Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Novel Bookstore

This book came recommended from Daily Candy, a website I subscribe to that sends e-mails about great books, online products, gift ideas, and, my favorite, upcoming books.  This was listed a few months ago, and the cover drew me to it.  Doesn't this look like a wonderful place to spend an afternoon?
The Novel Bookstore is a French mystery set in the world of literary intrigue.  A bookseller teams up with a woman with a lot of money to open a bookstore, The Good Novel, that sells only "good" literature.  Of course, there are a number of authors whose books are not included in the bookstore, and a public that feels as though they should be able to decide what constitutes a "good" novel.  On the other hand, there is a Paris elite that feels as though they are finally being catered to; they love not having to sift through the garbage literature to find the good stuff.
There is a point to this, though, other than the Utopia of a book with only quality works.  The members of the committee that chooses the books for The Good Novel start being attacked, but by who?  And how did members of the public find out the members of the super-secret committee?  Cosse is a bit slow in answering these questions, but the story is incredibly pleasant, and I couldn't help but be enticed by the idea of The Good Novel.  I want to curl up in the armchairs of this fictitious bookstore and lose myself in the pages of any of the books mentioned in The Novel Bookstore.  If you have a lazy weekend to spend reading a great book, you might find yourself in my position, as well.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spaghetti with Lemon and Olive Oil

Pasta is the perfect meal for a weeknight: easy, lots of leftovers for lunch at work during the week, and endlessly versatile.  I love recipes that allow for a lot of servings, because I'm tired of pb&js for lunch.
This meal is great for spring.  Lots of lemon to refresh the palate for spring, Parmesan for creamy saltiness, and I've added some artichoke hearts for some unexpected flavor.  There isn't a lot involved with good recipes; just the perfect mingling of flavors.  Smitten Kitchen nailed it on the head yet again on this one!  To add the artichoke hearts, sautee some frozen hearts until heated through, or just throw them in from a can.  It's a great way to enjoy an extra serving or two of veggies while not taking away from the lightness of the dish. 


Monday, March 28, 2011

Why, hello there.

Man, life can kind of come out of nowhere and take up all your time, can't it?  In the past couple of weeks, I've gone to my first professional sporting event as an adult (go DC United!), seen a concert (Cold War Kids and Baths), attended a couple of happy hours, made a lot of food, and bought a new phone.
The best thing I've done, though, is visit Saint Augustine last week to pick a reception venue!  John Paul and I flew down on a Sunday, met Patricia (his mom) at the airport, Haley drove us around, and Dad and Karen drove up to check out the spaces.  It was an absolutely great trip.  Want proof?
We got to eat at our favorite bagel place, Shmagel's.  Their veggie cream cheese is to die for, with tons of garlic included.  Both mornings we breakfasted there; could not have been happier!

I spent Monday morning by the pool at the hotel.  My legs haven't seen the sun since was time.  And yes, one or two Brides magazines were in use.
My leggy maid of honor!  It was wonderful to get some sister time.
I have a great family who is willing to drive a long way to let me get some face time with them.  The sunny weather matched my mood!
And my awesome future family!  We had a lovely time together.
There is no other place I'd like to be than in Saint Augustine with John Paul.  Words don't always do justice for how amazing my man is; I love being with him.
So yes, we found a venue!  It's a rooftop loft overlooking the bay; such a cool space and perfect for JP and I. 
Thus the blogging begins again.  It's been too long!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Homemade Thin Mints

Is there anyone out there who doesn't like Thin Mints?  Let's save ourselves some time and not pursue this friendship.  If you do like Thin Mints, please read on.
These cookies are the most wonderful marriage of two delicious flavors: chocolate and peppermint.  Even better, they freeze well, so you can buy lots of boxes from Girl Scouts, and just eat the cookies for months!  Not that I would ever do that. 
However, have you  noticed the Girl Scout cookies are getting more and more expensive?  I decided to try my hand at making them myself, and save a few dollars in the long run.  I found this recipe on Baking Bites, and rolled up  my sleeves for the task.  The only change I would recommend it using twice the chocolate coating recommended; it's just too difficult to evenly coat the cookies without using more melted chocolate.  I doubled the amount, and it came out nearly perfectly.  This made about 60 cookies, so I gave half away and stored the other half in the freezer for later consumption.  They're really tasty!  Just be sure to give yourself plenty of time for the dough to freeze and then coat with chocolate; it took me a while.  Enjoy!


