Friday, April 29, 2011

what are you doing this weekend?

happy friday, everyone -- did you have a good week? are you looking forward to the weekend? i am. i'm actually going to visit my parents, grandmother and brother this weekend (i haven't been home since january), and i'm hoping to catch up with some friends while i'm there, as well as see a movie with my mom (i'm dying to watch jane eyre), and stop by my favorite cupcake shop for a little treat. it should be a good weekend.

and you? what are your plans? tell me, and i'll see you back here on monday.

photo by me

Thursday, April 28, 2011

loving: kylie johnson ceramics.

i just love these ceramic pieces by australian potter and poet kylie johnson -- aren't they so sweet, and wouldn't they make a perfect wedding gift? the words on that tray, in particular, just kill me. the plate and tray above are available at anthropologie, but you can see and buy more of kylie's work in her online shop here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

scenes from sarasota: evening paddleboarding.

this is by no means a perfect photograph (in fact, it's terribly crooked and pretty dark), but i really love it all the same. i was taking my usual bridge walk the other evening -- it was one of those quiet, hazy spring nights that are so unique to florida at this time of year -- and happened to look over the railing at the top of the bridge, where i saw these two paddleboarders heading toward the sunset. there was nothing surrounding them except water, and it was such a beautiful scene that i couldn't help but snap a picture. i don't know why this speaks to me so much, but it does -- maybe it's the metaphorical undercurrent of making your way towards something bigger, or of re-realizing your smallness in the face of nature (in this case, of course, the ocean), which is something i think we all need to come back to from time to time.

i hope you all are having great wednesdays.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

spring favorites.


i love reading what's-in-your-bag and what's-in-your-beauty-cabinet style posts, so i thought i'd do one featuring my spring favorites. i have a pretty simple beauty routine -- a little foundation, some blush and mascara, blown-out hair when i have the time -- but i feel like lately i've found the products that really work for me.

1. mario badescu enzyme cleansing gel: i use this in the morning and it wakes up my skin really nicely. i find that as an end-of-day, makeup-removing product it's not fantastic (for me, at least), but in the morning it's perfect.
2. kiehls ultra facial products: i use these at night (i got them as part of a travel set, as a gift) to remove the day's makeup, tone and moisturize, and i love them. so gentle. plus they last forever.
3. jo malone orange blossom perfume: this scent is like the best of florida in a bottle -- it truly smells like orange blossoms and i love it. i had been using issey miyake for awhile -- and i still use miss dior cherie for special, particularly girly occasions -- but this is my new, hands-down favorite.
4. moroccanoil: smells great and works even better -- whenever i use it, my hair is softer and shinier. also, even though it's expensive, it lasts forever. i'm still less than halfway through a bottle i bought last mid-year last year.
5. fekkai glossing shampoo and conditioner: i got some samples of this and my hair just drinks it up. coupled with the moroccanoil, it's perfect. plus, it smells great.
6. bare minerals makeup: i have finicky, sensitive skin, and this is my product of choice. it's light but not drying and they actually make it in a shade that perfectly matches my incredibly white skin.
7. nars blush in super orgasm: my aunt bought this and didn't like it (!), so she gave it to me and i love it--and the little hint of sparkle it provides.
8. josie maran lip & cheek stain in jive: i bought this a few months ago and it's totally worth it. it somehow manages to be super-saturated and moisturizing. it's a little too bright for me to feel comfortable wearing every day, but on mornings when i need a pick-me-up or nights when i'm going out, it's perfect.
9. cover girl lash blast mascara (orange tube): best mascara i've ever used, hands-down. it's amazing. thickening and lengthening.

and you? what are your favorite beauty products right now? please share, i very unabashedly love this stuff.

Monday, April 25, 2011

the weekend + committing to...

i kind of liked the format last monday's "committing to..." post took, so i'm going to copy myself and do it again (ha!). here are five lovely things from this past weekend...

1. sunshine and 80-plus-degree weather.
2. kate's birthday -- a super-fun bash on the bay with some of my very favorite people. (have i mentioned i love a good birthday party?)
3. homemade coconut cupcakes (more on this later).
4. wine. yes. yay.
5. feeling really, truly well for the first time in a month (and getting the official a-ok by the doctor). super yay.

