Wednesday, February 27, 2013

In New York

When I was a teen I had great plans for my future. I had obtained a modest scholarship to a business school in NYC that would transfer my credits over to FIT so I could round out my future career in the fashion industry. I had it all figured out. I was going to live a fabulous, stylish life here in Manhattan.
Then I never ended up taking that scholarship and my life took a totally different path.

This morning I was in the design offices of the apparel retailer I work for. I wandered past racks and racks of samples, stopped to look at story boards for future lines, and ogled over mountains of fabrics.
I looked around me and thought about how different my life would have and could have been if I had only stayed the course I dreamed of.

But then I might never have backpacked throughout Ireland, bought my first house at 22 or had my beautiful blue eyed baby boy.
I wouldn't have gotten married, divorced to then finally find my soul mate.
I wouldn't have had my sweet baby girl with him and I might never have become the woman I am today.

While I felt some nostalgia and caught myself drifting off into the haze "what if's" I was reminded that everything happened as it was meant to be.
And I'm glad it did.

tonight's commute

Did your life turn out as you dreamed it would when you were young?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bright Lights, Big City

love this city

graphic headboard

wallpaper love


I'm listening to a driving rain pound against my window as sirens wail and horns honk randomly all night long.
I'm spending the week in the city that never sleeps.

While I love the thrill and pace of this beautiful place, I realize how quiet it is at home in the suburbs.
And how grateful I will be to return to it.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Light

I've always embraced winter's serenity and solitude. I love snow and have no aversion to grey skies. As far as I'm concerned, spring can come when it gets here - no rush.
Yesterday I arrived home earlier from work than usual. The sun was still perched high in the sky and as exhausted as I was from a 3am wake up call, it filled me energy and an unbelievable lightness. I took this gift of motivation and used it to get a jump start on the weekend chores. Cleaned the house, changed bed sheets and made a good size dent in the laundry pile. I settled on the couch after dinner with Charlie, wrapped together in a huge blanket. We sipped wine while I read magazines and he watched hockey.


It was incredible how making it home while it was still light out motivated me and fueled a drive that has been mostly hibernating for winter.
I realized that I'm ready for winter to pack it's bags and give way to longer days. I need the light.

Guess what?
It's Friday people....we.made.it!
Savor every moment. I know I will.



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

P.S. ~ Personal Style: Window Shopping

My job requires me to be in and out of malls and shopping centers for at least 8 hours a day.
As a result, it has mostly put me off from shopping and I walk out to my car empty handed on an almost daily basis.
Then one afternoon last week as I was on my way to lunch with a coworker I spotted a pair of boots in a store window. I kid you not, it was a clouds parting and angels singing kind of moment. I pointed them out to her and she whole heartedly agreed they were divine.
As we walked back after eating I ducked inside to try them on. Once they were on my feet, those angels sang in full chorus. And when the sales girl said "They are on sale", well, I swear the store was suddenly illuminated in heavenly light.
It was meant to be, and so it was.
orawen by aldo

Now that they are mine, I have this insatiable desire to hunt down oversized, drapey aztec print cardigans. I've been on the cusp of this obsession but now I want to fill my closet with a bevvy of them in different colors and shapes. I want to wear a uniform of aztec cardis, my new boots, a simple tshirt and skinny jeans every day. I own two already (see one here) but since it is all I can think about wearing lately, they are simply not enough.




What have your recent purchases made you crave?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Entertaining Essentials

Saturday afternoon we had just finished lugging the last of the grocery bags into the house and were starting to put everything away when the telephone rang.
It was my dad and my stepmom.
They had been shopping at the mall near our house and decided to swing by and say "Hello" before driving home to their town about 20 minutes away.
They were sitting outside of the house in their car when they called.
Of course we invited them right in and I had my daughter answer the door while I quickly ran into the bathroom with a fresh tub of Lysol wipes for a fast spruce up. Charlie was armed with the dustmop almost instantaneously and with stealthlike maneuvers he moved through the downstairs chasing rogue dustbunnies.
As they made themselves comfortable at the kitchen counter, I realized that the birthday cake I had picked up for my sister in law was sitting right out in front of them. I also realized that I had 3 bouquets of fresh cut flowers laying there waiting to be arranged.
It was obvious we were going to have company that evening and since our company was to be my brother and his family, it only made sense to ask them to stay.
They, of course, were elated at the invitation and decided to join us.
It was no big idea adding 2 more to our party of 8 - I had bought a large amount of meat for my Beef Barley Soup and picked up a good sized boule. I decided to whip up a quick garden salad as added insurance for full tummies.
Problem was, they arrived a few hours before my brother was intended to. We had some light chores we were planning on doing before company came (like clean the bathroom and dustmop the floors!) and we wouldn't be eating until after 7pm. Since I tend to be a perfectionist, my head was spinning.
Maintaining my composure, I cracked open some wine and whipped out my wooden bread boards. I sliced up a block of Monterey Jack I fortunately had on hand and put out some crackers. I arranged the flowers while chatting, got the soup cooking on the stove, and quickly set a nice, but simple table.
Dinner was delicious, the conversation and laughs fulfilling, and the drinks flowed. Dad called me Sunday afternoon to thank me for having them and to tell me what a wonderful time they had. He said, "I don't know how you do it, but I always love being in your home. It's always the most wonderful time."
I was definitely blushing on the other end of the line, but it got me thinking about how people entertain.