Thursday, March 17, 2011

4-Layer Devil's Food Cake with Chocolate Mousse Buttercreammmmm

Oh lordy, I was ecstatic to break out a tasty dessert for a small dinner party JP and I hosted on Saturday night.  This cake is from the Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey cookbook Haley gave me over Christmas, and it was a real showstopper!  Please picture this: velvety, decadent, smooth mousse-like frosting sandwiching fluffy, rich layers of devil's food cake.  Now imagine that in your mouth and tummy!  Oh my gosh, this is soooo amazingly delicious.
A couple of tips for making this dessert: be sure to cool the cakes so they come out of the pans easily, slice through each layer carefully for stress-free assembly, and beat the buttercream senseless.  It took a long time for the frosting to come together, so just keep at it until everything comes together.  It'll happen, I promise.
Can I please say that I'm just impressed with myself for putting this together?  So often my desserts for company end up looking disastrous, or being underwhelming, but this was great!


Tuesday, March 15, 2011


It's amazing how much of life comes down to pure luck.  For example, I'm incredibly lucky to have a roof over my head, food pretty much whenever I'm hungry, a warm place to sleep tonight, and even the ability to call my family to make sure we're all okay.  If you're feeling lucky, and want to help out those who might not be, please consider giving to the American Red Cross.  They're doing a lot to help those affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan; find their site here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mother in Law's Pasta Salad

My mom sent this pasta to John Paul and I after the engagement; it's called "Mother in Law's Tongue" because it's slightly barbed and twisted.  Hahahaha...what a sense of humor she has!  It's actually incredibly tasty, with a nice soft bite and cute colors.  We just boiled it up and tossed it with some black olives, caramelized onions, broccoli and Parmesan cheese.  It was a perfect, easy mid-week meal.
Lately, when I make pasta, I chant Strega Nona's pasta charm, from Tomie DePaola's Strega Nona.  It goes something like this:
Boil, boil, pasta pot,
Boil me some pasta, nice and hot. 
I'm hungry and it's time to sup,
So boil some pasta to fill me up.
Appropriate, no?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

30 for 30 Confessions

This is my first time doing the 30 for 30 Challenge, although I believe it's the third time Kendi has posted it.  After wearing the same 30 items of clothing (including shoes!) for 30 days, a few things became incredibly clear about my style, and wardrobe in general.

Low maintenance clothes are best.
When choosing items, I found myself gravitating towards pieces that don't have to be ironed or dry cleaned.  It's not just a matter of spending the money on dry cleaning, but the time it takes to iron a button-down top or linen pants.  
Accessories are king.
I love my accessories.  Scarfs, statement necklaces, tights, and belts helped differentiate all of my outfits.  I'd like to beef up this part of my closet before buying new tops and bottoms.
I have a lot of clothes for a very practical reason. 
The reason being, I don't want to have to do laundry a bazillion times a week.  My biggest issue with the challenge was that I had to laundry two times a week, instead of my usual once, in order to ensure that I have clean clothes for both work and play.  By having a couple of weeks of clothing available, instead of one, I'm saving myself some time on weekdays.  
Don't do the 30 for 30 challenge in the winter.
Seriously.  I did not pick the right items for days that included 70 degree afternoons and 20-degree date nights.  Too much fluctuation for February in DC!
Style evolves.
Anyone who knew me in high school will tell you that I was an eclectic dresser.  And I probably still am (I get "quirky" a lot in my family!).  After looking over the outfits I felt most comfortable and me in, I realize that I'm gravitating toward more classic silhouettes, less prints, and using jewelry and color to imbibe an outfit with personality.  
In the end, it's great to be forced to take a picture of yourself in every outfit you wear for a month; I (kind of) enjoyed seeing what works for my body and what doesn't, what colors and pieces I wore more often.  I did throw open my closet and hug my poor unworn dresses on March 3, though!

