Monday, March 31, 2008

recipe: heidi swanson's split-pea soup.

[delicious split-pea soup. note the texture and beautiful color of the paprika!]

i love split-pea soup. it’s one of my favorite soups in the whole world. of course, this wasn’t always the case; when i was younger, i remember seeing the bright-green color of a batch my aunt made and turning up my little nose right then and there. “yuck,” i thought. “why would i want to eat something that looks like swamp?”

of course, when i finally tasted the soup (or, more accurately, was forced to), i changed my tune. and now, years later, split-pea soup is one of my favorite go-to comfort foods. of course, since i’m a vegetarian now, i eat it without the ham hock, so if i buy it from the store, i tend to grab the amy’s organic brand, which is animal product-free. whole foods also makes a tasty version that’s in fairly heavy rotation at their hot bar; i’ll often pick some up if i’m in a hurry or don’t have anything i want to eat at home. it’s great with some crusty hearth bread.

still, like most things in life, i find that homemade split-pea soup is always the best. my mom has a great recipe that she makes in her crock pot, but i don’t have one of those and am too nervous to leave an electrical appliance on all day in my apartment (even though i know that’s the point of a crock pot). so i was thrilled when i found heidi swanson ’s recipe for totally vegan split-pea soup. after seeing her yummy recipe for spring minestrone featured on design*sponge on friday, i popped right over to her web site, browsed through some of her recipes and found this one, which i decided to make last night. i also ordered heidi’s newest cookbook, super natural cooking , and can’t wait until it arrives. for now, in case you’re craving split-pea soup, too, here’s heidi’s super-simple, super-yummy recipe (note that there’s no cream, cheese or anything “bad” in this recipe – perfect for our health-themed week.) i’ve included a few editor’s notes; feel free to regard or disregard at your own discretion. enjoy! (to check out heidi’s site for yourself – and it’s worth it, i promise – click here.)

heidi swanson’s split-pea soup

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt, plus more to taste
2 cups dried split green peas, picked over and rinsed
5 cups water
juice of 1/2 lemon (reserve the zest) a few pinches of smoked paprika (note: i actually used regular)
more olive oil to drizzle

add olive oil to a big pot over medium-high heat. stir in onions and salt and cook until the onions soften, just a minute or two. add the split peas and water. bring to a boil, dial down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the peas are cooked through (but still a touch al dente). using a large cup or mug ladle half of the soup into a bowl and set aside. using a hand blender (or regular blender) puree the soup that is still remaining in the pot. stir the reserved (still chunky) soup back into the puree - you should have a soup that is nicely textured. if you need to thin the soup out with more water, do so a bit at a time. stir in the lemon juice and taste. if the soup needs more salt, add more a bit at a time until the flavor of the soup really pops. ladle into bowls or cups, and serve each drizzled with olive oil and topped with a good pinch of smoked paprika and a touch of lemon zest. serves 4 to 6. editor’s note: you will definitely have to add more salt to this recipe; i added half a teaspoon about three times. also, next time i make this recipe, i plan on adding a clove of garlic; the flavor is great as is, but i think the garlic would definitely bump it up a notch. also, don’t forego the paprika – it adds a yummy depth to the soup that you wouldn’t get it if it was absent.

recipe courtesy heidi swanson; photo by moi!

[that’s it for today – see you tomorrow for “stuff i love today” and “going green”! xo.]

wired whisk bakehouse + cupcake lovin'

[just one of chef christine nordstrom's many cupcake varieties. you can pick up your own at the wired whisk bakehouse.]

my favorite dessert would have to be cupcakes. i just love them. they're so jaunty, sitting in their little wrappers with their colored icing. plus, they're individually sized, making consumption easy. i mean, come on, what could be better?

anyway, i make good cupcakes, if i do say so myself. i posted the recipe, a magnolia bakery classic, a few months back, and every time i bring the cupcakes to work or give them to people as gifts, they seem to really enjoy them. they're dense but light, rich but fluffy, and my only complaint is that they tend a tiny, tiny bit toward the dry side. when all's said and done, though, they're fabulous. i have cupcake pride, for sure, and so i'm always on the lookout for new, well-made cupcakes. (in fact, in another life, i'd really like to be a pastry chef. i adore baking.)

so you can imagine my happiness when, on tuesday, our office received a white bakery box full of these yummy confections from sarasota-based wired whisk bakehouse. chef christine nordstrom recently unveiled a new line of cupcake flavors and she wanted us to try them (again, i say, the perks of my job are wonderful). i was thrilled to snag a chocolate cupcake with vanilla icing -- my favorite flavor -- and was even more delighted to discover that christine's 'cakes are amazing. they're moist and light, and the icing is sweet without being overpowering. a perfect combo.

i have a coupon (thanks again, lovely job), so i'm planning on going to pick up some more of christine's delicious cupcakes today. if you want to try them out for yourself, you can find the wired whisk bakehouse at 4141 s. tamiami trail, sarasota. trust me, it's worth the trip.

