Fall mash

You know those people who don't like their food "to touch"?  I have come across them in my day.  I prescribe to a different thought entirely.  I love to mix my Thanksgiving plate all to one dish, some may think this is gross and possibly rude.  Oh well.  I'm not swirling it around my the china plate to make a mound of food, but a bite includes potatoes, beans, gravy, and stuffing all in one.  Sorry if you're totally grossed out at this point.  When I was little one of my dear friends had a Bolivian babysitter, man, that woman can cook.  She makes lentils unlike anything you've ever had.  My friend and I would mix in some rice, some veggies, some whatever, until we'd realize our perfect afternoon snack concoction.

This weekend it rained (and still is) like crazy here.  Monsoon-like rains where even the dog looks at you when you take it out like, "You're kidding, right?  Why are we outside woman?"  So plans were shuffled around some and I cooked a lot.  I made a modern mash and it is delicious!  Quite healthy too, and one of those things that with an extra day the fridge tastes all the better.  My kind of dish.

Fall mash

1 cup quinoa uncooked (rinsed)
1.5 c chicken stock
1 acorn squash
2 T butter
2 t light brown sugar
2 t maple syrup
dash cayenne pepper (optional)
1 bunch asparagus
8 oz sliced baby bella mushrooms (or any type really) sliced
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds toasted
1/3 cup dried cranberries
2 T bourbon or other non clear liquor

First tackle the squash.  Preheat the oven to 400 F. Cut the squash in half (carefully with a large knife) and scoop out the seeds and membrane and discard.  Take butter and divide between the two halves of the squash, also adding 1 T to each half of maple syrup and brown sugar.   Add a dash of cayenne pepper if you'd like.  Put squash on tin foiled lined baking sheet and bake for 1 hour. After it is done baking, let it cool (I threw it in the fridge to speed up).  Then scoop it out with a spoon and add to the mixture.  Honestly, the squash is so good I was also scooping some into my mouth simultaneously.

Then rinse the quinoa by either putting in a fine mesh strainer and wash water over it, or place in a bowl with some water (what I did b/c I don't have a fine mesh strainer).  You can use 1.5 cup water or another broth if you'd like to cook the quinoa, but I like chicken stock and think it adds good flavor.  Pour the rinsed quinoa and stock into a 2 qt pot, bring it to a boil, then bring it back to a simmer, cover with lid, and leave alone for 20 minutes. Remove it from the heat, let it stand for 2-3 minutes and then fluff with a fork.  Ready teddy.

Blanch the asparagus in salted water, cooking for 2-3 minutes and then shock it in cold water and ice.  Cut into 1 inch pieces and set aside for later. 

I toasted the pumpkin seeds in the toaster oven for 5 minutes, watch them because they'll burn fast.  I also reconstituted the dried cranberries in a mixture of warm water and Jack Daniels (why not?), leaving them to soak for about 15-20 minutes and then draining them.  Set aside cranberries and pumpkins seeds. 

Take a large pot or dutch oven and saute the mushrooms in a little olive oil and salt.  I also added a dash of cumin because I always add too many spices.  Here it worked though.  Take the mushrooms off the heat once they've cooked, about 8-10 minutes.  Add in the asparagus, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, and quinoa to the pot.  Finally add the acorn squash.  Mix and s&p to taste.



Parties That Throw Themselves

In the Off Duty section (I look forward to it every week) of today's Wall Street Journal was a great piece about LA based event planner Yifat Oren by Katherine Rosman. Oren's approach to entertaining is exactly how I think a get together should be.  She says she often makes two soups in the morning, letting them simmer in her then clean kitchen all day, and right before guests arrive she will grill some fresh bread - voilĂ  the party has started.  Another nugget Oren shares is she always has champagne. "Have you ever been to a bad party where they serve good Champagne?" she asks.  "Me neither."  Wise words.

Here is Oren in her Laurel Canyon home.  Check out the article!  It has a slide show of other places in her house which is cool to see.  She works with stars, recently planning Reese Witherspoon's wedding.  Need I say more?  Her "careful carelessness" attitude of decorating and entertaining is what I think makes a fun, easy with practice, and memorable party for guests and hosts alike. 

Image via


Fall weekend love

Almost weekend, almost November!  Can you believe it?  I am definitely in shock becasue the seasons are so different down here.  It seems like a continuation of summer.  I love fall, it might be my favorite season.  Although that is a really hard topic for me to take a definite stance on.  Anyway, I got my fall fix by looking at images online, then I talked to my dad who said they might get snow this weekend!  On our do-to list is to check out wind surfing.  I think I'll make it.

