Thursday, January 28, 2010

The sun is shining

The sun is shining here today and it's making me long for spring. This of course makes me think of trading in my boots and heavy winter coat for something light and fun. Here are some of the spring looks I'm loving right now.

Vintage Bateau Top, J Crew

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Everyday Entertaining

Thanks for all the nice comments on my mishaps from Monday. This post and the conversations that followed it got me thinking about entertaining and I thought I would do a post about some of my favorite entertaining pieces. First, let me say I am no expert entertainer, as the last post demonstrates.

When I registered I chose a lot of white pieces for serve ware, as well as for my nice dishes. Then I picked a more fun pattern for my everyday dishes. I also selected some accent pieces in various colors and patters. This allows for a lot of flexibility. I also use a lot of colorful and cheerful table clothes. White dishes allow for so many more options this way.
Here are my everyday dishes:
They are Martha Stewart from Macy's. I have dinner and salad plates, bowls and mugs. I also have one serving bowl and one large platter.
Then I have these white serve ware pieces (also Martha Stewart):
These are my "nice dishes". They are Country Heritage by Villeroy and Bach. I decided not to register for China but these instead. I wasn't crazy about any of the china patterns I saw and I couldn't bear to register for something so expensive that I didn't love. I also knew if I didn't love them I wouldn't use them. But these I both love and use. Although not everyday. Because I don't put these in the dishwasher (I don't want to get them scratched) there are a lot of times when I entertain that I opt for my ever day dishes and white serve ware instead.
I also registered for a set of 10 salad plates, and several serving pieces and mugs in this pattern, Cascara also by Villeroy and Boch. I like to use these plates and mugs as desert dishes or just mix and match the pattern's from time to time.
I love having the options that these pieces give me. For small things like a few friends to dinner, book club or charades parties I have simple pieces that work well for entertaining but I don't care too much if they are broken. For book club I love setting out a mismatched assortment of pretty mugs on a colorful table cloth with white cake stands full of treats and a pretty green plate full of cookies. I have a green tea pot that just happens to match my green plates perfectly. But it's also really nice to have the elegant white dishes for special occasions. If my grandmother is coming to dinner I like to set out the white dishes on a gold table cloth with the fruit accent pieces. The white serve ware from Martha Steward works well with both options.
So while the kitchen may be a frantic mess 5 minutes before my guests arrive, and I have yet to serve dinner on time, my table is always pretty no matter what the occasion!
What are your entertaining tricks? What go to pieces can you not live without?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Entertaining Misadventures

Like many newlyweds I like to entertain. I love the chance to use all my matching dishes, serve ware, stemware and so on. I like to get out table clothes, candle sticks and dessert plates. And I love to use my gorgeous cake stands.

Aren't they pretty. Anyway, last night was my night to host book club. It's a small book club so I was only expecting 5-6 people. However, when I left for work yesterday my house was rather messy, I had no idea what was for dinner or what snacks to make for book club. Luckily I was able to get out of work a bit early so I had a little more time to pick up and get ready. My sister sweetly brought me home a smoothie from Jamba Juice and so by 5pm my smoothie, Dolly Parton and I were cleaning away.

Then everything just seemed to go wrong. My sister decided to make popcorn for a snack. Somehow the popcorn exploded in the microwave and burned horribly. So at 5:30 I was doing dishes, while starting dinner, and the kitchen reeked of burnt popcorn and I started to feel very overwhelmed. You know that doing to many things at once, with too much noise (or in this case odor) and too many people in your kitchen at one time feeling. So I stopped to drink some more of my Jamba Juice only to realize that there was something green on the inside of the lid. I opened the lid and was horrified to see the inside of my cup was lined with green film. So gross. Jess and I couldn't figure out what could have turned my smoothie green. I was so grossed out. Then in the process of dumping the gross smoothie out I managed to get smoothie all over the kitchen. It was ridiculous.

Long story short all was well in the end. I finished dinner, we ate, I made some cookies and did dishes and tea and cookies were beautifully on display by 7pm with no green soothie evidence in sight. Thankfully the warm fresh cookies smell overpowered the gross burnt popcorn smell. Do you ever have these problems? Please tell me I am not alone.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Minor Addiction

Have you seen this show?

I had been wanting to watch it for some time and so I finally checked the first season out from the library. And I love it.