[coming up: our last post of the day, a delicious recipe for one of my favorite soups.]

peace + love.

[i snapped this pic on my cell phone, but still -- the beach is so pretty.]

i'm in a great mood today because the weekend was exactly what i wanted it to be: full of sleep and relaxation. i cleaned my apartment, rearranged a couple of things, grocery shopped and went to the beach, which is always so incredibly refreshing and soul-cleansing. some people go to church on sundays; i go to the beach. it is my church. truly.

other than that, i didn't really do much of an
ything, which is exactly what i wanted. and now i feel appropriately rested and rejuvenated for the coming week. i'm looking forward to getting back in the swing of things -- picking up the exercise, eating better, sleeping. and in the spirit of those things, i think some of this week's posts are going to be dedicated to health, well-being and feeling good. today's recipe is green and healthy; tomorrow's "stuff i love today" and "going green" will be health-oriented; i have a fantastic guest blog lined up for wednesday; and i'll try to pick a "style file" subject who is the epitome of health and positive self-image.

anyway, this is a short monday post, but stayed tuned for today's two -- yep, two! -- upcoming blogs: one on one of my favorite confections (ok, clearly that's more of a feel-good post than a health-inspired one) and the aforementioned recipe, which will probably be up tonight because i'm going to make it and take pictures (i'm very excited).

i hope you all had as relaxing a weekend as i did. xo.

Friday, March 28, 2008

loving: strappy yellow shoe.

[in the spirit of this week’s budget-related posts – and the fact that spring is finally here, in full force – our “obsession” today is a $15 xhilaration shoe from mega-brand target. there’s something so cheerful about this little sandal, particularly the geometric lines and the yellow leather. i'll be snapping up a pair as soon as they hit my local store – but until then, i hope you enjoy this little taste of something spring-y as much as i did.]

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

personal thoughts on pretty things on a budget.

[pricey-but-beautiful ($88/roll) orla kiely "blossom" wallpaper from anthropologie.]

i’ve been incredibly focused on decorating my apartment lately thanks to wonderful blogs like design*sponge, oh joy!, bluelines, etc. i’ve come across so many lovely items from independent designers and sources – three potato four, the curiosity shoppe, reform school, karin eriksson, the vast world of etsy – that my oft-mentioned “must-buy” list has nearly tripled in size over the past couple of months. i mean, really, who needs urban outfitters when i can buy something much cuter on etsy and support an independent vendor?

[this storybook tile ($30) from three potato four is a good example of the kind of stuff i'm talking about. how cute!]

that being said, even though my “must-buy” list is now mostly composed of $20 items (as opposed $100-plus items), things still add up, especially for someone who, like me, is on a fairly strict budget. full disclosure: i do not make enough money to support my shopping habit. however, before you feel too sorry for me (ha!), i should tell you that i am definitely one of those people who would rather eat noodles with butter for a week but have a beautiful piece of clothing or something pretty for my home. sad? maybe, but true.

still, my 25th birthday is fast-approaching, and if there’s anything i’ve learned over the past year-and-a-half of living on my own, it’s that i’ve got to start being more financially responsible. yes, i want pretty things for myself and my house (and, ok, even my cat). but i also want to be debt-free and start saving for retirement, travel, my next move, etc. like most 20-somethings i know, i have a monthly car payment, rent, student loan debt (that my parents, as of now, graciously pay for) and a little bit of credit card debt – not enough to where i need to be super-worried about paying it all off, but enough to be annoying, especially when i’m not making as much money as i’d like. (let it be known, though, that i adore my job and would rather be poor – which i’m not – than making tons of money in a stifling corporate job.)

[pretty/unique: lotta jansdotter's sweet chick zipper bags ($16).]

so, needless to say, i’ve been thinking a lot about how to reconcile my penchant for pretty (and, ok, pricey) clothes and home décor with my limited budget, and i think the answer is threefold: 1) most importantly, curtail the spending in general (i.e., stop buying $80 anthropologie shirts; 2) do more diy projects (um, remember the key rack i was so excited about? still haven’t made it, and why not? there’s no good reason and it would be such a great addition to my home); and 3) start thrifting and etsy-ing more. sarasota is a treasure trove of rich people who donate their clothes and home goods to consignment and thrift shops. why pay full price for a cakestand at a big-box store when i can get a pretty, one-of-a-kind one for $5?

i guess the point of all this is, like i said, that i’m going to start making a conscious effort to make my home look lovely without sacrificing my whole paycheck – and hopefully, with this new mentality, my savings account will grow. and hey, maybe one day i’ll be able to afford an eames chair without cringing when i hand over the plastic – but for now, i know that’s not the point. i'll be sure to keep you posted on my decorating-on-a-budget progress.

how do you guys mitigate your budgetary issues (if you have any) in terms of things you really want – be they home décor, clothing or technology? let me know; this is a subject i’m very curious about!

