Monday, February 28, 2011

Outfits 25, 26 and 27!

Outfit 25
Tunic (worn as a top): Anthro
Skirt: F21
Sweater: Gap
Boots: Nicole
Necklace: H&M
On Friday, one of the grad assistants in my office said, "Abbi, you are really bringing the attitude with that outfit!"  I hope she meant it as a compliment; that's certainly how I took it.  Sometimes, when it's been a long week, the best thing to do is just kick it up a notch and own a look.  I should confess, though, that the necklace I'm wearing is held together with staples; halfway through the day, one of the ribbons came off and I had to fix it quick!

Outfit 26
Sweater: Urban
Leggings: Puma
Boots: Anthro
Trench: Gap
Necklace and scarf: H&M
Saturday was a very low-key day for the Shelton-Diego family; some house cleaning, lunch out at our favorite Korean place, a couple episodes of Friends.  These sorts of days call for an easy outfit: long sweater, leggings, knee-high boots to tie everything together.  It was a windy day, so I had to get a trench out to keep out the chill.  I didn't bother with a belt, so I could splurge on my bibimbap.  Yum!

Outfit 27
Sweater: Urban
Blouse and jeans: Gap
Flats: Nine West
Earrings: Anthro
Another low-key ensemble.  I spent Sunday grocery shopping, then went to Eastern Market to check out the goods.  Although I didn't find the perfect piece to complete our place (really, isn't every house a work in progress?), it was a beautiful day to be outside and just wandering about.  I felt really comfy in my outfit; sometimes, it's a feat just to be dressed well for the weather.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Outfits 23 and 24!

Outfit 23
 Tee: Madewell
Jeans and vest: Gap
Flats: Matisse
Necklace and bracelet: Banana Republic Outlet
This is actually this second outfit I wore; the first was with black work pants.  I figured you've probably seen enough of those, though, and took this instead!  After work I hit up my local library for a book discussion and lecture on Turgenev's Fathers and Sons, which covers generational divides in 19th-century Russia.  I felt a bit studious in my outfit, with the muted colors and loose vest.  Nothing is more invigorating than a dialogue about nihilism and serfdom!

Outfit 24
 Skirt, blouse, cardigan: Gap
Shoes: Nine West
Belt: F21
Scarf: ? (birthday gift!)
I'll be honest; today I felt a bit underwhelmed by the items I chose for this challenge.  I'm definitely ready for this to be done so I can embrace the rest of my closet!  I had a budget meeting for work, so had to look moderately office-ready.  Nothing says "professional" like a pencil skirt and white shirt with some buttons, even if the buttons don't go all the way down.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Eggplant Caponata

Remember when I told you how much I love eggplant?  I could have sworn I did.  In case you don't share my love for this meat substitute, you must make this dish.  It will show you how easy it is to prepare eggplant, how versatile the vegetable can be, and would make a great hostess gift.  Just throw some into a cute jar with a ribbon around the top and present with flair!
Eggplant caponata is a great, all-purpose pantry staple.  It's got crunchy pine nuts, sweet raisins, and slightly bitter and salty eggplant.  Because it's a spread, you can smear it on some toasted bread, mix it into pasta, dip tortilla chips into it....the possibilities are, well, not endless, but you catch my drift.  John Paul and I prepared the caponata as a topping for some plain rice.  I got the recipe from Everyday Food, and didn't change a thing in my own preparation.  It was a great comfort food, and doesn't even take long to prepare!


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Outfits 21 and 22!

Outfit 21
Cardigan and pants: Gap
Blouse: Target
Belt: Banana Republic
Shoes: Matisse
This might be one of my favorite outfits from this challenge.  John Paul even labeled it "very chic," which is always wonderful to hear.  You obviously can't tell from this picture, but this pants have a nice movement, which complements the ruffles on the blouse.  Even though there's a lot of black, the zig-zag shoes and yellow cardigan keep it from being too monochromatic.  There was a big meeting at work on Monday, and I wanted to look put-together for it.  Mission accomplished!

