Monday, February 28, 2011

My Super Bowl...

Photo Credit: Fashionologie
 I love the Oscars. I love movies, so a celebration of the best films of the year combined with the glitterati of Hollywood all dressed up is definitely something I enjoy watching. While I could dissect the best and worst (Melissa Leo--awful doily nightmare) dressed celebs or the show itself (I was FB/blogging during the entire thing, what does that tell you), there is one key element of last night's Academy Awards that I want to highlight. Anne Hathaway. While her gig as host may not have been her best performance ever, she looked fantastic. Hats off to Rachel Zoe! From the moment that Anne stepped on to the red carpet in that stunning red archival Valentino gown, I died. (Damn you RZ and your catchphrases!) I am a huge Anne Hathaway fan; I think that she's intelligent and classy, in addition to being stunningly gorgeous. She can really pull off anything and I thought that all of her 8 wardrobe changes (bananas!) were so beautiful. I think my favorite look is probably a tie between the red Valentino pictured above and this amazing disco-y gold dress by Oscar de la Renta. Loves it.
Photo Credit: stylebistro

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Book Club: All You Need to Be Impossibly French

 As I sit watching the Oscars (more on those later this week!) and eating a slice of Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie that I made yesterday (and not to toot my own horn, but it's delicious), I thought I would update y'all on my book club progress! (I have the terrible habit of constantly being on the computer while I watch TV as it lessens my guilt about doing either if I do both at the same time!) Anyway, as I was lamenting in my last post about how I'm not making much progress reading for 2011. However, I have already read another book since my last post, go me! Now after reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, I wanted to choose something a little lighter for my next read, so I selected All You Need to Be Impossibly French by Helena Frith-Powell. (I heard about this book on one of my new favorite blogs dress, design, & decor) I'll be the first to admit, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Is it groundbreaking? No. Is it extremely-well written? Most certainly not. But is it fun to read? Absolutely. This book is essentially non-fiction chick lit, in which the author, a Brit living in France, dissects the differences between French women and British and American women. She tries to understand just what it is that gives the women of France that certain je ne sais quoi that makes them so much more stylish and seductive than the rest of the world. She examines their eating and exercise habits, their style, their sensuality, and their relationships. While this book is fluffy then a freshly-baked croissant, I enjoyed every minute of it. It made me reminisce about our trip to Paris, and want to pick up and move to France! Overall it was very interesting, and I think this book would be a fabulous beach read. My minor complaints: The writing tends to ramble and could use quite a bit of editing. Also, the Kindle price of this book was $12. Wtf? For something that's essentially an extended magazine article, I thought that price was a little steep, especially considering that I didn't even get the adorable cover. Oh well. All in all it was $12 well spent, and while I may not be impossibly French, this book has inspired me to try :)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A little bit of chicken fried...

One thing people in the South love--fried food. They will fry anything and everything down here, and while it's definitely not stuff you want to eat on a regular basis, every once and awhile, it's pretty darn delicious. For no apparent reason, Cam and I decided to make a very Southern dinner last night (and then had the leftovers tonigh!) He has been wanting to try to make Alton Brown's fried chicken recipe for awhile now (since Cam loves AB and thinks he's a genius...which is true), so he decided to fry up the chicken drumsticks we had in our freezer. Alton Brown's recipe uses a delicious blend of smoked paprika and other spices, giving the fried chicken a nice reddish color. I made some buttermilk biscuits to use up the extra buttermilk we had on hand from making the chicken. Not to toot my own horn, but these biscuits were DELISH, and the perfect complement to the chicken. (We did have roasted asparagus (so random I know) with our chicken and biscuits, so the meal wasn't completely unhealthy...right?) So while this isn't a meal that will be making the menu rotation again for awhile, it was super yummy, and I figure when in Rome!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Book Club: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

One of my resolutions for 2011 was to do more reading, and since I got my Kindle for Christmas, I had very ambitious plans to read lots of books...and so far I've read two. Pathetic. However, I'm determined to pick up the pace, so in order to hold myself accountable, I'm going to try to do at least one book review a month (hopefully more, but we'll see!). So while my book club endorsement may not make quite the same impact as Oprah's, I figure that I should make an effort to spread the word about any good reads I come across!