I've been to homes where the host and hostess never even offer you a drink in a party setting (is it a help yourself buffet? I don't see a bar... Awkward.) or have meals planned when you're a weekend guest (Gah! I'm starving over here!).
On the other hand, we've gone to dinner where the hosts put out an amazing spread, whether simple or complex, the conversation flows as freely as the wine and the next thing you know it's after midnight and your children are passed out on couches all over the house.
I think entertaining is an art. And every artist has their favorite tools.

I have a few items in my repertoire that I rely on for moments like these ~ when I want to put my best foot forward in a pinch.


A simple cloth napkin takes a table to another level even when paired with dinnerware as simple and utilitarian as the white ones from Williams Sonoma. I have had mine for close to ten years now and have gifted them to people for holidays and housewarmings. They make food look great and go with any style or color.
Pretty wine glasses make any gathering feel special without feeling "stiff" or too formal. Stemless ones are casual perfection. I already mentioned how I used one of my wooden boards to serve some cheese and crackers ~ they are used relentlessly around here!
And my best idea of them all?
Many, many years ago I purchased a set of inexpensive flatware from a big box retailer. I think I paid less than $40 for a 38 piece set. I keep it in a drawer by my table linens and use it for dinner parties every time we entertain.
It makes it a little more special than my everyday, I never have to worry that every.single.piece is clean and ready for the gathering, and they all go right into the dishwasher at the end. No fuss like sterling or silver plate.
Take that, Martha.

How do you like to entertain? Do you have certain "go-to" items you always use?

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Now

I tried really hard this past weekend to just live in the Now.
I didn't run around with a camera in my hand, I didn't Instagram any meals, or update my Facebook status.
This weekend was spent living more in the real world than cyberspace.

My sister in law and I have a sweet tradition of cooking each other birthday dinners. Since she and her sister share their birthdays and their family celebrates them together, we waited until this past Saturday to have ours.
We had snow flurries all day so it only made sense to make Beef and Barley Soup.
I have been using this recipe for years and I sometimes tweak it a bit or so here and there.
It was the perfect winter meal and I'm not sure what warmed us up more ~ the soup or the love and laughter that filled the house.

After dinner the Little's treated us to a light show.
They showed us homemade constellations on the ceiling then ended it with a dance as they twirled their lights.
It reminded me of when I was young and my parents entertained. I would gather all the rest of the kids; siblings and friends, and put on a show for the grown ups after dinner.
The apples don't fall far from the tree.

Speaking of which, my own Little Miss was stomping around the house in my brown leather riding boots all weekend lamenting that she didn't have a pair herself.
On Sunday we went to Target for a few things when lo and behold we found a little pair in her size.
This morning she came downstairs to find me and wanted to know what I was wearing to work.
After some quick thought and wardrobe scrutinizing we decided on similar stripe tees, black jeans and our boots of course.
The apple and the tree had twin day.

What kept you busy this weekend?


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

CopyCat



Hanger steak on Farro and Mushroom Risotto from Urban Table

I can't stop thinking about the meal I had at Urban Table in Morristown NJ last Tuesday night.
I could be rendered obsessed.
I keep talking about it, daydreaming about it and then waking up from my stupor with a slow drip of drool coming from the sides of my mouth.
Well... maybe not to the extent that I am salivating on myself, but I am pretty obsessed with it.
I even started thinking about recreating it.

Over the weekends we try to make at least one amazing meal.
A meal where we may drive around gathering ingredients for it all afternoon.
The butcher, the fish monger, the bakery....even the liquor store if the recipe calls for it.
Or if my wine glass is calling out for a trip to the liquor store!