Friday, March 4, 2011

30 for 30!! Done!

Outfit 30!
Sweater and jeans: Gap
Shoes: Nine West
Scarf: Vintage
Man, it feels good to be done with this challenge.  As much as I like trying new fashion things, I'm tired of washing the same clothes over and over again and, with the exception of my jeans, I'm ready to not wear these items again for a while.  Now I get to shop my closet again!  It feels pretty awesome to get free reign of my wardrobe choices.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thyme Pancakes

Brinner.  Breakfast+dinner.  It's the best invention in food history.
Who doesn't love pancakes, bacon and hash browns?  Every Sunday should involve breakfast ALL DAY LONG.
This Sunday, I tried out a recipe for Ricotta Infused Pancakes from Paula Deen.  Usually, I just throw some flour, sugar and butter together and call it a day, but this recipe is much tastier and savory.  Oh man, this is absolutely amazing.  They're light (from whipped egg whites), aromatic with fresh thyme, and mildly sweet with blueberries.  I didn't make the thyme-infused syrup, just topped it with plain ol' maple, and added some fresh blueberries to the batter.  It was a perfect match for the homemade hash browns JP made.  I just had a great weekend.  I almost didn't even want the week to start up!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Outfits 28 and 29 (almost to the end...)

Outfit 28
Pants and vest: Gap
Shoes: Nine West
Belt: F21
Something about this outfit made me feel a bit like an elementary school art teacher.  Maybe it's the swingy pants paired with a flowy top, or the statement belt, or the hair tied in a messy all sort of came together like that.  It was actually in the 70s (briefly) on Monday, so I got to bear my arms!  It felt pretty great.  Until it started raining.  Oh well; I got to finish the day with a Johnny Rockets' hamburger and a showing of Anne of Green Gables.  That movie kills me; the puffy sleeves, Matthew and Marilla, the rivalry with Gilbert.  Thanks for renting it, Summer!

Outfit 29
Skirt and top: F21
Boots: Anthropologie
John Paul said I look like a cowgirl in this outfit, when really I was going for a modern Swiss Miss.  Oh well, I can't get it right every time.
Why do I always seem to wear twirly skirts when it's windy out?  Fellow commuters almost got a couple of eyefuls on the walk to and from the Metro.  Man, a girl just can't catch a break!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Spaghetti and Meatballs

 Sometimes the best recipes come out of leftovers in the fridge.  On Friday night, I realized that we'd had the zucchini for about 5 days, it wasn't getting any fresher, and figured it can't be too bad to throw it into some spaghetti sauce.  So I came up with my own little vegetable, meatball red sauce!  It's got enough veggies to not feel bad about splurging on the meatballs and some spinach-and-chive spaghetti.  It's really not hard either; a win-win for everyone!

Veggie Spaghetti Sauce w/ Turkey Meatballs
3 medium zucchini
1 large onion
Olive oil
1 bag frozen turkey meatballs
2 28-oz. cans marinara sauce
1 lb. prepared spaghetti
1. Quarter zucchini and slice thinly.  Half the onion and slice thinly.
2. Throw some olive oil into a pan and sautee onions, 10-15 minutes.
3. In the meantime, heat up marinara sauce and put meatballs into a Dutch oven, until meatballs are heat through.
4. After onions are golden brown, put into marinara sauce.  Throw zucchini into same pan as onions, and sautee until softened, about 5-10 minutes.  Once softened, add to sauce.  Mix together.
5. Serve some spaghetti into shallow bowls, then spoon sauce on top.  Tasty!