Saturday, January 29, 2011


I have writer's block.  And I'm not even a (real) writer, so how's that for irony?  It's been over a week since I've posted and I thought it was because of my poor time management skills, but I realize now that it's because I have (wanna-be-a) writer's block.  (Although my poor time management skills are also an epic reality.)  And so I leave you with two links to two fabulous hotels that I've been daydreaming about since I read my friend Torrie's post about places she'd like to visit. (It was part of her cool and creative Listography series.  Check it here.)  Sparky and I stayed at these hotels when we traveled to Italy on our honeymoon 9 years ago.  A honeymoon that was 17 days of total perfection.

{It's the smaller waterfront building on the left. Ask for room 12 which has an amazing balcony where we sipped
many a glass of Chianti.}

Grand Hotel Miramare in Santa Margherita
{On the balcony one evening, we chatted (over many glasses of wine, of course)
with another American couple who'd been coming to the Grand Miramare for 30 years!} 

Maybe when my wanna-be-a-writer's block is over, I'll share more about these amazing places.  Until then, happy weekend!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

a confession + an outfit + a trend.

Over the last few months, I've developed a new guilty pleasure.  Every morning while I'm making Ava's lunch, I check out the outfit posts from one of these lovely ladies' fashion blogs.  I have to force myself not to open Safari until after I've gotten the girlies breakfast and after the coffee is made.  If Sparky happens still to be home and walks into the kitchen, I quickly close the browser window!  Not sure why I feel so guilty about it and I also don't know why it's so appealing to me... Perhaps, it's because I don't actually get dressed everyday.  The fact I walk around the house naked most days creates this desire to see clothed people?  I kid.  Of course, I put clothes on everyday (although truth be told if I were more confident in who I am, I'd simply walk Ava the 100 yards to school in my pajamas!)  Unless I have plans outside of mommying, you'll most likely find me in a) workout/yoga pants, a tank top, and a sweatshirt b)sweats (cringe) or c)jeans (if i can fit into them) and a t-shirt.  I so enjoy seeing how these beautiful women put items together into fashionable outfits.  It has made such a difference in how I feel about getting dressed when I actually do "get dressed."  (Unfortunately for Sparky, I think it's made a difference in my shopping habits as well.  But shhhhhh, don't tell.)

There are SO MANY fashion blogs where women simply post pictures of themselves in their darling clothes.  And I totally get the appeal of being one of these bloggers, by the way--a bit like playing dress-up as a kid while spinning and posing in mommy's full length mirror.  It makes me want to get in on the action.  So today I did, using the five year old as my muse.  =)

Sweater-A Children's Place
Knee socks (trend! =) -Target
Shoes-Lelli Kelly, Nordstrom

P.S. Ava picked out her outfit with a little guidance from mom.  I should note that she will ONLY wear dresses, prefers pink and yellow, does not like plaid, and thinks black and brown are "boy" colors.  Getting dressed isn't an easy task these days, friends.  Looking forward to the teenage years. OY! Help me.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

a long day ending with chocolate.

{this is chocolate}

The two year old is obsessed with Giada.  Which is fine, I'm a fan myself.  The problem is that she only wants to watch two particular episodes of Giada, the Halloween episode and the episode where Giada goes ice skating with Brian Boitano.  Do you know how many times Ava and I have been subjected to Jade picking out caramels at the Candy Baron or Giada laughing at herself on the skating rink?  Ava's five, she's super smart, but I don't think she can count that high.  And to be honest, Giada is starting to bug me.  A lot.  No offense to her.  I'm sure if someone had to watch the same half hour of me over and over again, I'd be pretty annoying too.  I feel as if the only way I can redeem her and these episodes is to pick one of the recipes to make.  (And it better turn out spectacularly.  I'm just sayin'.)   The Halloween episode is a no-go as it's January and I'm really not interested in eating a pumpkin cupcake or biting into a caramel apple at this point.  That leaves the lovely lunch she brought Brian Boitano at the ice rink.  (Really enjoy saying his name, just rolls off the tongue.)  And even though I'm not a baker, I'm going to make her Oatmeal, Cranberry, and Chocolate Chunk Cookies from the episode because a) I like to eat (oatmeal chocolate chip) cookies, b) I have all of the ingredients, c) my children wouldn't eat the Creamy Sweet Potato Soup to save their lives, d) I'd really prefer to make the Ham, Gruyere, and Apple Panini, but I don't have a panini maker, d) I need a dessert to top off the dinner I'm bringing my good friend Becky (who just had her second baby!) and e) I want to attempt a new recipe as I'm joining fantastic Jessica of Kitchen Belleicious in her 2011 Recipe Challenge.  (Yippeee!)  (How's that for a run-on sentence?) Thanks Jessica for allowing me to participate.  Thanks Becky (and Ethan) for adding a new member to our beloved "family."  And thanks Giada for annoying me inspiring me to bake some cookies.