...and five commitments for this week:

1. plan out my meals.
2. finally get back into my exercise routine. pilates, here i come.
3. stay off the coffee, but figure out a good tea alternative -- i still need something other than water to get me going. anyone have any good, easy (i'm a slowpoke in the morning) homemade chai/spiced tea recipes?
4. call some friends/family members that i haven't talked to in awhile.
5. choose happiness.

and you? how were your weekends, and what are your goals/plans for the week?

photo by haley s.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

scenes from sarasota + what are you doing this weekend?

one of my favorite things about sarasota is the little details that are everywhere -- from the architecture of the city's buildings to the little embellishments on its streets. i always stop and admire the sweet flowers that are part of the sidewalks near my office and on main street, downtown, but yesterday i actually snapped a picture of them for you. seriously, how cute are these? they make me smile when i see them.

and as for the second part of the title of this post--what are you doing this weekend? i have tomorrow off from work, so i probably won't be posting, but i have big plans for the next few days: sleeping, doing a little freelance work, and spending time in the sunshine among them. but the biggest plan of all is that my best friend k.'s birthday is saturday, and i can't wait to celebrate it. she reads this blog, so: happy birthday, bonesy! i'm so glad i get to celebrate with you.

see you monday, friends. i hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

baked! the infamous coconut cake.

i posted this recipe once before on my short-lived baking blog, prior to deciding to integrate my baking posts here, so apologies if you've seen it before. if you haven't, enjoy!

eight sticks of butter. a carton and a half of cream. ten eggs. four packages of cream cheese. four bags of coconut. half a container of sour cream. untold amounts of flour, sugar, and vanilla. these, friends, came together this weekend to create six layers of cake, filled with coconut cream, frosted with a perfect sweet-but-not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting, and topped with freshly toasted coconut.

this is not a cake for wimps.

i've become kind of famous among my circle of friends for this confection, which is based off the peninsula grill's famous 12-pound coconut cake. i made it for the first time for an office christmas party three years ago; the following year, i was asked to make it again for the same party. then i made it for a friend's easter dinner two years in a row, for my friend k.'s 30th birthday this spring, and recently, i smuggled a big slice of it home for another friend, who promptly requested that i make two (!) for a southern-themed family reunion she was throwing. this past weekend, i made another one for that same friend, who requested it for an event to benefit a local theater. (cool, right?)

that's the thing about this cake: it feels southern. and despite the fact that i've made it in the fall more times than i can count, when i taste it i am immediately taken to a place where it's served with sweet tea and a southern accent on a whitewashed front porch lined with pink flowers. it's comfort dessert at its best.

i find that when it comes to coconut, and specifically eating coconut, people either love it or hate it. my crowd of friends is generally coconut loving, but even if yours isn't, you should still make this cake. it might even be a converting force. and do yourself a favor and don't use low-fat sour cream or switch out the heavy cream for something lighter; go full-fat all the way. trust me, it's worth it.

the infamous coconut cake
adapted slightly from bon appetit, october 2001

2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp water
1 tsp good vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 1/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/4 cup sour cream

3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (i use king arthur)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 large eggs
1 1/3 cups heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp good vanilla extract

2 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature (i use philadelphia)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tsp good vanilla extract

for filling:
stir cornstarch, 2 tbsp water, and vanilla in small bowl to dissolve cornstarch. bring heavy cream, sugar, and butter to a boil in heavy medium saucepan. add cornstarch mixture and bring to boil. remove from heat and stir in coconut. cool completely, then mix in sour cream. cover and refrigerate overnight.

for cake:
preheat oven to 325 degrees. butter and flour three 9-inch round cake pans. whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in large bowl to blend. using an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in another large bowl to blend. add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. beat in cream and vanilla. carefully stir flour mixture into butter mixture. divide batter equally among pans. bake until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes. cool completely.

for frosting:
using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter in large bowl to blend. then beat in powdered sugar and vanilla extract.