Outfit 22
Cardigan, tights, and camisole: Gap
Skirt: J.Crew
Earrings: Simple Gestures (Saint Augustine store)
Shoes: Nine West
Right after this photo was taken, I took this outfit off and went to a hardcore show with John Paul (wearing dark jeans and a work-out hoodie, not picture-worthy).  This is the opposite of what you would wear to a hardcore show: tights, cute pale skirt, wool cardigan.  You can't even wear earrings like this, because they'll whip you in the face when you're moving your head around.  It's kind of nice having the kind of life where you come home from your administrative assistant job at Catholic University, only to leave again for a Thursday/Underoath show.  I like it!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Brown Sugar and Almond Pound Cake

Lately my dessert tooth is veering more towards dense, moist cakes that aren't overly sweet.  The kind of sweets that are appropriate for dessert one night and breakfast the next day (come on, you know you do it!).  I want something I can dip into coffee, or spoon some Greek yogurt and honey on top of, or splash with homemade berry sauce.  When Aunt Nesi, Uncle Rob, Summer and Luke came over for dinner, I knew I would have to try the Oh! Brown Sugar! And Almond Pound Cake from my copy of Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey.
Not only does this smell amazing in the oven, but it's even better in your mouth!  There's a delicate nutty flavor, along with a slightly chewy edge from the sugar.  Please just make it.  STAT.

Oh!  Brown Sugar!  And Almond Pound Cake (from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O'Connor, 2007)
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/4 c. almond meal or almond flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
2 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
1 c. powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract (I omitted this, and it didn't mess up the cake.  It can only improve the taste!)
6 large eggs, room temperature
1. Preheat oven to 325.  Spray a bundt pan liberally with cooking spray.
2. In a bowl, sift together the flour, almond meal, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat butter and cream cheese until smooth and creamy.  Gradually beat in brown sugar and powdered sugar, and continue beating until pale and fluffy.  Beat in vanilla and almond extracts.
4. Add the eggs to the butter mixture one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Fold the flour and almond mixture into the mixture by hand, using a rubber spatula, until no traces of flour remain and batter is smooth.
5. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, 75-90 minutes.
6. Let cake cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then reverse onto a plate to finish cooling. Cut into however many slices you'd like and gobble up!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Outfits 18, 19, and 20!

 Sweater: Urban Outfitters
Dress: F21
Boots: Anthro
Bracelet: J.Crew (Christmas gift from my man!)
JP thinks this outfit was a bit silly, what with the sweater underneath the dress and all, but it made a lot of sense.  It was really windy, and I wanted the tight layer to keep the heat close to me.  Plus, I really like stripes and floral prints together.
Yes, I realize this is untraditional thinking, Aunt Nesi!  : )

Jeans and sweater: Gap
Tank: Target
Shoes: Nine West
Belt: J.Crew
Scarf: H&M
Saturday was such a wonderful, wonderful day!  Woke up, went to brunch, hip-hop dance class (I drop it low), then off to a movie and dinner with some of my favorite people in DC.  This outfit was perfect for the double date night, and I could just adjust the belt when I ate too many Thai vegetable drunken noodles.
Oh, and the movie was Inside Job.  Really great documentary that covers the 2008 financial recession.  You should check it out!  Maybe then you could enjoy some Thai food with good friends.  Just make sure you wear a belt that can be adjusted.

Leggings: Gap
Dress: H&M
Camisole: Arden B.
I'm a huge fan of this dress, and am enjoying finding new ways to wear it.  This time I went for a half-open at the chest with leggings look.  JP and I had Summer, Luke, Aunt Nesi and Uncle Rob for Sunday dinner (recipe for dessert tomorrow!), and I wanted a cute hostess outfit.  It's not overly casual, but it's a bit more dressy than my usual dinner attire.  Yes, please!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Outfits 16 and 17!