[see you tomorrow for our weekly style file and maybe a little something else after this post, i'm thinking a big-ticket "obsession" item might not be the way to go!]

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

going green: recycled-glass night set.

[recycled-glass night set, $18,]

i read the march and april issues of domino over the weekend and found so much inspiration in them. since my beloved blueprint isn’t being published anymore, i’ve decided to fill its space on my shelves with domino , which isn’t quite as budget-friendly (i am not able to afford a $2,500 table, sorry) but which is packed with a lot of great home and entertaining ideas. march, in particular, was all about green-ifying your life, offering 100 different ideas on how to make your home more eco-friendly, from organic cotton sheet sets to chemical-free cleaning supplies.

this recycled-glass night set from reform school caught my eye right away. there’s something so romantic and luxurious about having a carafe of water and a pretty glass cup by your nightstand – it makes me think of huge, regency-style beds, silk pajamas and millions of throw pillows. i’ve added this to my “must-buy” list, too. the best part? it’s made entirely of recycled glass. eco-friendly and pretty – what could be better?

ps: check out reform school’s fun web site and its other great products – julia rothman’s pretty milk bottles, which i discovered via design*sponge, are also a favorite of mine (although, sadly, they're out of stock).

[coming up tomorrow: “stuff i love today: wednesday edition” and maybe a little something extra. stay tuned.]

recipe: rigatoni with cremini, asparagus, walnuts and mascarpone

[yum -- crisp, green asparagus.]

this is one of my favorite pasta dishes – another giada de laurentiis recipe that i came across via and have adjusted to suit my own tastes (i use rigatoni instead of farfalle). it’s yummy, quick, creamy, easy and very rustic – you can easily adjust the measurements to serve one person or 10 (this version serves six to eight). bon appetite.

rigatoni with asparagus, mushrooms, walnuts and mascarpone

1 pound rigatoni
3 tbsp. butter
1 pound cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 pound thin asparagus, trimmed, cut crosswise
1 cup mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup freshly greated parmesan
nutmeg, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. add the rigatoni and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally. drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water. meanwhile, melt the butter in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. add the mushrooms and sauté until tender and most of the juices have evaporated, about 5 minutes. add the asparagus and sauté until the asparagus is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. add the rigatoni. stir in the mascarpone and nutmeg and toss until the cheese coats the pasta, adding the reserved cooking liquid 1/4 cup at a time to moisten. stir in 1/2 cup of walnuts. season the pasta, to taste, with salt and pepper. mound the pasta in a large bowl. sprinkle with the parmesan and remaining 1/4 cup of walnuts. serve.

[coming up this afternoon, our “going green” post – and tomorrow, in place of a guest blog, “stuff i love today” and possibly another little something. we’ll be back on our regular schedule on thursday. thanks for bearing with me!]

Friday, March 21, 2008

weekly recap + some other things.

[i couldn’t resist posting another picture of karin eriksson’s beautiful pieces – this "signe" bowl is lovely, and browsing her items was one of the highlights of my week.]

what a busy week it’s been here in sarasota – an editorial brunch, multiple work projects in addition to the usual stuff, restaurant openings, a brand-new haircut (i lopped, like, six inches of hair off and it feels fantastic), dinners out and, tonight, a trip home to my parents’ house to see my mom’s side of the family, who has converged on winter park somewhat unexpectedly. needless to say, last night i came home, plopped on my couch, waited for lauren alane to update her etsy shop and zoned out (sadly, i didn’t get to purchase one of her wonderful little birds because they sold out too quickly, but i’m on a budget, so it’s ok – next time!). i’m really looking forward to a weekend of relaxation – i took monday off, so i don’t have to scramble to drive back to sarasota on easter sunday, which is wonderful.

anyway, here’s our weekly recap:

i have no idea what next week’s content is going to include; as i mentioned, work has been really busy so we might have fewer posts. i love blogging but my job comes first, of course. still, we’ll stick to our usual content unless i decide otherwise.

is there anything you guys would like to see, content-wise? comment and let me know.

