too! They still had the "beware of ice" signs out. Way too cold!

We wrapped everything up with this corned beef recipe. That sauce, you guys - it was to die for. I want to put parsley mustard sauce on everything from now on.

I hope you are having a lovely start to your spring! My sense of time is all off with this warm weather - it feels like school should be ending in a few weeks, and we're not even at April vacation yet! I'm not complaining, though, weather gods (please hear me!).

Monday, March 19, 2012

House Tour: Living Room

Our living room! Sharing this one makes me a little nervous for some reason. I think because for a long time I wasn't totally sold on it myself. This room has been re-arranged four or five times - and we've only lived here for eight months!

The things that I love about the room also posed some problems. Double french doors that lead to our front door, a big mantle with built in shelves, a double open door into the dining room, and five windows! Lots of big things to take into account, and no solid walls to arrange furniture around.

I'm sure things will continue to evolve and change, but for now, I'm really happy with it. I love that we easily have seating for six. And my mom and sister will roll their eyes at this, but I also love the amount of pattern I was brave enough to mix in. They're pattern junkies, so this is pretty tame to them, but floral + fish pillows + geometrics is pretty big time for me!

While I was snapping pictures, I thought I'd take one of the entryway, too, which is through the french doors next to the couch. 

I've heard this advice before, but taking pictures of your own home is eye-opening. You see things on the screen that you don't notice in real life, like that white cord going across the floor in one corner of the room. I also had a brown paper grocery bag by my mantle for months (!) that held kindling and newspapers for fires. So ugly! Now it's on the hall closet instead. I re-shot the photos where it was visible, in case you're looking for it!

One last thing to mention. This pretend shopping living room post is one my most popular (very relative term here on Fresh Basil!). I think people come to it while searching for information on the Chloe sofa.We haven't had it very long, but I highly recommend it! It isn't huge, which is great for apartments and smaller living rooms. It's gotten a few spills (including baby puke, ew), and everything just wipes right off. I couldn't be happier with it!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Asian-style Wedge Salad

I take a lot of food pictures that never make there way to the blog. Usually they seem sort of obvious and ordinary with a little hindsight. Do you really need to see my quinoa tostadas or fancy grilled cheese, along with a brief explanation? I always tell myself you do not.

But this week I started thinking about the kinds of recipes I'm always on the look out for. These include: grains + veggie main dishes, one-pot meals, and salads. Lot of salads! So in that spirit, I'm sharing this one with you (even though my inner editor is still sort of asking why).

A little back story: In Disney World's Prime Time Cafe, of all places, I had a really good wedge salad. It was the standard BLT variety, with lots of blue cheese dressing (but no tomatoes, ew). Ever since, I've been on Team Wedge Salad. They are so easy to make, really inexpensive, and feel very light and summery.

This one is a slightly different take. It's a wedge with carrots, radishes, chopped cilantro, peanuts, and a peanut scallion dressing. It was good! Here's a loose version of the dressing I made, but you'll probably want to play around with it a bit.

Happy St. Patrick's Day weekend, all!

Peanut Scallion Salad Dressing

You will need:

1 scallion, white and pale green parts only, chopped very well
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon red chili powder
Big squeeze of lime juice (from about a 1/4 of a lime) + some zest, if you wish
Salt and pepper
Water or vegetable oil, as needed

Combine all ingredients but the oil/water in a bowl and mix very well with a fork. This will likely be quite thick, so add in additional oil or water until you have the desired consistency. I added about 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 tablespoon of water for a creamy, thick dressing. Makes enough for two wedge salads!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Striped table runner

I had this project on my list for Crafty February, but as you can see, we are now in the Ides of March (beware!). A little late, what can you do?

This is half a yard of a Waverly fabric (it has some kind of cute-ish name like, "So Stripey!" that's escaping me right now).

I folded the fabric in half the long way and stitched that together inside out, being extra sure my stripes were lined up correctly. I'm not usually like that, but stripes, man. They are tricky! Then I closed off the ends right side out, because pickiness can only last so long.