to assemble:
place 1 cake layer on cake plate. top with half of filling. place second cake layer atop filling. top with remaining filling. place third cake layer atop filling. spread cream cheese frosting over top and sides of cake. Pat toasted coconut over top of cake, pressing gently to adhere. ( this cake can be prepared up to one day ahead; simply cover and refrigerate, then let stand at room temperature 3 hours before serving.)

p.s. a little side note of pride: this cake was recently auctioned off at a charity event for $550!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

loving: paper flowers from sunny & stumpy

although fresh flowers are, of course, preferred to paper ones -- i think that's a truth universally acknowledged -- i just love these beautiful dahlias and ranunculas from wedding planner rachel coddington's etsy shop, sunny & stumpy. see more here; read rachel's blog here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

the weekend + committing to...

five notes from the weekend:

1. medicine (yay, antibiotics)
2. sweet, sweet sleep
3. the softest gray sweatpants known to man
4. movies galore
5. no pressure to do anything or be anywhere. lovely.

five commitments for the week:

1. eat and get healthy. (should be easier now that i actually know what's wrong. also, i'm sick of talking about being sick.)
2. make -- and go to -- a follow-up doctor's appointment.
3. clean my house. it got pretty messy.
4. think happy thoughts.
5. pick up some bright, fresh flowers for my house, because fresh flowers make everything prettier.

and you?

photo by ardemonia

Friday, April 15, 2011

what are you doing this weekend?

what a week that was.

the stomach flu i had two weeks ago (and, actually, a week prior to that in milder form) returned on wednesday to the point where i felt so bad i decided to go to the doctor (with my incredibly kind boss, who accompanied me because i have a huge fear of white coats, and also because i most likely couldn't have driven myself). turns out what i have is not the stomach flu; it's a really bad UTI coupled with, the doctor thinks, some kind of stomach-lining bacterial infection thing. i'm on antibiotics now and very glad i went to see someone. looks like, for the foreseeable future, i'll have to stay away from food "irritants"--caffeine, spicy stuff, alcohol, etc. ("all the good things," my doctor joked). i also decided to postpone my trip to orlando this weekend, because who wants to hang out with a sick person?

the doctor also mentioned that some of this could be stress related, and when he me asked if i had anxiety, i almost laughed. i don't have diagnosed anxiety, no, but i do tend to get very anxious and worked up about things, so it makes sense that that tendency, coupled with my propensity to down cups of strong coffee and the amount of change i've made to my life in the past six months, would contribute to what's going on physically.

anyway, i think it's all a sign that i need to spend this weekend resting, taking my meds and trying to get back to good health. so that's what i'll be doing. i'd also love to make it down to the farmer's market to pick up some fresh fruit and vegetables, but we'll see. i'm just going to play it by ear. (or by stomach.)

what are you up to this weekend? i hope that, whatever it is, it's happy, healthy and springlike. see you back here on monday.

photo by nicole

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

blue and yellow.

secrets from a stylist has quickly become one of my favorite home-decorating shows (actually, it's the only home-decorating show that i watch). i love seeing how stylist emily henderson puts together each look, and i can't help but wish that she would come decorate my own little place. this recent look is a favorite -- i love the blue and the fresh flowers, and i actually own that yellow rug (albeit in a smaller version). maybe there's hope for me yet!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

loving: alexandra grecco.

aren't these pieces by alexandra grecco just so pretty and feminine? i really enjoy the styling, too.

happy tuesday, friends.

Monday, April 11, 2011

the weekend + committing to...

i felt like i had kind of a strange weekend -- at least internally. 

don't get me wrong, i had a really nice few days off, and saturday and sunday actually felt long. i got in some good friend-time (and friend-talk-time), i gave myself a pedicure, baked my cake (more on that on thursday), got all of my errands done,  figured out the next steps in my financial plan and started reading a new book.

but remember how, last week, i said i took a trip down memory lane, and that i felt like it was the catharsis for forward momentum? well, i still feel like that -- but i also feel a little confused, identity-wise, after reading through all those journal entries and flipping through photos and reliving both really happy and really sad moments. it's that whole where-did-you-come-from-where-are-you-going question, and i guess i sometimes wonder if i'm still trying to figure out who, exactly, i am. which at times feels perfectly natural and at times makes me feel pretty  behind the curve if, at almost 28 years old, i'm still asking.

and to be clear, i know i'm a good person and that i have a great little life. (i also realize that some of these feelings could be hormone-induced. sorry.) it's more like i'm still wondering what i want to be when i grow up, except that "be" encompasses more these days (interestingly, career is not a question anymore. that's one thing i'm sure of).

so obviously that's what's on my mind as i think about my commitments this week, which are:

+ continue with the health goals. happy to report that everything has gone great so far; i just need to up the exercise a bit more. and now that i feel completely back to normal, i will.