Also, I finally joined Pinterest.  I was somewhat intimidated by it for whatever reason.  Well, after sitting in front of my computer screen for more than an hour looking at images, I now have to peel myself away and get on with my morning. 

I hope you enjoy your weekend!  On my docket is trying a new exercise class, a long walk with the pooch and bf, making pumpkin waffles, a picnic dinner date, and finishing my book club book becasue we're meeting on Tuesday.  Have fun!

Images 1, 2, 3, 4, 5


Halloween hater?

I have been at war with Halloween for a few years now.  If I have a fun house party to go to, I love to dress up.  But do I like to pay north of $60 for a costume I can't try on and now start to look age-inappropriate in?  No gracias.  Do I like to go to a bar where it is bad/equal to New Years for amateur hour?  Nope.  Am I a buzz kill?  Maybe.  I do love to carve pumpkins, eat York Peppermint Patties, and see little kids and clever adults in costume.  I've never been one for a risque costume in the first place.  In college I was a lobster one year and a booze hound (a dog made from beer related objects...I know) another.   If I was invited to a cool Halloween party I would go all-out.  But as of late, I just throw on the dirndl I bought in Munich when I was abroad in college and call it a day.

This is from The Lonny Blog's Watercolor Wednesdays yesterday by Caitlin McGauley.  It is called "Candy Corn Love," I love her work!  Some people have candy corn problems.  I suffer from more of a potato chip problem, so I'm safe in that respect.


Wellness Wednesday - Common Threads

This fall I spend my Wednesday afternoons volunteering for a great organization who's work and mission I wholly believe in, anddd it is a blastCommon Threads, a Chicago based nonprofit, has the mission "to educate children on the importance of nutrition and physical well-being, and to foster an appreciation of cultural diversity through cooking. We help bridge cultural boundaries and strengthen our global family by teaching children about their similarities and differences in the warm comfort of the kitchen: Through the simple process of preparing and sharing a nutritious meal, children who participate in our programs learn to connect with their bodies, their neighbors, and their world in bite-sized lessons."  How well said! 

While in grad school in Chicago I interned in their offices and also volunteered at a kitchen on the South Side.  Childhood obesity and overall wellness, especially in underserved populations, is a huge interest of mine.  Children who qualify for free-lunch in grades 5-8 may participate in Common Threads at partnership schools in Chicago, DC, LA, and Miami.  The people that work in both in the head office and at the satellite locations are tremendous and I have yet to volunteer my time for a non profit that is more well run.  I know it's sometimes part of the ride, but I become frustrated when I show up and then there is little direction, as is sometimes the case when one volunteers.  Organization is the name of the game here.  Each week (for 12 weeks) the children prepare a nutritious, and low-cost meal from a different country and then eat family style at the end of class.  The kids also learn about healthy vs. unhealthy foods, portion sizes, etc.  Each class is led by a chef-instructor with the help of 4-5 volunteers.  Recently Common Threads expanded to offer etiquette field trips and also have garden classes in some locations.

Founded in 2003 by Oprah's former chef, Art Smith, and Linda Novick O'Keefe, the premise is on the mark and the love is there.  All in all it is a wonderful organization that I am proud to contribute my time towards.  If you're in one of their cities, look them up.  Also, they have fun fundraising dinners and events, as local chefs from fabulous restaurants donate their time, skills, and tasty treats.

Next Tuesday evening is Miami World Festival!  It is Common Threads' signature event in Miami.  If you're in town and free, I highly recommend you snag a ticket while they're still available.

Images via


Tick tock

I shop for presents year round.  Some think I am crazy (aka most males I mention this to).  I think you can find such unique and great presents if you're traveling and it is always a guise for looking a thing or two for yourself.  I recently came across this clock which I think would be a nice present for someone moving into a new home.  It has a classic design and for those that are old-school and don't like an ipod doc on thier bedside table, this would be a great option.  It is from L.L. Bean, they have some gems and are everything is very reasonably priced.  Keep them on your search list when looking for home accessories.

Images via


Turning the page

I love talking with friends about good books.  I have a friend who's mother literally keeps books in her car, giving them to people who pump her gas in New Jersey.  (If you didn't know, it's illegal to pump your own gas in that state.  I taught said friend to fill up her tank after our freshman year of college.)

I wanted to share a few books I think are great.  I lean towards historical non-fiction and southern lit, but if it gets a good friend recommendation I'll give it a shot.  I have not read any of the Harry Potter or Lord of The Rings books, just doesn't do it for me.  Eh.

Without further ado...