[ps: since i'm going to be at my parents' house through monday, i'll put monday's posts up that evening or we'll sprinkle the recipe and other kitchen-related stuff throughout the rest of the week. happy weekend, everyone – and happy easter, too. xo.]

loving: hot-pink prada bag.

vogue magazine does a great little department every month called “last look.” on the very last page of the magazine, a beautiful luxury item is featured – a $2,500 shoe, for example, or a bejeweled handbag that costs several thousand dollars. it’s one of my favorite vogue departments – there’s not a lot of text, it’s mostly just a gorgeous photo of a gorgeous item.

i’d like to do something similar. every so often, we’ll do an “obsession” post about an item that’s covetable, beautiful and impeccably made. i may post these blogs on thursday, because the items will pair well with our style file content, but our first item is going to come today, because what’s better than looking at something pretty at the end of a long week?

with that being said, i present you with our first “obsession” item: this hot-pink prada handbag (perfect with an all-black outfit, no?). cost: $1,000-plus. fun factor: priceless. enjoy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

guest blog: mel of color me crafty!

[today's fantastic guest blog is brought to you by mel, ex-roomie, dear friend and craft queen. by way of a little background, mel is one of the most artistic people i know. as mentioned, one of her custom pieces hangs in the "entryway" of my apartment and one of her beautiful scrapbooks sits on my coffee table. appropriately, her guest blog today is on scrapbooking, and i hope you enjoy reading it as much as i did.]

Meg has been kind enough to invite me to write a guest blog and, by way of guest blogging, introduce you all to my very own blog, Color Me Crafty. I can't say it's all about scrapbooking and crafts, but I definitely have a passion for all things colorful and crafty.

The great thing about scrapbooking is that, like anything that requires creativity, there is no right or wrong. It's up to you what you want to do, and you should do whatever makes you happy. Unfortunately, I think that some people who are drawn to scrapbooking think that it requires too much time or too much money to take part in. But that's just not true! Sure, I could definitely spend hours on a page and my entire savings in a craft store, but that doesn't mean it's necessary.

So, what I'd like to share with you all are a few little things I have learned. First of all, craft stores have sales on scrapbooking materials (especially paper) all the time. There is no reason to buy it at full price. Also, most of them have these great sections with $1 items in them, and a lot of times those items are all made to go together so you can buy just from that section if you want.

For example, around Christmas-time Michael's had one of these sections and everything was coordinating colors -- red, black and white. They had ribbon, stickers, note cards and some other things. I used the note cards to make accordion folding scrapbooks for my cousins and decorated with the ribbon, stickers and a few other black, white and red papers that I already had. This is a great example of a simple scrapbook. All the materials were already coordinated, and I stuck with a simple layout too -- just one picture per "page." Once all the pictures were cut to size, all that needed to be done was to pop them on some background paper and glue them to the note cards. Sticking to the same layout for each page makes the process a whole lot quicker and easier (and therefore less daunting), and you still get a great finished product that you can be proud to show off. (I wish I had a picture of the finished books that I made for my cousins, but unfortunately I didn't take any before I gave them out, trust me though, they looked great and the girls loved them, and I promise they didn't take that long!)

If you're still not into the whole cut and paste idea, but you want a way to display your pictures in something more unique than a photo album, Shutterfly has these great photo books that you can get. You upload your pictures, choose which ones you want to go where, what color scheme you want for the backgrounds, how many pictures you want per page, etc. You get the personal touch of customizing your own album, but without the fuss. And if you still crave a little bit of depth and texture, once you get your photo book in the mail, you can still add your own stickers or ribbon or other embellishments.

Here is a screenshot from the photo book building process. I just made my first photo book last night, (Shutterfly kindly gave it to me for free -- I guess for being such a loyal customer :) ) and it was really simple and really fun. Below is another screen shot of one of the finished pages. Didn't it come out cute?

The whole album was a Christmas theme, and I can't wait to get it and show my whole family all of the pictures. Anyway, that's all I have to share for now, I hope you enjoyed reading, and I hope you feel inspired to try your own project now!

[thanks again to mel for this terrific, informative guest post. again, to read her blog, click right here. coming up tomorrow: our thursday style and another fashion-related post!]