(I usually write these posts after I finish cooking, but because I've got a lot going on right now and I'm beyond exhausted, I'll be writing it "real time," a few sentences at a time, here and there, before, after, and as I mess up bake these cookies.  So please excuse the wordiness and any choppiness.)

Here we go... the recipe.

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp.
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temp.
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1 (4 ounce) 60 percent cacao bittersweet chocolate bar, chopped into chunks

Just the amount of ingredients here stresses me out.  And the measuring.  Really?  I hate measuring.  (Am I the only one who hates exact measuring?)  But I am going to do this.  Because I love Becky.  And chocolate.

Directions: (Blah, blah, blah...I copied and pasted this from Giada's recipe.)
Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. With the machine running, gradually add the flour mixture. Add the oats, cranberries and chocolate chunks. Mix until just incorporated (dough will be stiff). Using a 4-ounce cookie scoop, scoop slightly rounded mounds of the dough into 12 (2-inch-diameter) balls. Arrange 6 balls of dough, spaced evenly apart, on each baking sheet. Using the back of a spoon, flatten the tops slightly and bake until the cookies are slightly golden on the edges, about 13 to 15 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 20 minutes before serving.
{ava mixing the dry ingredients}
{the good stuff-chocolate, oats, and cranberries}
{all i actually care about eating--the batter}
 {this + a tall glass of milk.  call it dinner.}

And POOF, cookies are done. =)  (Twelve and a half hours after I started writing this...)
Cook's Notes
1.  I doubled the recipe. (Hello. 12 cookies are not enough.)
2.  The next time I make this recipe (and I will,) I plan to cut the amount of dried cranberries in half.  They add a bit too much sweetness for my taste.  I'm sure that is preference though.  I don't like raisins in my oatmeal cookies either.
3. Of course, something will need to replace the cranberries, and that will be MORE chocolate chunks.  Love the use of a chopped up chocolate bar instead of chips.  So. Much. Better.
4.  I will definitely be walking my lazy tush the 20 feet to my garage to get my Kitchen Aid on the next go around.  My arm is tired from holding the hand mixer.  Takes much longer to cream the butter and sugar and eggs with that darn thing.
5.  I made smaller cookies but they still took 15 minutes to bake.  (My oven is circa 1986 so that might explain it. Perhaps I should invest in an oven thermometer.)

Sparky loves the cookies.  The true taste test will be tomorrow with the girlies.  Maybe I'll even let them have one for breakfast.  For now, I'm retiring to the couch with a scoop of batter, a glass of milk, and my dvr.  Nighty-night.

*Update, February 4, 2011--After much thought and many bites (and finding and making another oatmeal chocolate chip recipe that is OH SO GOOD,) I do not recommend this recipe (without some major modifications.)   There are so many better out there.  (I'll be posting another one soon.)  Just keeping it real, people. 

{sweet baby cayden jean :) }

Monday, January 17, 2011

all dressed up.

My favorite dress from the evening.

Olivia Wilde via

Speaking of the Golden Globes, how much did you love Alexa Chung on the NBC pre-show?  Her interview style was so relaxed, unrehearsed, and unimpressed in a very "I'm interested" sort of way.  A great contrast to the other hosts of the show.

Friday, January 14, 2011

a quote and a glimpse of summer in january.

Comparison is the thief of joy.
-dwight edwards

Whenever I feel envy, I try to remember that.

But seriously people, unless you live here too (or somewhere with similar weather patterns,) you are jealous of ME.  (Terribly sorry to steal your joy.)  The high today was, I believe, 79 degrees.  Tomorrow, it's supposed to be in the mid 70s and we are headed to the beach.  And I, for one, am in need of this glorious weather.  If you are in the dead of cold or the middle of an awful storm, I hope these photographs warm you a bit...

{low quality "cell" phone pictures i took on a morning walk through the neighborhood--
not this morning and not my neighborhood, but close enough ;)}
 {oh, and not sure where my mind is, but don't the rocks in the background look a bit like the silhouette of a kissing couple?  can't wait to see if they look this way to me tomorrow!}

Whether you're in a bikini or a snowsuit, I hope you enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

having her cake and eating it too.

There is nothing especially exciting about this cake, other than the fact that Ava and her best girlfriend Paigey made it together.  Actually, they baked TWO cakes!  And had a blast doing it.  They thoroughly enjoyed the process, especially the frosting and the decorating.  Sprinkles, my friends, rival glitter in the mess making department.  Each girlie picked a color for her batter and then, after baking, swapped a layer.  (Perhaps this is my segue into this cake.)  It really was a good time, a party in the kitchen if you will.  (Thankfully the two year old was napping during most of our cake-baking playdate!)  