This past week, I finished book #2 on the Kindle (book #1 was Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, which was excellent and I'd highly recommend it!) and it took me a long time to get through, not because it was a boring book, actually it was probably one of the most interesting books that I've ever read. "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot was chosen as the Best Book of 2010 on Amazon, so that's what prompted my choosing it, along with the fact that I had heard some buzz about it on a few other best of 2010 lists. I wasn't really sure what to expect, but I was blown away by this amazing true story, as well as Rebecca Skloot's dedication to telling it. Being that I was a Communications Major who didn't take one science class in college, I never learned about HeLa cells. However, I've always liked science (after all, I was in Science Olympiad in high joke) so this book was extremely interesting to me. Henrietta Lacks was an African-American patient being treated for cervical cancer in the 1950s. Her doctors took a sample of the tumor from her cervix, and these cells continued to grow in culture. This was the first time that scientists had been successfully been able to get human cells to continue to replicate outside the body, and George Gey, the researcher that cultured the cells, started giving them away to other scientists. The cells get their name from the first two letters of Henrietta's first and last name, however, her identity wasn't revealed until years later. HeLa cells were used to test the first polio vaccine, and they've created breakthroughs in many areas of medical research including cancer, AIDS, and gene mapping. Henrietta passed away shortly after her cells were taken, and her family was never told that her cells were used for scientific research. Rebecca devoted over 10 years to researching this book, interviewing as many members of Henrietta's family as she could find, and through the process, she helped them understand all that had happened. For being a non-fiction book about cells, this story is amazingly human, and Skloot never loses sight of that. One of the book's many strong point's is its structure; Skloot jumps from present day to the 1950's and back again, recounting every experience and piece of information with vivid detail. I learned a great deal reading this book, it's both fascinating and unforgettable...I'd very highly recommend it!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Woah

Of all my adventures in baking, I think that good ole chocolate chip cookies are still my favorite thing to make. I usually use my mother-in-law's recipe, but sometimes I mix it up and try other variations as well. (One of my favorite things to do is replace chocolate chips with the M&Ms of whatever holiday is approaching!) So while nothing beats the simple goodness of normal chocolate chip cookies, I stumbled across two recipes that take chocolate chip cookie deliciousness to a new level. I haven't personally tried either of these recipes, but they both look so sweet and rich in that so good it's almost gross way, that I'm sure I will at some point.

Photo Credit: The Well-Fed Newlyweds

The first is a chocolate chip cookie pie I saw on The Well-Fed Newlyweds. I love this food blog, and I love the name, so cute! I've made chocolate chip cookie cake before, but I've never thought of turning it into a pie, so kudos to that tasty idea!

Photo credit: Serious Eats-Adam Kuban

Another crazy chocolate chip cookie recipe I found this week was on Serious Eats, and I thought it was pure genius...which is probably why I'm going to end up with diabetes, but oh well. A cookie stuffed inside a cookie. Amazing. I like the whole idea of taking a crunchy cookie and sticking it inside a chewy cookie to get a mix of texture and flavor. I don't think I'll be trying these anytime soon, but I thought it was a really neat idea!

I thought those two expressions of chocolate chip cookie desserts were so creative, that I would make something chocolate chippy myself (idk if that's a word, but that's ok!). I decided to try out a new recipe for chocolate chip pancakes to use up so buttermilk I had on hand; I found the recipe on Allrecipes, and it was so delicious and easy! I would have taken a picture of how great they came out, but Cam and I ate them too fast! They were super light, fluffy, and are definitely my new go to pancake recipe! Have a delicious Saturday everyone! :)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Puppy Love ♥

Today is Lola's first Valentine's Day, yayy! She's changed so much from that tiny, little 3 lb runt we got before Christmas to a happy, healthy puppy who is almost 15 lbs now! Here are some pictures that I took of her this weekend playing with her toy conversation heart (I saw it at Pet Smart and couldn't resist!)

I love Valentine's Day, and I'm so blessed for the abundance of love of family and friends, both near and far, that I have in my life. And I'm so thankful that I get to celebrate this day of love with my little family--my sweet husband and my darling little Lola Beans. A year and a half into our marriage, I feel like Cam and I have continued to learn more about each other and how to love the other better. I found this list of ways to love your husband the other day, and I asked Cam if he thought that it was an accurate list...He wholeheartedly agreed, so I'm really trying to work on #3 since talking from the second I walk in the door until we go to sleep tends to be my tendency! And he's learned how to speak my love language as well because I just received a dozen beautiful red roses delivered to my office, which totally made my day. He knows how much I love getting flowers, so that was really sweet of him. Cam and I don't need a holiday to show each other how we feel, still it's nice to have a day focused around it, and it's still hard for me to believe that this is our second "married" Valentine's Day!