I wanted to make it double sided because as my mom said, "Runners get gross!" Ha. They do, though. So, nice to be able to flip it over after I Peter inevitably spills some super spicy, bright red hot sauce on my darling new runner.

P.S. Don't mind the gaping hole in my $3.99 TJ's bouquet. A Gerber daisy that formerly inhabited that hole bit the dust shortly before these photos were taken!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Paris Planning: The Apartment

(via Domino)

After weeks of research, we recently booked our apartment rental in Paris! There are so many options, I thought this process would be a breeze. And, if I had wanted to spend a bit more, it would have been.

Unfortunately, I kept thinking about all the wine and cheese I could buy with that money instead! A tiny budget meant lots of studios with futons (not real beds). I mean, I don't require a super long, bright pink bed, but a futon just wouldn't do. Being in my late twenties has made me more snobby about my sleeping arrangements!

I combed through Airbnb, HomeAway and Trip Advisor. Many people seem to have good luck with Airbnb, but I found most of the apartments had kind of dark, sketchy photos. This Trip Advisor rental in a former bakery was tempting, but I didn't love the location. We wanted to be in the 9, 10 or 11th arrondissement, based almost entirely on this old Gourmet article.*

Eventually, in desperation, I took a peak at VRBO. I hadn't looked there earlier because I didn't think they did international bookings. But they do! And they had the most affordable, pretty, real-live-bed apartments. And lots of reviews! Those sway me so much (even though I never leave them, so it's sort of hypocritical, I guess). 

I'll definitely share how it works out after we return!

*Much of our trip planning is based on this old Paris issue of Gourmet. I'm mentioning this only because when planning a vacation, we usually latch on to no more than two or three magazines/articles/books total and call it day. It's too easy to get overwhelmed otherwise! Usually one of the other planning tools is the NY Times 36 hours article, too. Just thought I'd share that little tip :)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Disney World

When I got back from Disney, I was speaking with someone at work who just came back from a trip there a week before me. "How old are your kids?" she asked. "Oh! I don't have any! It was a grown-up vacation." 


Disney World doesn't necessarily spring to mind as a great spot for a grown-up family vacation, but it was so awesome. When you're an adult, you have a realistic sense of time, which makes waiting in lines way more pleasant. 50 minute wait? Hey, it's better than being at work!

This is also sort of an obvious revelation, but as adults, we had realistic expectations for the rides. As a kid, every ride holds so much promise, so much awaited fun. And then it's over?

We didn't have any of that let down at the end. Old favorites were fondly revisited (that's It's Small World above), and newer rides seemed so flashy and cool (hello, Aerosmith roller coaster and Test Track!).

Disney is a vacation you can certainly figure out on your own, but here are a few tips and tricks we discovered along the way.

  • This wait time app was crazy helpful (and free!). It lets you see how long the wait is at the most popular rides without walking across the park to check. It's maintained by users, so when we remembered, we'd add in our own wait times once we finished rides. Disney makes you want to be helpful person :)
  • The fireworks show at Magic Kingdom occurs every night, and it was one of the most magical things we did all week. I'm a totally sucker for fireworks, but a light show on the castle? A live Tinker Bell floating over the park? Classic Disney songs playing in time with the fireworks? It doesn't get any better!
  • Have a sit-down lunch. During previous trips as a kid, I remember us rushing around all day, trying to cram in as much as possible. This time, we would do a few rides in the morning, then stop somewhere for lunch. The price point wasn't significantly higher at the restaurants compared to the kiosks, the food was surprisingly good, and we all got to have a beer in the middle of the day. Yay for being a grown-up!