The Warmth of Other Suns was fantastic. I learned SO much, told through three separate African Americans moving their lives from the South to New York, California, and Chicago respectively in the middle of the twentieth century.  It is long; I admit to reading Bossypants (good plane book) in the middle of this because I almost felt like I needed a break. (So I'm not a scholar, I admit it.)  But it was a wonderful book and if interested in American history, this is a must.

The Ballad of West Tenth Street is a darling story.  My last roommate in New York gave me this book when she moved from our little apartment in the West Village to DC.  I put it on my bookshelf, moved it to two subsequent apartments without opening it up,  and this summer while packing up my apartment, again, finally gave it a try.  I read it in three days!  It is a modern day fairytale, anyone who has lived in Manhattan or just loves the city should pick this book up.  Such a cast of characters and told in a whimsical way yet without sap.  Lots of wit, wonderful descriptions, and a lovely escape.

I read Zeitoun last year.  A book where as I'm reading it I am shocked the events described occured within the past five years in the United States.  The discrimination and lawlessness the main character experiences in post-Katrina New Orleans are unbelievable.  It was a great story of a family, a brave man, and a resilient city where a horrible storm exposed many preexisting cracks.

I really enjoy a good memoir.  Even more, I enjoy a good meal.  Molly Wizenberg's blog, Orangette, is one of the first blogs I started to read religiously.  She has such a light, endearing, yet real tone to her words.  This memoir of her childhood and young adulthood was well lined up with my time in life when reading it.  I have given this book to many women, and always get great thanks.  I saw Molly in New York at a book reading and she is adorable.  I hope to make it to the restaurant she opened with her husband Brandon (she describes their long-distance courtship in the book) when I visit Seattle at some point.  I mean they cooked their own wedding food for Christmas' sake.  Also, each chapter begins with a recipe that she ties into her narrative.  Her candied ginger and chocolate chip banana bread and Ed Fretwell's soup are now recipe staples.

Images via 1, 2, 3, 4


Strap on your wig, time for some recon

So I don't know if your mother has said to you once, "Just give it a chance."  This, friends, is in regards to going to Talbots.  When in Charleston last week my friend and I walked by a store commenting it did not look that bad.  The block up, we did not go in.  Still a little curious, tonight I did some perusing online...  I found what I think would be a holiday party knock-out.  I love long party skirts.  Worn with a white or black button down or a black turtleneck and a chunky necklace and you are all classed up!  You can also wear flats because the skirt is to the ground which gives it more points.  And, one thing is that what you're buying is probably not too trendy, so if it looks great will be a staple for years to come.  Now I'm starting to sound like our mothers...

Anywho, this is what I'm talking about.

I also think these are great options.  I especially like the houndstooth. 

I'm still wary on how it will fit.  But in the next week or so I'm going to find my local Talbots.  Maybe I'll also pick up some smart looking slacks.

Images via


Quote for a rainy Tuesday...

"Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion." Truvy, Steel Magnolias

I could dedicate a blog solely to this movie.  My mother is from the South, and I learned the beauty parlor is not just where you go to get your hair "fixed," but is a valuable part of the community.  I love watching these women squawk at each other, gossip, share secrets and deal with hardships all while getting their streaks done.  The cast of women is extraordinary.  It is sad, heartwarming and funny.  I love the way Steel Magnolias tells the story of women's lives in a everyday sort of way.

Images via


Wanted: side table

We have been in our place in Miami for a little over two months now.   I must say I think it is looking pretty good!  We're in a two bedroom duplex with an open living area.  We found out long distance moves were charged by the pound, so we had a Craig's List bonanza before we left.  Some dear soul paid $100 for my big mama Ikea dresser.  It served me well, was starting to fall apart, and was a beast of a piece of furniture (weighed about 180 pounds).  My dad recently moved into another house in DC and is downsizing somewhat so I asked if there were any extra dressers that could be shipped down here.  I would MUCH rather have a nice piece of furniture I can hold onto for a very long time than another so-so piece that still isn't cheap!  The dresser arrived Friday and I'm thrilled (pic to post soon).

The last piece of furniture we need in the master bedroom is a small side table to put a drink/book on next to an arm chair in the corner of the room.  (It is very exciting to have a grown up bedroom where you can spend time and not just hop in and out of bed landing in the living room ala my last NYC abode.)

Counter to my above point about having a nice piece, I would love a cute side table that is under $200.  Most of the furniture we have in the bedroom seems formal for whatever reason, so something fresh and modern is what I'm looking for.

This is what I've found....thoughts?

This one is from CB2.  I think it's a good option and the price is right.

My obsession with Pendleton continues.  Although I'm afraid I'm falling into the trap of "too much brown furniture," talked about it in this past weekend's WSJ...