Monday, March 17, 2008

raspberry love.

today’s final post is a new recipe that i tried over the weekend. while searching for something to make for my coworker’s brunch yesterday, i remembered the praise that my magnolia bakery cupcakes got last time i brought them in. so i went to the same web site where i found that recipe in the hopes of finding something equally delicious to make.

well, i was in luck: i found another great magnolia bakery recipe for raspberry cream cheese breakfast buns, and i whipped them up on saturday night so they were nice and fresh on sunday morning. the batter was so, so simple to make and literally took about 10 minutes, start to finish. i highly recommend these and if you make them, i hope you enjoy them as much as my coworkers and i did.

magnolia bakery’s raspberry cream cheese breakfast buns

(makes nine buns)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (one 8-ounce package) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup raspberry preserves
confectioners’ sugar for garnish

preheat oven to 350 degrees. grease and lightly flour nine large muffin cups. in a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. set aside. in a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, butter, and sugar until smooth, about 3 minutes. add the eggs and beat well. add the dry ingredients in two parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling them about two-thirds full. drop three small dollops (about a teaspoonful each) of raspberry preserves onto the top of each bun and, using the tip of a sharp knife, swirl the preserves into the batter, forming a decorative pattern. bake for 25–30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the bun comes out clean. allow the buns to cool for about 30 minutes before sprinkling with confectioners’ sugar and serving. [editor’s note: if you prefer to make smaller buns, like i did, and use a cupcake tin instead of a larger muffin one, i highly recommend using cupcake liners – the buns came out much more smoothly that way.] recipe via; image above: my finished product!

that's it for today see you tomorrow for the usual stuff i love today" and "going green"!

weekend recap + my sarasota foodie adventures.

well, the weekend didn't go quite the way i thought it would. friday turned out to be a horrible day for almost everyone i know, which is just...terrible. i won't dwell on the details, but let's just say the phrase "beware the ides of march" really, really came true this year. still, i'm optimistic that this coming week is going to be a good one. and i did do some fun things -- dinner out with my girlfriends on friday night (followed by sleep, sleep, sleep); a daiquiri at o'leary's with my friends k. and c., a trip to see my coworker h.'s new house in bradenton and bakefest '08 on saturday (followed, again, by much-needed sleep); and finally, the brunch at my coworker's house on sunday, which was lovely and full of laughter. the raspberry cream cheese breakfast buns (recipe to follow this post) were a hit, and there was a ton of other wonderful food there as well: ina garten's orange-and-fennel salad, homemade scones with clotted cream and jelly, petit fours, cheesecake, frittatas, spinach salad, fruit salad, bloody marys, mimosas and delicious coffee. not to mention the fact that my coworker's house is absolutely beautiful and was filled with fresh flowers and sunlight. definitely a good way to end an otherwise-trying weekend.

interestingly, i find that the weekends are when i do the most of my best eating. laugh at that if you will, but i really don't go out much during the week. sure, i'll pick up some lunch from whole foods every once and awhile (their avocado sushi rolls are great, by the way) or go out with a coworker every now and then, and my friend t. and i generally have our favorite thai food for dinner once every other week or so (ok, maybe it's once every week). but other than that, i mostly stay home and stick to tried-and-true favorites: salad, soup, pasta, sandwiches. i really like trying new recipes, but i certainly don't make something innovative every night. so i welcome the chance to go out with my friends on the weekends and try new restaurants (sarasota is, like, restaurant mecca) and new kinds of food. friday night at ceviche, for example, i had tapas -- vegetales a la parilla (an assortment of grilled and prepared very simply, with olive oil, salt and pepper -- perfection), patatas bravas (a potato dish) and coconut ice cream, which k., s. and i split. not things i would generally prepare on my own, but so fun to eat and share with my friends over mojitos.

today brings a new chapter in my foodie adventures in town: a work event at downtown's brand-new hyde park steakhouse. the space looks gorgeous -- a cream exterior with dark-brown accents -- and i'm excited to see the interior tonight. i'm also excited to sample at least some of the cuisine. as you know, i don't eat meat or fish, so that automatically cancels out most of any steakhouse's menu for me, but i do love side dishes. and the adjoining bar at hyde park looks like it might be a fun place to go on a weekend night, especially to people-watch. i'll be sure to report back.

all of this food-talk may seem a little random, but i think it's appropriate for our foodie mondays. what kind of food do you guys eat the most? are you like me and eat more adventurously when you're out? or do you take initiative yourself and prepare innovative food in your own kitchen?

ps: happy st. patrick's day!

[coming up: a yummy recipe and some beautiful kitchenware. image above: the i-pot tea set from target in stem green -- a pretty little something for st. patty's.]

Friday, March 14, 2008

a few of my favorite things

as a follow-up to wednesday's post, i wanted to share a few of my own favorite household items. like bethany, i couldn’t pick just one favorite thing. there are so many details that i love about my apartment – the wood floors, the big windows that provide me with natural light for the majority of the day, my green microwave, my trio of hanging picture frames, my bookshelves, my antique desk, my couch (which has been in my family since i was a baby – it’s been recovered a few times, but it definitely has sentimental value). on the flip side, i don’t love my twin bed and i wish i had central a.c. instead of a wall unit, but if those two things are my only complaints, then i’m in pretty great shape.

anyway – here are three of my most favorite household items. descriptions follow each photo.