My sister and I may have stayed up until 2:45 AM Sunday morning watching it. In our defense we meant to go to bed at midnight but then there was a cliff hanger, and then another, and you get the idea. We blame Rob Lowe. He's so dreamy. And all the fun politics. We are political junkies. We not only have seen the entire series of the West Wing but we own some of it. It also has Rob Lowe.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Muddling Through

Lately the blog world is a buzz of the New Year. New goals for fitness, organization, diet and so on. Everyone seems so energized and organized and on top of things. Sadly I missed this boat. While everyone is seemingly running full of energy through their goals I seem to be drowning in chaos. It is only day two of my work week and already everything is a mess. My desk is covered in papers, reports, memos and to do lists. My phone is going like mad. My house is a disaster. And I seem to be constantly running and never caught up. I’m either late, unprepared or I forgot something. This is all particularly bad since I just had a 4 day weekend. You would think after a 4-day weekend at home I would be sailing through this week a picture of energy, efficiency and organization. Then you would be wrong, very very wrong.

So what’s a girl to do in this situation? The “me” of three years ago would say, “make a very detailed to do list, go get a big cup of coffee and work through the list”. But that was the old “me”, the idealistic college “me”, the pre-real world “me”. The “me” of today can’t drink coffee. The “me” of today is much more seasoned in the life of chaos that is mine. The “me” of today knows that my phone will ring, crisis will ensue, and I will be derailed from my well intentioned to-do list because that is the nature of my job. So we are back to what’s a girl to do? Buck up and muddle through. I know I know this doesn’t sound like a very inspired answer. But here is my point. Sometimes life is just crazy and that’s okay. We can get through it but sometimes getting through it isn’t very pretty and that’s okay too. So in case any of you out there are having the same chaotic start to 2010 as I am here are my muddling through tips.

1. Eat Breakfast. I can not stress this enough. No matter how late you are, or how much you don’t like to eat in the morning, if you know you have craziness ahead of you eat. It doesn’t matter what you eat, it can be eggs, toast, peanut butter by the spoonful or leftover pot roast just eat something with protein. Because at 2pm when you still haven’t had lunch you will be so much better off having eaten breakfast.

2. Try and take a break from work. Even if it’s 10 minutes on email a blog or facebook. Try to take a few minutes to disassociate your mind from work. Because then minutes later when you return to work you will be able to look at things with fresh eyes and sometimes that makes all the difference.

3. Wear comfortable clothes. Obviously I don’t mean wear sweats to work. But if you have a go too work outfit, a comfortable pair of slacks or dress shoes, a shirt you feel great in. This is the week to wear those clothes. You want your tried and true I feel great and look good outfits this week. This in not the week to experiment with high fashion. Nothing sucks more to be still working at 8pm and be incredibly uncomfortable.

4. This is my favorite life is crazy trick. Speed cleaning on your lunch hour. When my job gets crazy and Mr. P’s life is crazy and we still have church events, youth group, social live, working out and so on the house always gets shoved to the back burner. The last thing either of us wants to do after getting home at 8pm and making dinner is the dishes or the laundry. So we leave the kitchen a disaster. Then we over sleep because and are frantically fixing breakfast and making lunch in a messy kitchen rendering it even more messy. Then we can't find work out clothes, clean socks or somebody's wallet. We get out of the door late, frazzled and irritated. Then I'm dreading coming home late to a disaster in my house. Meanwhile work is crazy and annoying and I need a break. So my cell phone and I run home for lunch. With a 10 minute drive home and a 10 minute drive to return I have 40 minutes to pick up the house. I know this might sound crazy but it's amazing. You can get a lot of cleaning done in 40 minutes and the difference in your energy level at noon or 1 when you finally got out of that office and 8pm when you are finally home are night and day. On an average lunch hour I can run home, start laundry, make the bed, pick up the clothes on the floor, take all the dirty dishes into the kitchen, pick up the living room, load the dishwasher, and maybe even wash a few dishes while scarfing some lunch. It might sound stressful to spend your lunch hour frantically cleaning but for me it's incredibly therapeutic. I go back to work feeling a weight off my shoulders and like I've accomplished something. Obviously this only works if you live close to work. And for me it's vital that I have my cell phone. My office phone rolls over to my cell (best office invention of all time) so I can be reached by anyone who needs me while I'm cleaning my house.

So there you go. Life is crazy muddling through tips. What are you secrets for coping with chaos? Please share, I'd love to know.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Good Things

Mr. P is back and we had a wonderful 4 day weekend at home. Here are some of the good things from our weekend.