West Elm has some great pieces, but sometimes I feel they are slightly overpriced for what they are.  This framed side table though is a solid option.

I think these would be adorable as matching bedside tables, and I love the yellow.  It's called the Gigi nightstand from Urban Outfitters!  But it could be nice since the chair has a little yellow stripe in the plaid, yet I don't want to be "matchy matchy."

Brown strikes again.  Not to mention I have a thing for bamboo, and it's a little too pricey I think.  It is from Ballard Designs which I think has great pieces and they are good quality. We bought this bookshelf last month for the dining room and it looks great.  So I love this piece even after all the aforementioned minuses.  And, at this stage in the decorating/designing game I try to find pieces that I can mix in the next place I live with ease.  Which is maybe why I gravitate to the neutral tones....

What do you think??


Collaboration station

Joy of joys, an iconic American clothing maker (in my opinion) and one of my favorite stores have joined forces.  Anthropologie and Pendleton came out with some wonderful pieces for fall.  Anddd, the holiday wish list has begun.  I love this one this most.

This one screams "Just around the river bend!" a bit too much for my taste.

This is chic "I'm running away from home."  To be stylish on a picnic is on my to-do list (it's not that high up though honestly)...

I have a thing for thick ponchos/long sweaters.  So apt for my current locale I realize.  Lucky for me I bounce around a fair amount, and maybe if it dips below 60 at some point I could wear it out with white jeans.  Miami and Pendleton aren't necessarily a natural fit, but I am up for the challenge.

(All images via)


Chicken wine

I am always on the lookout for a good, solid bottle of wine under $12.  Honestly I do not know enough (at this point) about wine to truly appreciate really fine wine.  I know what I think tastes good and I pretty much go from there.

I was introduced to this wine by a friend who went to a dinner party and the couple hosting raved about this "fine French wine."  He enjoyed it at the party, remembered the name, and looked it up online when he got home to see where he could buy it.  It is 8 dollars a bottle.  So much for fine wine, but it sure is tasty.  I enjoy both the red and white.  (I haven't tried the rose.)  We had a party last year and bucked up buying a case of each and it pretty much took us through the year.  When watching a movie on a weeknight, sipping a glass that is under $2 and still quite good is fine by me.


I caved...

I have been eying this bag from Zara for awhile (aka a few weeks) now.  I love the shape of it.  Something to carry around that is chic on the weekends and also great to wear to work.  Also, reading  this post in my morning blog review tipped me off.  Now you can order Zara online (amazing), and unless you pick 48 hour delivery, shipping is free! 

I'm not a huge follower of celebrity styles, but OP does always look so crisp yet stylish.  So encountering this image last week didn't help me hold back.  Oh well, I can't wait for it to arrive!

(Image via UpscaleHype)


Wedding week soup (not mine).

This weekend we are headed to Charleston!  Not to mention it being one of my favorite cities, we will be there celebrating a dear friend from college's wedding.  I have not been as vigilant about my workouts (no good excuse to insert) last week, so I'm on a four day extra-healthy kick between now and the upcoming weekend.

I made a "healthy/clean out your fridge before you go out of town" soup.  I know, it sounds delish.  But it was good!  I love veggie soups, and they get you through the week with a little more room in your pantalones by the end of it all.

Wedding week soup
2 small yellow onions (diced)
2 carrots (diced small)
2 stalks celery (diced small)
1 can cannelloni beans (drained and rinsed)
1 zucchini
1 pint button mushrooms (cleaned, stems removed, quartered)
1 28 oz can diced tomato (drain and reserve juice)
1 large Idaho potato (diced small)
3 cups chicken low-sodium stock
2 cloves garlic
spices on hand at will

I cut up the onions and added them to the dutch oven on medium heat with a little olive oil, cooked 5 minutes, until soft, then added the carrots and celery.  Cooked that another 5 minutes and then add spices.  I think adding them here gives more depth to the flavor.  I added 1/4 tsp each of thyme, oregano, basil, crushed red pepper and some salt and pepper.  I quickly tossed them around and added the drained beans.  Then I added the chicken stock and let the pot come to a light boil.  I then added the tomatos, zucchini, mushrooms, and garlic, I let it simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes.  I then added some of the reserved tomato juice (about 1 cup), added the potato, put the lid on half way covering the pot, and let it simmer for another 15-20 minutes (make sure the potatos are cooked through).

I removed it from the heat, added a little more salt and pepper and let it cool slightly.  I spooned some for myself, toasted a piece of dark rye bread and dug in to a healthy and light lunch.  After the soup cooled I put it in a large container in the fridge.  I will be enjoying it for lunch or dinner until I leave!