[this chair is the first piece of furniture i bought by myself, and i love the fabric so much. my apartment is full of blues and greens, and this piece is the inspiration for that – appropriate considering my proximity to the beach, i think. it’s from urban outfitters, which has great furniture, and it was a steal. i love it. oscar does, too.]

[this fan is from shanghai – my lovely friend shun brought it back for me when he was there in december. i love the color, the shape, the pattern and the little carvings – it’s so unique. i think i’m going to put it in a frame and hang it up, because i don’t want oscar to get his little paws
on it!]



[and finally, my “entryway.” the beautiful purple painting hangs on my right-hand wall and is a custom piece by mel, and the fabric board, which hangs on the left-hand wall, was a gift from bethany that i use for everything – mail, photos, postcards, fabric swatches, what have you. i love them. (also, please excuse the bland color of the walls -- i'm not allowed to paint.)]

so there you have it – a few of my favorite things.

[up next, our last post – the weekly recap.]

Thursday, March 13, 2008


like i’m sure most of you do, i have a “blog roll” – various sites i peruse on a daily basis. most of them are listed to the right and they’re all great; you should definitely check them out for little bursts of inspiration or if you just need a break from your daily routine (as i often do; bright colors and pretty things are kind of like coffee for my brain).

anyway, while thinking about style file subjects and clicking through my blog roll yesterday, i stumbled across a great web site on lauren alane that i thought would be a perfect complement to thursday’s fashion-y content: we love colors – a business dedicated exclusively to hosiery.

i should pause here and say that i love wearing tights; in fact, if it weren’t so hot in florida i’d wear them much more often. my black opaques from target are my favorite, but i also have a pair of maroon ones that i wear a lot, too – usually with a plain black dress and black shoes. i’ve often wished that i had other colors in my arsenal, though.

that’s where we love colors comes in. they have – count ‘em – over 45 different colors of opaque tights that range from neon yellow to tie-dye (in addition to the leggings and fishnets they also sell). it’s like tights heaven. prices range from $8-$16 per pair, depending on style and material. using this great online editing tool i found called polyvore, i created a set with some of my favorite pairs from we love colors. enjoy!

[coming up tomorrow: weekly recap and weekend forecast, plus my own favorite home items. see you then.]

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

the lives of others.

i’m so excited about today’s post because it’s so personal. about a week ago, i sent out an e-mail asking some friends to send me a photo of their favorite item in their house and a sentence about why they love it so much. the response was exactly what i’d hoped for – some people sent one photo, some people sent four, but every single piece seemed to exemplify the sender. (my friends are the best.)

getting little peeks into other people’s lives always interests me (the look into people’s homes is my favorite feature of sites like apartment therapy and design*sponge), and i often get inspiration for my own apartment through those peeks. so i thought, why not do my own version?

i hope that you enjoy these photos as much as i’ve enjoyed compiling them. and kisses to bethany, susan, hayley, crystal and mel – thanks for sharing a little glimpse of your home (and yourself) with us.

bethany – a.k.a. one-half of the genius team that is roniroli and who i miss every single day of my life – sent me these three pictures from her kitchen. i couldn’t pick just one, so i’m including them all. her descriptions and explanations, in her own words, follow each photo.


“my box shelf and mini beach centerpiece (both of which I did myself!). first, the shelf is one of four shelves i put up on my kitchen wall all by myself. i painted my kitchen and hung shelves to make the place feel more like my own. this was the first thing i did without anyone's help – i feel accomplishment when I look at those shelves. second, the mini beach centerpiece – i love it because it reminds me of my wedding. every time I look at that little replica of our wedding centerpieces, i am brought back to one of the most joyous days of my life. i feel the warmth and love of all our friends and family when I look at that centerpiece.”


“my rachael ray pot set. i love to cook, and these pots make me feel like a little chef. i received these for christmas and love-love-love to use them. one of the best gifts ever.”