In addition to married life, I've continued to learn about love since we brought Lola into our lives two months ago. She has brought an immense amount of joy into our lives, and she showers Cam and I with love everyday. Each morning when I let her out of her crate, she's always so happy to see me, and it's a good feeling knowing she's waiting for me when I come home. Every day she does something cute or funny that makes me laugh, which always outweighs the stuff she does that drives me crazy, like peeing on the carpet or chewing on the rug! Knowing that she depends on us to take care of her is a big responsibility, but so worth it. She's so adorable, sweet, and has definitely increased my heart's capacity for love. ♥

I think that cartoonist Charles Schulz put it best when he said "Happiness is a warm puppy." On that note, I hope that everyone has a very happy Valentine's Day with the ones they love! :)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Finding joy in simple things :)

Ahh Sunday night. I've got a batch of cookies in the oven (Valentine M&M), the Grammys on TV, and Lola sleeping on the couch next to me, so I thought it seemed like a great time to blog. It's been another low-key, yet lovely weekend here in Greenville. In 2011, we've really been trying to focus on making sure we're making the best use of our money and time. This means being better about getting a routine in place to make sure that "have to do" tasks gets accomplished, so that way we have more time to relax and get to do fun stuff, knowing everything that needs to get done has been taken care of.

One way we've done this is by switching up when we do things like cleaning and grocery shopping. I used to always go grocery shopping on Sunday, and then cleaning just got done whenever there was time. However, inevitably every Sunday afternoon, I'd procrastinate about getting to the store, then next thing I know, it would be 8pm, and since we live in the South where things either aren't open or close early on Sunday, I'd be stuck going to the 24 hr Bi-Lo (ugh) or waiting until Monday to get to Whole Foods. Then it seemed like the apartment was never as clean as I'd like, but I'd never feel like cleaning it during the week after work. Cam is usually pretty busy with homework for work during the week, and it always seemed to get put off on the weekends.

So, in order to remedy this problem, we've put a little schedule in place. On Friday nights, Cam and I are generally both kind of tired from the week and usually do something low-key, so we've decided to make this our cleaning night. If we both work together for about an hour or so, we can usually tackle any messes that have accumulated over the course of the week, and get the apartment pretty spotless before watching a movie or doing whatever else we might have planned. This way, no matter what we're doing on Saturday and Sunday, we know that the apartment is clean, and we've also been making a more concerted effort to keep things picked up during the week. It's so nice to do things on the weekend and not have a messy apartment hanging over our heads, and then it really alleviates a lot of stress from both Cam and I to come home to a clean apartment during the week. I don't know why, but it seriously makes me so happy when I'm at work and I just know that the apartment is neat and tidy :)

Another thing we've done is moved our grocery shopping day from Sunday to Saturday. We're usually out running errands on Saturday anyway, so this way we can just get it done together, and have our Sundays completely free to relax. I know this sounds kind of on Friday and grocery shopping on Saturday? But it's really helped us stay more organized, and not feel stressed during the week; obviously, depending on our weekend plans, things can change, but for now this is what works for us. Some of the recent posts on Passionate Homemaking have been focusing on the importance of having order in the home, and while I definitely don't claim to have things figured out yet, I'm learning as I go!

We're also trying to focus on taking pleasure in doing simple things on the weekends in an attempt to continue to grow our savings. If you've read this blog, you know that Cam and I both love traveling and going out to eat. However, as great as it is to do this stuff, having a nice weekend doesn't have to involve spending crazy amounts of money, and doing things like baking, reading, spending time with friends, hiking, volunteering, and playing with Lola can be just as, if not more, fulfilling as traveling and spending tons of money. (Although I still really love doing that stuff...) This weekend, we did some volunteering and took an awesome hike in North Carolina with some friends. I also made some blueberry scones to use up the huge carton of yummy bluebs I found at Trader Joes yesterday. I haven't really made scones before because a lot of recipes I've found seem bland, but these have a yummy streusel topping (why does streusel make everything better?), and I was really pleased with how well they came out!