  • Take a few days off from the parks. After much research, we decided to golf at Falcons Fire during our visit. It was a lovely course, fairly reasonable, and the staff were amazingly kind and helpful. We also went into Celebration twice - Disney's version of a New England town. Kind of weird, but, eh. Just go with it! It was really cute, and had a handful of good restaurants (we went here on our last night, and loved it!). As fun as it is to visit the parks, exploring new territory is quite delightful, too.
  • Lastly, when we were prepping for this trip, I kept mentioning old favorite rides to Peter, like the Tiki Room and the Carousel of Progress. He looked at me like I was nuts! He had never even heard of those rides. We now have a debate going if his family was weird for not going on these, or if mine was weird for loving them so much. Weight in below, if you'd like (though I have a sinking feeling that I was the weird one!). 
Have I convinced you that Disney World is a worthy grown-up vacation destination?! You'll have so much fun, I promise!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Nearly Spring Lamb Stew

Last year around this time, Peter and I went to Al Di La for a dinner to celebrate something or other. All our meals there were lovely, but my dinner that night was perfection - lamb stew.

I know, I know. Lamb stew? Despite what you might be thinking, it was a celebration of early springtime vegetables. Small, tender pieces of lamb with artichokes, peas, asparagus, herbs and lemon. So much lemon! It was rich, but all that acid made it positively addicting.

Last Sunday, I was flipping through Dorie, looking for something to cook up for dinner. It had to be good since I was nursing a touch of sadness that it would be my first Sunday without Downton for company. Roast chicken wasn't going to cut it.

Do you ignore the recipes in a book that don't have a photo attached? I'm definitely guilty of this. Though I've looked through this book dozens of times, green-as-spring veal stew caught my eye for the first time. I made all sorts of substitutions, swapping in lamb for veal, kale for spinach, and mint for tarragon, so it turned into something in between the original recipe and the Al Di La dish - fresh and springy and celebration worthy (even without Downton on in the background).

Nearly Spring Lamb Stew

You will need:
2 cups chicken stock
1 lb lamb stew meat
2 carrots, peeled and quartered
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
2 1/2 cups arugula
2 cups chopped kale
1 cup parsley
1/2 cup dill
1/2 cup mint
3/4 cup sour cream or creme fraiche
2 tablespoons lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add in the lamb meat and boil for one minute. Drain and reserve the meat. In a large dutch oven, combine the stock, carrots, onion, bay leaf and dried herbs. Once that reaches a boil, add in the lamb meat. Return to a boil, then cover tightly and reduce heat to a low simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Then remove the meat, and reserve in a small bowl, covered so that it stays warm.

Remove the vegetables and bay leaf with a slotted spoon and discard them. Add in the greens and herbs to the dutch oven, and cook in the stock for one minute. Pour the greens into a food processor or blender and pulse into smooth. Return to the dutch oven and add in the lamb. Over low heat, gently stir in the sour cream, lemon juice and Dijon mustard. Serve over mashed potatoes (or rice or noodles). Toast to spring's speedy arrival.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Polka Dot Easter Tree

Sometime in December, I found a shoe box filled with all my old, decorated eggs for my Easter tree. Now that it's the correct holiday season for them, of course I can't find them anywhere!

No matter. I saw this cute idea for glitter eggs and decided to try some myself. Cute, no? And much easier than dying. I am loving the little polka dot theme going this year, with my pom pom garland in the mix!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Kid Stuff

  (1, 2, 3

This winter has been mild and lovely. I can say that without fear of jinxing it now that we're into March! But I guess I love gentle, easy reading while the days are short, even if it's not terribly harsh outside.

These middle reader/young adult novels have been keeping me company the last few months (along with The Hunger Games series!). Can you believe I had never read The Hobbit before? I felt like I found my snacking tribe. I've been enjoying second breakfast and elevenses for years :)

Also, I love finding old covers to books. Anne and Gilbert look dashing here - such darling young marrieds!

Friday, March 2, 2012

March forward


Happy March, my friends! Did you check your horoscope yet? I am in for a doozy (in a good way!).

We are off to Connecticut to visit our families this weekend, and celebrate my mom's birthday! She's getting one of these - I've got my fingers crossed that she'll be able to figure out how to use it without too much trouble :)

On a totally unrelated fashion note, I saw this outfit in the J Crew catalog earlier this week and decided to recreate it today. It's fun, right? If I was an outfit-posting kind of blogger, I'd surely show you a picture, but since I'm not... just imagine me looking exactly like this model, okay? I cat-walked into my cubicle with smeyes and everything.

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