“my standing mixer. this mixer kicks heiny! i like to pretend I have my own bakery or baking show when i use this mixer. this mixer makes me want to quit my job and become a baker. and now I want to bake....”


my dear friend susan – dancer, dance teacher and actress extraordinaire – sent me the above photo of posters that hang in her bedroom. her simple, succinct reason? “i love these posters because broadway makes me happy!” [clockwise from top left, that's thoroughly modern millie, wicked, 42nd street and chicago.]


hayley was my first college roommate – the first person i met in college, in fact – and she’s one of the most creative people i know. her entire house is fantastic, and this deer planter is extra-awesome. why does she love it? in her own words: “i love this little antique deer planter...mostly because my cat hissed at it when I first brought it home and put it on the table. is it alive?” [check out hayley's fantastic etsy shop, h loves r, for beautiful doll clothing and accessories.]


crystal and i went to high school and college (undergrad) together, and a few months ago she wrote a fantastic guest blog on the 2008 presidential election. she sent me this photo of her grandmother’s 40-year-old quilt, which she loves because “every time you wash it, it gets softer and the colors become more beautiful. also, because it was my grandmother's, it’s my comfort zone. it took me till college to get a ‘blankie,’ but it’s like there's a piece of her and a piece of home here amid the sterile environment of the dorms. i photographed it like it was hugging me because that's what i feel it does—gives me a hug and encouragement through its presence as a family heirloom.” [click over to crystal's blog, an eye-opening account of life with a disability and how she, as an activist, is striving to make a difference.]


mel, college roomie and forever friend, is an amazing artist and one of the most loyal people i know. she sent me this photo of her favorite picture frame because, i saw this in a catalog and mentioned to joe [her boyfriend] that i thought it was really cool. next thing i know i am opening it at christmas. it's awesome because it's a picture frame that holds a ton of pictures and it also opens up into a great big jewelry box. i wish i had a picture of it with all the pictures i've put in it, it looks so good, and the i love to look at the pictures.”

what are your favorite household items? why do you love them so much?

ps: for good measure, here’s the cutest picture of bethany’s chihuahua, oliver, who, like oscar for me, is above all else her favorite thing in her house.


[i’ll post my own favorite item(s) later, since i don’t want to take away from my friends’ great stuff. thanks again to everyone who contributed. xo.]

Monday, March 10, 2008

going green: starter kit for change.

ok, you guys – in the spirit of trying a couple of small posts instead of one long one, and our new green-themed column – i present you with starter kit for change.

on friday afternoon, i got a call from this delightfully bubbly woman named del, who lives in sarasota and runs starter kit for change with her partner, melanie, who is based in los angeles. in addition to running the company, both of the women are musicians – and del was so chipper on the phone that i immediately liked her and clicked over to her web site.

what i found was awesome: going-green kits for $40 that include eco-friendly lightbulbs, tree seedlings and gratitude cards, among other things; adorable tote bags for $20 that feature one of my favorite quotes (i’m going to buy one as soon as i can); and fair trade hot chocolate that comes in a cute little tin for $5. a portion of the proceeds from each kit go to action against hunger, and i think they would make great gifts.

[tell me these aren't the cutest go-green kits ever.]

del told me that she and melanie are featured in april’s glamour and body+soul magazine, and that she found my name while reading a little blurb i wrote about green door organics for work. the starter kits for change are adorable – and they’ve inspired me to try to be as green as i possibly can. what could be better than that?

also, i just wanted to update you all and let you know that i'm rearranging our weekly columns for what i hope will be the last time. the new schedule, for now, is:

monday: weekend recap, recipe and any other food-related items we might want;
tuesday: "stuff i love today" and "going green" (this will be mostly design-and-decor-themed);
wednesday: special posts and guest blogs;
thursday: style file and other fashion-related notes;
friday: weekly recap, weekend forecast and miscellaneous items that don't fit elsewhere.

also, please-please-please send suggestions about what you'd like to see by posting a comment.

now, tell me: what do you do to be green?

[today was a three-post day, so don't forget to scroll down for a super-simple recipe and a couple of miscellaneous thoughts!]

recipe: super-simple black beans and rice.

i am not afraid to say that the rice that accompanies this dish – my mom’s recipe – is the fluffiest rice i’ve ever had. so fluffy, in fact, that i’ve often thought that rice at very good asian restaurants doesn’t compare. it’s that good. there’s something comforting about it, too – you could eat it with just a pat of butter of mix in some veggies, or cook it like i do and pile garlicky black beans on top. the dish is wonderful reheated, too.

in terms of the black beans, adjust the ingredients to taste – this is a great recipe to just “eyeball,” and i thought it would be perfect in light of my spanish- and mexican-food-themed weekend. enjoy! (pic to come later.)

super-simple black beans and rice

for the black beans:

1 can black beans (i like bush’s)
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1/2 a medium to large onion, red or white, diced
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and black pepper, to taste

for the rice:

1 cup white rice
2 cups water
1 tbsp. butter

in a medium saucepan, add water, rice and butter and heat until boiling, stirring occasionally. reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

meanwhile, after the rice has cooked for about 10 minutes, heat olive oil in a large pan. add garlic and onion, stir and sauté until very fragrant. add black beans; stir to mix with garlic and onion. season liberally with salt and pepper. cook until heated through. serve atop steaming white rice, add whatever "extras" you like (guacamole, fresh tomatoes, sour cream) and enjoy!