1. The Blindside: we finally went and saw this movie and it was so good. If anyone else hasn't seen it go and see it.

2. Almond Butter: So you might remember that the past few months I have developed a mild obsession with peanut butter. Well now, because of my food sensitivities, I can't eat peanut butter. So I have been eating almond butter. It's not quite the same but it's still pretty delicious. Next week I will do a post about homemade almond butter.
3. Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill: I started reading this book on Friday morning and I have barely been able to put it down. It is so good. It is such an important book about our history. Everyone should read it.

4. A new favorite dinner: Friday night Mr. P and I made fresh red snapper, wild rice pilaf, and roasted heirloom carrots for dinner. It was delicious and easy. We picked up both the fish and the carrots at a one of our local grocery stores. Here is my recipe,

Fresh Red Snapper with Wild rice pilaf and heirloom carrots

First start the rice. Heat olive oil in medium sauce pan. Add two cloves garlic (if you can eat onion add some chopped onion or shallots too). When garlic just starts to brown add 1 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp coriander, 1/2 tsp allspice and 1/8th tsp curry. Cook spices 30 seconds or so. Add rice and cook a few minutes until browned. While rice is browning bring 3 cups broth to boil. Add hot broth to pan with rice. Bring pan to boil. Add some salt and pepper. Reduce heat and cover. Cook 45-55 minutes until rice is done.

Once rice is cooking wash and trim carrots. Place whole in baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. place in 425 degree oven. let roast 45 minutes.

Just before rice and carrots are finished cooking start fish. Heat olive oil in pan. Season fish with salt and pepper. when pan is very hot. Place fish in skillet. Cook 3-4 minutes on each side depending on how thick pieces of fish are.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My boots and I had a Fabulous Weekend

Lately I have been craving pickled beets. I acknowledge that this is a little bit weird. However before you judge, have you ever had homemade pickled beets? If not I highly recommend you call a some one's Grandmother and see about getting some.

I had a blast shopping in Portland with Lauren this weekend. We both took the plunge and got leggings. We also hit the J. Crew final sale and found some wonderful things with ruffles.

While I was in Portland Mr. P and I visited an amazing church, Imago Dei. If you read Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, the this is the Church the author talks about.

Mr. P returns from his hiatus in Portland on Thursday.

I am fixing steak in his honor.

This is because I am a very nice wife even if I do put my cold feet on him in bed.

My feet have been consistently cold while he has been away.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Oh Happy Friday

Thank you so much to all of the sweet and thoughtful comments on my last blog post. It really made my day!

I have always loved Friday's but now that I only work a 4 day work week I especially like Friday! So what am I doing with my first three day weekend? Well me and my new boots,

aren't they beautiful, are going up to Portland to see our beloved Mr. P. But before we leave town we are having coffee with an old friend. Once in Portland we are having date night. We are either going to see the Blind Side or the new movie about Queen Victoria. Then tomorrow is my much anticipated shopping day with Lauren, after which Lauren and I are going to cook Indian food for Mr. P and Mr. J. Shall be a fabulous work free three day weekend!

Happy weekend everyone,

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Complex Diet

As I have alluded to before on this little blog I have a somewhat difficult diet. My doctor thinks I have a food allergy of some sort. In August she had me take wheat, dairy, sugar, coffee, caffeine and hydrogenated oils out of my diet. But that wasn’t quite doing the trick so in early December I had a food sensitivity test. This is a crazy test when measures how your body responds to 90 different food substances. It is NOT an allergy test. However, according to my doctor, if you have had an undetected food allergy for a long time you system will weaken and it will become intolerant to more and more foods. The food sensitivity test can tell you what foods you have become intolerant too. Then you take all those foods out of your diet for 6 weeks to set you system heal. At that time you start testing the foods one at a time. The idea is that one or more of the foods you’ve tested sensitive too are the root allergy and they others you may be able to have again.

The results of my food sensitivity test were not so great. I showed sensitivity to over 20 foods. Among them are: all dairy (except butter), wheat, gluten, eggs, corn, potatoes, onions, citrus, honey, sugar, molasses, red wine, and shrimp. This is particularly bad because ever since I had to take wheat and dairy out my diet I have been living on corn tortillas, potatoes, eggs and oatmeal, all things I can no longer eat. You are probably thinking right now, “what can you eat?”. I get this question a lot. But luckily there are a lot of good foods I can eat. Sometimes it just requires a little bit of creativity. I can eat meat, all vegetables (except potatoes and onions), sweet potatoes, squash, lentils, beans, rice, fruit and nuts. However, it does make eating and cooking a lot more challenging.