Outfit 16
Skirt: F21
Blouse: Target
Boots: Ciao Bella
Belt: Anthropologie
Something about this outfit makes me want to go square dancing.  Maybe it's the ruffly top, the twirly skirt, or the knee-high boots...whatever it is, it's got me tappin' my toes to a country song.  The only one I really know all the words to, "Dry Town" by Miranda Lambert.  At least it's a good one!
Outfit 17
Jeans and blouse: Gap
Oxfords: Aldo
Belt: Banana Republic Outlet
Purse: Style & Co.
Scarf: Oscar de la Renta
At times I feel like I live in a J. Crew catalog: cuffed skinny jeans, red lipstick, silky button-down sloppily tucked in.  Then I wake up, remember that I'm sick with a cold, and throw on my version of Jenna Lyon's vision.  I had to stay home Thursday to nurse this cold, and put on real-people clothes for a brisk outing to the post office and CVS (tissue refill).  Don't worry; after the stroll, it was back to pajamas and How to Train Your Dragon.  What a fun movie!
On another note, here's a brief ode to my new purse: 
Oh beautiful brown bag
Of you, I love to brag
You have lots of zippers
And make me feel chipper
The scarf is a cute little flag!
Okay, I'm not a great poet, but this purse has everything I wanted: functional pockets inside, adjustable strap, cell pocket outside, and a great color that goes with anything.  So happy with it!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chicken n' Biscuits

When I lived in Saint Augustine with identical twins, I often came home to the smell of chicken and biscuits cooking in a crock pot.  It's intoxicating: rich with cream, sweet with slow cooked carrots and peas.  This recipe doesn't completely replicate the Bores twins', but it's not too shabby either.  The chicken thighs cook quickly, and the creamy sauce is perfectly sopped up with drop biscuits.  It's a great meal to share with people you love!

Creamy Chicken with Biscuits (from March 2011 Real Simple)
4 carrots, cut into 1-in. lengths
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 c. flour
1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and pepper
1/2 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
6 biscuits, store-bought or drop
1 c. frozen peas
1/2 c. heavy cream
1. In a 4-6 quart crock pot, toss together the carrots, celery, onion and flour.  Place chicken on top and season with 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper.  Add wine and broth.
2. Cover and cook until chicken and veggies are tender, about 2 1/2 hours on high or 5-6 hours on low.
3. Ten minutes before serving, add peas, cream and 1/2 tsp. salt to chicken mixture.  Cover and cook until heather through, 5-10 minutes more.
4. Serve spooned over split biscuits,

2 c. flour
1/2 c. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 c. whole milk
1. Heat oven to 400.  In a food processor (or with your hands if you don't mind getting messy), combine the flour, butter, baking powder and salt; pulse until pea-sized clumps form.  Add milk and pulse until just moistened.
2. Drop 6 larges mounds of dough onto baking sheet.  Bake until golden, about 18-20 minutes.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Outfits 14 and 15!

Outfit 14
Cardigan and skirt: Gap
Shoes: Nine West
Necklace: vintage
The weather is beautiful here!  I got to show off my legs with a basic pencil skirt on Valentine's Day, which is always a nice thing.  Do you celebrate V-Day?  JP and I usually just lay low; it falls so close to Christmas and our anniversary that it adds more pressure than anything else.  I did find some flowers on the dining table when I got back from work.  Romance is always appreciated!

Outfit 15
Sweater and pants: Gap
Shoes: Aldo
Hat: Madewell (Christmas gift from my man!)
So it was beautiful on the 14th, and super, super windy on the 15th.  Windy enough that I got to wear my favorite hat.  Oh, I love windy days that allow for cute accessories!
That having been said, are you noticing a trend in the stores I frequent?  I've always been a Gap girl.  No ifs ands or buts.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Improved Mustard Mashed Potatoes

Tis the season for comfort food, and it doesn't get much more comforting than mashed potatoes.  I usually like mine with a few lumps, some sour cream, and a side of some hearty protein.  This time, though, I decided to try Ina Garten's Mustard Mashed Potatoes.  Oh my word, this recipe is out of this world delicious, and easy to boot!
She uses creme fraiche in her potatoes to smooth everything out and add some tang, adds three types of mustard (dry, dijon, whole grain), and uses a hand mixer to smooth out any lumps.  I thought this would actually be more difficult, but it turns out that, when steamed long enough, potatoes will mix up with no trouble at all!
JP made some chicken sausage and peas to serve with the potatoes, and the whole thing was just a great, easy, delicious meal.  Let me know what you think!