[stay tuned for a great new column announcement – along with a reorganized content schedule – coming up!]

the weekend + a few new things.

well, what a weekend it was! in addition to some really crazy weather -- we're talking wind and rain on friday night and then gusts of wind so strong that a fence next to my apartment blew down (onto my car! eek! thankfully, no dents or scratches) and the power went out on saturday -- plus the fact that we lost an hour of sleep, i definitely feel like i did a lot of fun things.

on friday, my friends k., s. and i headed over for dinner at a new tapas bar called ceviche. it's a chain, with locations in orlando and tampa, but the sarasota space is awesome, complete with rooftop bar overlooking the city. afterwards, we headed to esca for a mojito before turning in for the night. on saturday, some other friends and i had delicious mexican food at two senioritas and then bar-hopped on siesta key. in spite of the cold (we were all in jeans and coats), it was a great time. we danced the night away. siesta key is one of my favorite places to go out -- it's relaxed beach-cool and there's always fun people.

so that was the weekend, and now we can look forward to the week ahead! coming up later today is my super-simple, super-yummy recipe for black beans and rice...and (it's going to be a three post day, in the spirit of trying mini-posts! i worked on today's over the weekend, so we'll see how the rest of the week goes) a new column, "going green." i have a terrific kick-off post that i hope you all enjoy. (the column is eventually going to switch to tuesdays, but i'm so excited about this week's item that i wanted to share it immediately.)

and later this week, the usual "stuff i love today," a brand-new style file and a very special wednesday post. i hope you enjoy.

Monday, March 3, 2008

put the lime in the coconut.

so this weekend didn’t turn out quite the way i’d planned (no patterned key rack – yet – and the apartment is still not totally clean), but it was great. and that’s all that matters, right?

friday night, after going to a work event for one of the monthly departments that i write, i met up with my good friend k. at a fun bar downtown and then headed home for a night of rest and relaxation. i slept late on saturday, made some headway on cleaning my apartment and then, when plans for the evening fell through, made myself some more of my favorite creamy artichoke soup, complete with a cup of green tea with honey and a chunk of warm, crusty french bread from whole foods. (i’m looking forward to having the leftovers for lunch today.) then, sunday, i had lunch at yummy a downtown italian restaurant, café epicure, with another friend, then met up with k. again and went shopping, kayaking on the bay (!! my arms are so sore, but it was so awesome) and beach-walking. the day ended with a south african-inspired dinner at k.’s family’s house on the siesta key bayfront that included lots of wine, great conversation and yummy fruits and vegetables. it was literally a perfect day – i can’t imagine doing anything more fun. and needless to say, i slept incredibly well last night.

last night’s dinner also made me decide, once and for all, to make this week a food-themed week for the blog, so we’ll have more than one recipe, a “stuff i love today” kitchenware post and even a food-related style file. i know i said i’d post a recipe from the silver palate cookbook that my mom recently gifted me, but let’s save that for wednesday and start today off on a sweet note, with the peninsula grill’s famous 12-pound coconut cake.

before i post the link to the recipe, let me just say that serving this cake will make you the most popular person at whatever event you happen to be attending. it’s two days’ worth of sticky, coconutty, fun work, but the results are well worth it. i baked it for my office’s holiday lunch and people were genuinely upset when i took the last small piece out of the kitchen before the end of the work day. and in case you’re wondering, it really does weigh 12 pounds. this cake is a beast. here’s a picture (please excuse the fact that it’s saran-wrapped; i baked it the night before the holiday lunch and wrapped it in an attempt to keep it from being infused with other flavors from my fridge).

[not quite as pretty as the one on the peninsula grill web site, but just as tasty.]

anyway, without further ado, click here for the recipe – you’ll be taken to and if you don’t want to make the cake yourself, the peninsula grill will ship it to you – click here for information (yes, the cake’s so popular it even has its own page on the restaurant web site).

one more thing: i’m going to try and make a trip to overholt’s produce stand this week, and i’m really excited. for those of you who don’t know, overholt’s is located in a section of sarasota that’s known for its mennonite population and a couple of really delicious amish restaurants (a coworker and i recently had lunch at yoder’s, and the cream pies are to die for). the strawberries k.’s family served at last night’s dinner were from overholt’s, and they were plump, sweet and juicy. i’ve heard great things about it, and it shuts down for the summer in about a month, so i need to haul my cookies over there and pick up some fruit. yum. will report back.