Since my new diet restrictions have been in place I haven’t really been able to follow recipes. I can start with a recipe as a loose guide and alter it as I go. For example last night I made a rice and garbanzo bean chili. Because I had to leave out the onions I added more garlic. I had to leave out the Worcestershire sauce (you don’t even want to know what all is in that stuff) I added a dash of soy sauce. To make cranberry sauce at Christmas I replaced the oranges with apples, the sugar with some pure maple syrup, the white wine vinegar with raspberry vinegar. So it works. But I also have to make up a lot of my own recipes. My favorite recipe I’ve made up so far is a super quick easy chicken recipe that I serve with mashed sweet potatoes and sautéed spinach. It makes such a quick and easy dinner and is super yummy.

Balsamic and Thyme Chicken with mashed sweet potatoes and spinach (serves 4)

2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
2 TB olive oil
2 TB balsamic vinegar
2 Tb fresh thyme leaves
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper

3 large sweet potatoes
Good nob of butter
Salt and pepper

1 bag of fresh baby spinach
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper

First mix the oil, vinegar, thyme and garlic in shallow dish. Add generous amount of salt and pepper. Pound chicken with meat mallet until very thin. Basically you want it thin enough that it will cook very quickly. Cut each piece in half so you have four pieces of chicken. Place chicken in marinade and turn over to coat each side. Let it sit out in marinade while you continue with sides.

Peel and chop potatoes. Place in pot, cover with cold water and bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook 10-15 minutes until tender. Drain.

While potatoes are draining heat oil in skillet until smoking. Add chicken pieces.

While chicken is cooking run potatoes through a potato ricer if you have one. If not just mash in bowl. Add good nob of butter and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

When chicken has cooked 3-4 minutes turn over. Cook a few more minutes on other side. Remove from pan and set aside. Add a little more oil to pan, add garlic and sauté 30 seconds. Add spinach. Turn heat down to med. Cook spinach just till wilted. Season to taste.

Serve chicken on bed of spinach with sweet potatoes on the side.

*Recipe is by Laura Potter.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Some Lovely Eye Makeup

Recently I have been learning a lot about eye makeup. Yes I know that most women learned about eye makeup when they were 13. I however missed this boat. In high school and college I hardly wore makeup. Most days I didn't wear any. Days when I did it was just some lip gloss and mascara. When I started my "real job" I added concealer and powder. It wasn't until my bridal shower almost two years ago that I realized how much I was missing. My little sister and I were getting ready for the shower and Jess offered to do my makeup. When she was done I was amazed. I looked so much better. My eyes popped it was great. Since then I have been learning the wonder's of eye makeup. I've even added blush, and occasional lipstick to my repertoire. But eye makeup is by far my favorite.

During my vacation I watched the movie 500 Days of Summer.

While I didn't particularly like the movie. I really loved Zooey Deschanel's makeup in this movie. Particularly her eye makeup. This is the best picture I could find on line. Obviously it's a little hard to find pictures of eye makeup because usually pictures are taken when someones eyes are open rather than shut. What I like best about it is all the pink tones used on her eyes. So beautiful.

My sister has been helping me attempt to recreate the look. I'm very lucky to have such a makeup genius living under my roof. But I would love your tips. What is your favorite makeup product? Do you know of any perfect pink eye shadow out there? I'd love to hear.

*Yes I learned all I know about eye makeup from my little sister. Yes I see the humor in that. In case you are wondering she learned all about eye makeup from America's Next Top Model, I kid you not.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Back to the Grind

What I did on my 12 glorious days of vacation:

Cooked prime rib with my Mom

Had a slumber party with my siblings and husband on my Mom's living room floor

Played lots of Super Mario

Read Jamie's Italy cover to cover

Went to Portland with Mr. P to see his family

Went to Nutcracker on Christmas Eve

Had Crab Louis for the 1st time

Watched approximately 15 episodes of friends with my sister-in-law

Got new perfectly lovely riding boots

Roasted Chestnuts on an open fire (I am actually serious)

Read little woman for the 5th or 6th time

Watched the entire 1st and second season of Dawson's Creek

Stayed up until 2-3am watching said Dawson's Creek

Slept in

What I did not do on my vacation:

Find the perfect skinny jeans

Clean my house

do any of the ironing out of of the giant ironing basket

organize my files

mend my sweater

think about work


grocery shop

Needless to say it was a glorious vacation. But now I'm back to reality so to speak. I had to wake up at *gasp* 8am this morning and it was painful. So I'm slowly returning to normal. However Mr. P is still in Portland (he stayed to do legal work and will be gone a few more weeks) and so there may still be some late nights of Dawson's Creek in the cards for me. Hope every one's return to the real world is going okay.