I'd like to say the reason behind this post is a fabulous, easy, and tasty white cake recipe.  One that I make from scratch, all the time.  A recipe, I created all by myself, to satisfy my never ending sweet tooth.  But of course it's not.  Other than the self indulgent need to share pictures,  I'm writing this in search of some help from you (my 30 loyal readers =).  Ava and I love to bake (and eat!) cake together but as I've said before, I'm not much of a baker, so I rely heavily on boxed cake mix (except for this one time,) which is fine.  I'm not opposed to short-cuts or store bought items.  Here's the problem.  I'm not a big fan of the ingredient list on my boxed mix. (Specifically, the partially hydrogenated soybean and modified corn starch.*)  Here's where I need the help.  Do any of you have an easy, fool-proof, delicious recipe for white cake that you seem to use over and over?  (Or better yet, a boxed cake mix that has real* ingredients?)  I'd love it if you'd care to share.  Thanks in advance!

(*How do they modify corn starch anyway?  I don't even want to know.  If my grandmother wouldn't recognize it as food, it probably isn't.  I've been trying to eat food based on that thought for the last year.  More on that at a later date.)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

eating my vegetables: haricots verts

Haricots verts.  Ha!  Just a fancy way to say GREEN BEANS.  You think the five year old will eat them if I call them haricot verts?  (The answer is NO, she most definitely will not.)  But anyway...

My good friend Allison brought a side dish of haricots verts to our Christmas Eve party.  Guests were raving about them.  Yes, that's right, raving about green beans after I'd slaved all day over the rest of the meal. Whatever.  They really are that good.  When I made this yesterday, I added a little lemon (zest and juice) to jazz them up a bit as I'm a huge fan of citrus.  Quick, easy, and delicious.  What's better than that?

Stay tuned for what to do with leftovers from this recipe.  (Just double it and trust me.)

Alli's Haricots Verts
1 pound haricots verts
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar (I used red wine vinegar as that's all I had.)
1 shallot minced
juice from half a lemon
zest from one lemon

Steam or boil beans.  (I boiled them for 5 minutes.)  Whisk together the rest of the ingredients except lemon zest. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Toss with beans.  Top with lemon zest.  Enjoy immediately or serve at room temp. (You can also top with chopped nuts.  I think pecans would be fab.)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

eating my vegetables.

One of my goals for the new year is to find creative (yummy!) ways to cook vegetables.  I'm not sure how creative this is, but it was definitely tasty, stimulating to the eye, and fun (and easy) to make.  This will be my new go to lunch at home, but will also be great as a side dish or served with pasta.

Eggplant and Zucchini Stack

1 Japanese eggplant
1 large zucchini
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese
mozzarella cheese
homemade marinara or the best jarred you can find 

Slice eggplant and zucchini, lengthwise, into three strips.  Gently toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Lay on cookie sheet and roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, flipping after 10.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and roast another two minutes.  Meanwhile, heat a 1/2 a cup (I didn't measure!) of marinara in microwave.  Stack slices alternating zucchini and eggplant.  Cut in half on a diagonal.  Pour hot marinara over both stacks and grate mozzarella over the top.  Sprinkle with more salt and fresh ground pepper. 

Cook's Notes:
1. I trim a bit of the skin off both the eggplant and zucchini.
2. Salt is seriously important!
3. I used that (dreaded) green can of parmesan (which Sparky loves) because I didn't have any fresh.  Next time I'll use fresh but it was actually great this way.
4. Pretty sure I grated gruyere over the top because that's what I grabbed with the two year old hanging on my legs.  But my intention was mozzarella. =)
5. My marinara of choice is Rao's which I've mentioned before.  I like it better than homemade to be quite honest!
6. Next time I will add crushed red pepper before roasting the veggies.

Monday, January 3, 2011

no resolutions.

Just goals for 2011.  (And a few photographs in review.)

1.  Write everyday.
2.  Explore new parks with the two year old while the five year old is at school.
3.  Cook with the five year old more.  (Just yesterday as she was watching me make a vinaigrette, she asked "Is that a shallot, momma?"  Why, yes, yes it is! =)

*cooking with the girlies in 2010*

4.  Find more creative ways to cook vegetables (thus, eating more vegetables.)
5.  Move my body in a way that doesn't hurt it.
5.  Write everyday.
6.  Play in water more and SWIM (at least) once a week in the ocean this summer (because hello!, I live a mile from this ocean.)

*splashing around with G in the pool, summer 2010*

7.  Bake this cake (which I've seen many places over blog land!)
8.  Go on at least 5 adults-only vacations (even if they are just overnighters.)  Last year we went here, here (twice!), here (rented her apartment for a bit!) and here.  So maybe I should increase that goal to SIX!)

*menus from two of the yummy restaurants we ate at in NYC*

*wine tasting during the spring at Frank Family in Napa*

9.  Learn.  (How to use my camera and something new.  Suggestions?)
10.  Read a book a month.
11.  (Continue to) work my closet (which was initially inspired by Jamie, but now finding inspiration and direction in many other places.  Thank you Naina.)

*workin' my closet at the Plaza last summer.  that's my rehearsal dress from almost a decade ago!*

12.  Show gratitude  Thank you, Sparky, for all that you are to me and the girlies.  We love you and are extremely blessed.

Do you have any goals for the new year?  I'd love to hear them.