Give them a try :)

Comforting cinnamon and sugar is perfect for winter, while fresh blueberries remind me that spring is on it's way! Yum :)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Imported from Detroit...but glad to be in Greenville

Well another weekend has come and gone, and the Superbowl is over. The Packers won, but to be honest, I didn't really care too much about who was playing; I watch the Superbowl for the commercials! (It's the Communications major in me!) Overall, I thought this year's pack of commercials was rather week, however, there was one standout--Chrysler's "Imported from Detroit". Although I'm not a huge fan of Chrysler or Eminem, this commercial was fantastic. (And by the looks of all my FB friends' statuses, they all agree!) Detroit is the Motor City, and this commercial did a beautiful job of showcasing everything that embodies our city. While the media may constantly focus on our negative aspects, this commercial sends the message to the rest of the country that Michigan-natives already know: Detroit is awesome.

Here's the commercial in case you missed it:

While I may no longer reside in Michigan, that's who I am, so the Chrysler commercial made me really proud. But this weekend made me realize just how thankful I am for our life here in Greenville. Now you probably know from this blog (or my obnoxious FB statuses), that Cam and I love food. We love going out to eat, we love trying new things, and we both love to cook. Yesterday afternoon, for whatever reason, we ended up getting out a bunch of our cookbooks and looking through them, and somehow Cam decided he really wanted to make French Onion Soup, and decided that I wanted to make Barefoot Contessa's Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting. So off to the store we went, and although we didn't end up getting finished cooking until almost 10 pm, both things turned out pretty delicious. But what made it great is that we were able to have our friends Kat and Joe over to share the food with us, and we had a really nice night of catching up. They are actually from Michigan, and Kat and I ran cross-country together in high school, but coincidentally, they live about a half hour away from us now in South Carolina. It was great to have them over, have some laughs, relax in our apartment, and make a meal for them. 

I actually made the from scratch version in her 'Barefoot Contessa at Home' cookbook and I even took a picture of them...but I don't feel like going to find my camera cord to upload it, so this will have to suffice because it's exactly what they looked liked...Ina's recipes are always delish!

Then tonight, my friend Wendi and her husband James had Cam and I over to watch the Superbowl, and it was a blessing to go over their house, chill out, and have them cook a delicious dinner for us. Cam and I were really in a cooking mood this weekend so I made buffalo chicken dip (my friend's mom's recipe--the BEST!) and Cam made coffee gelato (I am lucky that I have a husband that likes to cook good food!), and so we brought that stuff over to share and it was really nice to eat and watch the game together...and eat...and eat. For being down here less than a year, I feel extremely fortunate for the wonderful friendships we've made. Sometimes it takes awhile to get to know people to the point where you feel like you can just relax and be yourself around each other, and considering we've only been here since July, I am really thankful for having found that already in the friends we've made. Cam and I have spent a lot of weekends going out of town and traveling around the South, and while exploring has been really fun, it's great to be able to not go anywhere on the weekend and have people to spend time with, as it makes Greenville feel a little bit more like home.

Alrighty, I have to be up for work in T-7 hours...night y'all! :)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Things to ♥ about winter...

Sooo. It's winter. And while it's not nearly as brutal down here in South Carolina as it is in the Midwest (which is currently bracing for a Snowpocalypse aka 15-24 inches of snow in one day!), it's still a somewhat blah time of the year no matter where you live. But it's the first day of a new month, I've got a pot of white chicken chili simmering on the stove, and I'm trying to focus on the positive aspects of the current season, because despite the temps, there are a some things to love about winter:

Olivia Wilde in Marchesa with studded gold Christian Louboutin booties
  • Awards Season: It's a little embarassing to admit how closely I follow celebrity gossip, it is definitely my guilty pleasure. If you checked the browser history on my laptop, you would enevitably find People, E!, and US Weekly in the recently visited websites, which is why awards show season for me is like the equivalent of playoffs for sports fanatics. Everyone ups their game, and the competition is fierce--both to win the actual awards and to be best dressed on the Red Carpet. The Golden Globes happened a few weeks ago, the SAG Awards were this past weekend, and then the Oscars, or my Superbowl, are about a month away, so I am looking foward to seeing the couture to come. Plus, it also means there there lots of great movies in theaters, with Black Swan being my personal favorite this past year. So far, I think that Olivia Wilde's Globes dress/shoes is the look to beat (top pic), although I was a big fan of prego Natalie Portman's white SAG look as well (bottom photo). 
Natalie Portman in Azzaro
    • Conversation Hearts: Since I am owning up to my love of celebrity gossip, I must also confess that I've already eaten a whole bag of conversation hearts in the past week. Whoops. I am a candy addict, and I love any and all things seasonal, so I can eat those little pastel hearts all day long. They are just so cute and I love the cheeky messages. They are the winter equivalent of candy corn, overly sweet and kind of gross, but extremely addictive. And when conversation hearts are on store shelves, that means another one of my favorite parts of winter is right around the corner...
      • Valentine's Day: I love V-Day. I love the hearts, candy, and flowers. I love the pink and red color scheme. And I love love. So a day that celebrates love ranks pretty high in my book. Cam and I don't have any big Valentine's day plans yet, but I'm sure we'll come up with something!
      • Skiing: Currently, we don't have any snow down here in South was actually almost 70 degrees this weekend, which was AWESOME. However, we are close to the mountains, which do have snow, and even though they're not quite on the same level as out West, I'm told there is still some pretty good skiing within driving distance. I'm not an expert skier by any stretch of the imagination, but it's something I'd really like to get better at. So hopefully I can get out on the slopes at least once this year and improve my skills a little bit.
      • Late Winter Colors: I know this is a totally random (ehh this whole blog is random, so it's fine) but I am a huge fan of what I would consider the ideal late winter colors palette. Autumn browns are done, holiday jewel tones are over, so February is the ideal time for shades of gray mixed pale pinks and creams, accented with black. It's a very sweet, demure look with muted tones that are pretty and perfect to wear now before spring hits and I start gravitating towards brighter hues, plus it pairs well with the romance of V-day. Right now, I am loving any sort of ballet inspired look (see Black Swan obsession above), and these colors lend themselves towards feminine, dance-inspired looks.
      • Hot Chocolate: Last but not least, one of my most favorite things about winter is the decadent Hot Chocolate from Williams & Sonoma. This stuff is the BEST, but unfortunately it's only available during the holidays. (I currently have 3 canisters in my cupboard to last me the winter!). It's extremely rich and creamy, and while it's a little pricey, it's totally worth it. What makes this hot chocolate so delish is that it's actual chocolate shavings as opposed to powder. I get whole milk from a local creamery here in SC, and use that to make my hot chocolate (because real hot chocolate is made with milk, not water!), and it's to die for. And on a cold winter's day, there's no better luxury than slipping on sweats and relaxing with a cup of cocoa.
      Stay warm out there everyone :)

        An old recipe/new wine!

        Now that Cam and I have been married for over a year and a half (crazy!), we're really starting to get the hang of this whole cooking/menu planning thing. Granted, I'm sure we'll continue to improve as time goes on, but we're definitely into more of a rhythym now. Last year, we used to try out a new recipe almost every night and it would take us forever to make each one because we had never tried it before. While I still like to try out new things quite often, we now have a handful of dishes that make it into heavy rotation, and this meal is one of our absolute favorites. I got the recipe for Chicken and Sweet Potatoes with Shallots from an issue of Real Simple, one of my absolute favorite magazines, last winter and it's such an easy yet delicious dinner. The combination of flavors from the chicken, rosemary, shallots, complemented by the sweetness of the potatoes is just perfect. We had it for dinner last, and I was reminded of how great it was, so I wanted to share it :)

        (Also, when you're making this recipe, you can always cook extra chicken breasts, which I did this for this week. Tonight we had spinach salads with chopped chicken, goat cheese, walnuts, and homemade balsamic vinaigrette, and then tomorrow, I'm going to use the remaining chicken breasts for white chicken chili!)

        Another interesting find I wanted to share was a really great, and surprisingly inexpensive, bottle of red wine that we had with our dinner last night. It was a bottle of Malbec, a particular variety of wine that seems to have become pretty trendy recently, with a lot of bottles coming from Argentina. Normally, we tend to stick to cabs or pinots that cost more than we should probably be spending on wine, so finding this particular wine was a pleasant surprise. We had a 2009 Malbec by Alamos; it was extremely smooth, well-balanced, and an all around excellent wine, that received 89 points in Wine Enthusiast. And for a wine that's normally $10 a bottle (that we got on sale for $8.99 a bottle!), it's an exceptional value that will go great with a variety of different meals.

        Happy eating/drinking! :)


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