Mustard Mashed Potatoes (from Ina Garten's How Easy is That?, 2010)
2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-in. cubes
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 c. whole milk
4 oz. creme fraiche (I used sour cream)
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. whole-grain mustard
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1. Place the potatoes in a large saucepan with 1 Tbps. salt and enough water to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the potatoes are very tender.  Drain the potatoes in a colander and return them to the saucepan.  
2. Add butter, milk, and creme fraiche and beat the potatoes in the pan with a handheld mixer until very smooth and creamy.  Add a little extra milk if they are too stiff.  Mix in the mustards, salt to taste, and pepper. Add more hot milk if they get too thick.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Outfits 11, 12, and 13!

Outfit 11
Dress: Anthro
Sweater (and tights): Gap
Shoes: Nine West
Necklace: Goodwill
Shoes: Marissa via Tootsie's
Maybe it's just me, but I'm seriously feeling the colorblock of this outfit.  Navy and yellow is one of the most classic color combinations, and the pearls just add to the casual elegance (a bit overboard?).  I'm telling you, this tunic get so much wear and tear it's amazing it's not in tatters.  Thank goodness I also have it in white!  Also, long cardigans are a godsend.  The length of this one is perfect for the tunic, and makes it feel a bit more dressed up.

Outfit 12
Leggings: Puma
Sweater: Urban Outfitters
I'll be straight with you; Saturday I was feeling very under the weather.  I didn't leave the apartment.  Not once.  John Paul had to man up and take Mia out while I curled up with tea and a blanket.  Hence the reason there are no shoes pictured.  My eyes look great, though, because I got about 15 hours of sleep throughout the day.  And I got to witness cute moments like this one with Mia and her dad (he's reading Calvin and Hobbes to her).  I melt.  Too much cuteness!

Outfit 13
Tank: Target
Skirt: F21
Shoes: Aldo
Tights: ?
Bandeau: ? via April Daze
Ok, so Sunday I was up and about.  Went for a run, grocery shopped, cleaned up the condo, baked cookies for Valentine's Day at work, and tried to have a date with my man.  Turns out, though, that the Oscar-nominated animated shorts are very popular, though, and all of the showings were sold out!  Don't cry for me, though, because John Paul bought me some ice cream while we walked around Gallery Place and chatted about wedding stuff.  He really knows what makes a girl tick.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Outfits 9 and 10!

Outfit 9
Drape cardigan (and camisole and tights): Gap
Skirt: F21
Shoes: Nine West
Belt: Bershka
We had some company for dinner on Wednesday night , so I had to wear something cute for work that could transition well into the evening.  This is perfect: cute and covered for work, then I removed the belt right before dinner so my tummy could expand.  I felt really cute and girly all day in my twirly skirt!
Oh hey there, Summer!  Aunt Nesi, we're both sending you big ol' hugs through this blog!
Outfit 10
Shirt (and socks): Madewell
Dress: H&M
Boots: Ciao Bella
This dress recently went through a makeover; I'll post the "Before" pictures next week.  In the meantime, this wasn't the perfect outfit I envisioned it to be, but didn't have time to change before work.  Sometimes we just have those days!  
In another piece of useful trivia, my great-grandmother painted this beautiful piece of art on the wall.  Not only is this our first landscape (at least in the traditional sense), but it's amazing to have something with so much personal history behind it.  It looks so lovely in our place!