+ write some words for amie's and my writing project.

+  catch a sunset over the gulf.

+ do something that scares me. (disclaimer: this will most likely be something small, but i think it would be good for me.)

and you? tell me, and i'll see you back here tomorrow.

p.s. have you been to the cover song archive yet? kate linked to this video of five-year-old rowan recently, and it's the sweetest thing i've seen in a long time. that little girl is mature beyond her years.

photo by teresa q

Friday, April 8, 2011

what are you doing this weekend?

happy friday, everyone! sorry it's been a little quiet around here -- i had a big post planned for wednesday and another baked! recipe to add to our list, but life intervened and i got a little busier than i thought, so i'll get them up next week.

what are your plans for the weekend? i have a lot of little random bits that i need to get completed -- a friend commissioned me to bake one of my "famous" coconut cakes, and i have some little projects to complete -- but i'm hoping to also make it to the farmer's market, have a catch-up night with my favorite friends, and sleep in a little (as always, but i couldn't seem to make it to bed before 1 a.m. any night this week). i also want to continue on my healthy kick, which went really great this week. even without my usual morning coffee lately, i'm feeling energized. so yay. 

this week, i've also felt like i'm in the thick of things -- maybe on the brink of something? -- and while i can't quite articulate it, it fits in with my theory that 2011 is a year of momentum. that's not to discount the tragedies happening in the world, but i guess i'm really believing in the power of moving forward and making change right now. which is funny to say because i also took a big trip down memory lane this week -- going through old emails, photos and online journal posts from 2001-2006 -- but maybe revisiting the past, and all of the good and bad that came with it, is catharsis for the momentum. here's hoping.

tell me what you're up to this weekend, and i'll see you back here on monday! xoxo

photo by cocoaloca

Thursday, April 7, 2011

scenes from sarasota: sunset over payne park.

this was one of those accidental photos -- i was driving home one night, happened to look up and see this, and knew i had to take a picture, so i did. one of my favorite things about living here is the sunsets -- they're different every night and spectacular almost all the time, whether over the ocean or just over a city park.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

food for thought and thoughts on food.

i've been thinking a lot about food and wellness lately, especially after being sick to my stomach for a chunk of the last two weeks (and feeling not-well in general through most of the month of march, thanks to a cold that preceded the stomach bug). and after reading this interesting interview in whole living magazine, with yogi seane corne, i started thinking about both of those things even more this past weekend.

here's a little background info you may or may not know about me: over the course of the past two years, i lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-40 pounds (i don't weigh myself, ever, so i don't know the exact amount, but i'm estimating that number due to clothes sizes dropped). i did it by giving up a lot of dairy (i used to be a huge milk drinker), eating healthier and upping my exercise ante. i was also a pretty strict vegetarian from the time i was 20 until the end of 2009, when i reintroduced fish into my diet, so that helped. and while i still don't eat red meat or pork (with the exception of the occasional bite), i have incorporated chicken and turkey again, as well.

i was mostly happy with this until a couple of weeks ago, when i went to a farm sanctuary event honoring the co-founder of twitter, biz stone (this was also the day i met martha stewart). i was really impressed with the emphasis farm sanctuary places on the concept of empathy, and as someone who was vegetarian for so long and who is an avid animal lover, i started feeling a little guilty about so quickly dropping the vegetarianism because of the siren song of a piece of fried calamari (true story). so that's when the change-your-food-lifestyle thoughts really begin swirling, coupled with the fact that my job that feeds me quite a bit of delicious-but-not-always-healthy food on a fairly regular basis.

(before i go any further, please note: i know vegetarianism is not for everyone, and i know that eating meat doesn't make someone any less of an animal lover, by any means. this is just my personal experience, and it relates to my bigger point about health, which i'll get to shortly.)

basically, long story short,  i've been contemplating going back to fish-only, and limited fish, at that, for the last couple of weeks. and then i got the stomach flu and, as we all know, that really takes it out of you. and while being sick was gross, the recovery process has allowed me to rebuild my daily diet. i've been off coffee for a week, and i actually mostly feel better for it -- less anxious, less jittery. i've also had to be really careful about the processed food i'm eating, and while i've had a couple cans of soup, i've realized that soup is something i can easily make pots and pots of and eat throughout the week. plus, it's something i love doing, so why not do it more often?

i'm also really into the idea of being gentle with yourself, so in conjunction with the food detox, i'm going to try to incorporate more yoga, pilates and walks into my routine, as well.

so, what's the end result, you ask? i'm taking a page from jane's "healthy march" plan and a page from that whole living interview and committing to the idea of healthy april, with a big emphasis on getting back to pescetarianism and foods that are as whole and real as possible. it should be an interesting -- and, ultimately, super beneficial -- process, and i'm hoping that by the end of the month i'll have developed some new habits/behaviors that will stick with me for the long haul. (and yes, i'll be completely honest: i wouldn't mind toning up and dropping a few more pounds -- but it's the breaking bad habits and building better ones that's most important to me.)

i'll check in here periodically, probably on mondays, but the theme of our monthly project on little life changes this month is, in fact, detox, so if you're interested in reading more, you can do so right here.

what's your best tip for making healthy choices? have you ever done a food detox?

photo: tartelette

Monday, April 4, 2011

the weekend + committing to... + a new project!

happy monday! how were your weekends? did you do/see/eat anything new and exciting?

my weekend was exceptionally quiet -- i got some errands done and spent some time with my friends, but i also spent a lot of time at home reading, watching movies and relaxing/recovering, just like i wanted to. i've really been enjoying staying in lately -- i mean, i accept invitations to go out, but i'm feeling more at home in my apartment lately and am liking the quiet time i spend here.

that said, i did get to spend some time on the beach yesterday morning for a friend's 30th birthday lunch party, and it was perfect -- a cloudless, blue 80-degree day with zero humidity and abundant sunshine. so yes, a quiet weekend, but a good one.

i've also got some exciting news today: my friend amie and i are collaborating on a new writing project. called little life changes, it basically revolves around ame and me posting our own variations on a theme each month (be it mental health, relationships, food, balance, etc.) and sharing our thoughts and experiences on that theme with you -- i'm thinking of it as kind of an expanded version of my "committing to..." series. ame and i have known each other since we were 15 years old; she's a great writer and an even better person, and i'm so excited to work on this with her. you can read more here, if you'd like, and we'll have more posts up later this week.

whew! a lot so far, i know, so i'll wrap up with my commitments for the week:

+ think more about my relationship with the food i'm eating. (mammoth post on this coming tomorrow.)
+ catch up on everything i got behind on last week -- both at work and around the house.
+ take a bag of clothes to goodwill.
+ smile more. (i'm a really happy person, but sometimes i feel like i look so serious when i walk down the street. going to try to lighten up a little.)
+ spend time in the sunshine.

and you? tell me yours, and i'll see you back here tomorrow!

image via

Friday, April 1, 2011

what are you doing this weekend?

happy friday, friends!

oh, am i glad it's the weekend. remember that stomach bug i mentioned last week? well, it was apparently the beginning of what was to come this week. that's right, i spent tuesday and wednesday at home, pretty much entrenched in my bed. i'm feeling better now -- i'm really hoping this is the end of whatever i've had -- but i'm glad it's the weekend so i can curl up, sleep in and ease my way back into my normal eating/doing routine. i'm going to a birthday party on the beach on sunday afternoon with friends, but other than that, it'll be relaxation/get-well central chez megan.

and you? what are your plans for the weekend? tell me, and i'll see you back here on monday! xoxo

p.s. happy april!

photo by saipua