I looked up a recipe for Farro Risotto, scribed my shopping list and then headed out to the butcher for some steaks. I wasn't so sure about cooking a hanger steak and landing the same flavor and tenderness that the one at Urban Table had, so I asked my butcher to cut me 4 5oz. steaks of filet mignon.
Considering that they only cost me $25.00 (I'm serious) and it's, well, filet....how could I go wrong?
I used this recipe for the risotto while Charlie prepped the steaks with a dry rub and fired up the charcoal grill out in the snow.
I omitted the butternut squash because the one at the restaurant had only mushrooms in it and substituted baby bellas for the shitakes.

sliced paper thin

sauteed to perfection

snow grilling

I should disclose that Charlie is not a big fan of risotto. Neither is my son.
I, on the other hand, consider it one of the essential food groups.
So as I twirled around the kitchen cooking and listening to French Bistro music with a wooden spoon in one hand and a glass of wine in the other, I thought about how delicious the leftover risotto would be for lunch on Monday.
Mmmmmmm......almost makes Monday seem worth it....
The steaks came off the grill and I even plated it the same. A little freshly grated parm to top it off....

Wow.
Just wow.
And guess what?
Not a single bit of risotto leftover.
Turns out that the menfolk love risotto made from the healthiest of ancient grains, but not from arborio rice.
Who would have guessed?
Certainly not me as I sat at my desk today eating a Lean Cuisine for lunch.

Man.

Have you ever tried to replicate a fantastic restaurant meal?
Was it a failure or a success?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sunday

Sunday is a tough day.
After the excitement of Friday night having finally arrived and the seemingly endless possibilities Saturday holds, Sunday rolls around and I find myself watching the clock, counting down the hours until the precious weekend has come to another end.
I try not to focus on it, but it inevitably happens and I find myself wishing that weekends were made up of 3 days instead of two.
Two is just never enough time.

After spending the morning yesterday changing sheets, doing laundry and cleaning, we headed out braving the Sunday store crowds to do our errands for the week. By the 4th stop I was tired and irritable and ready to go home. It was almost 4pm and I just wanted to throw my hands up in despair that another weekend had just bit the dust and I still hadn't even cleaned the downstairs bathroom.
Geesh.

After putting the groceries and other nonsense away, I had a revolutionary idea. I turned off my autopilot, lit a candle, poured a glass of wine and grabbed a new magazine that arrived during the week. I headed into our formal living room where the afternoon sun is simply magnificent and curled up on the couch to unwind, soak up the sunshine and RELAX.
Because often times I forget how to do that and I am no better a person for it.





Saturday, February 9, 2013

Snowy Saturday

Snowfall didn't begin until late last night and I was up before the sun this morning, quietly creeping from window to window around the house to see what Winter Storm Nemo had left for the Jersey Shore.
While nothing near what our neighbors to the north received, we definitely have a solid 6-8 inches of the powdery stuff.



I grabbed a cup of coffee and settled in to catch up on almost a week's worth of blog reading.
I soaked up the silence and solitude of those early morning hours. The only sound was the wind still howling outside and the soft hum of the laptop.

When the light finally broke through the darkness it was back to the windows to admire our winter wonderland.

There's nothing better than knowing we have no where to go and nothing pressing to do.
I'm about to unplug for the rest of the day and head outside to join Charlie in shoveling us out (hopefully he's mostly finished!) and to play with the Little Miss.

Later on I'm hoping to bake this cake, hunker down and read the new book I picked up last week, and finish the day off with some homemade lasagna. Even the fussy eater around here loves it.
I also signed the new blog up over at Bloglovin so you can follow me there.

Today is also the birthday of this very special lady:
Who I am very lucky to have not only as a sister, but also as my friend.
Happy Birthday Meg!

What are you up to this Saturday?
And if you're in the Northeast - stay safe and warm!


Friday, February 8, 2013

Working for the Weekend






I left early Tuesday morning for a few days of meetings in a sleepy little town in Northwestern NJ.
The town is chock full of amazing restaurants and bistros and I definitely ate my way through the past few days.
Hanger steak on Farro Risotto with sauteed kale at Urban Table was quite possibly the best thing to hit my taste buds in the past 6 months.
The second night we went to Roots Steakhouse where I devoured a Petite Filet Mignon and indulged in some whipped potatoes and grilled asparagus. It was divine.

There's a part of me that loves rolling my luggage out the door and heading out on these adventures. I enjoy my job. Then there's the Mama in me whose heart is heavy while she's packing and is silently counting down the hours until she can get home to her family. I'm a little Jekyl and Hyde when it comes to being a working mom.
I arrived home last night to a sweet "welcome home" note from my daughter, and a warm cozy evening with the ones I love most.
I'm grateful it's Friday, thankful that I'm working somewhat locally today, and looking forward to those two precious days we get to have together.

What are you looking forward to this weekend?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Kitchen

When we bought our home 7 years ago we knew that someday we would overhaul the kitchen. We've debated bumping out walls, opening it to our family room, opening it to the formal dining room....our ideas and the possibilities have been endless.
While we have dreamed and designed in our minds, we slowly made our way through the rest of the house and even across the property. You see, our house was a cosmetic fixer inside, and outside had absolutely zero landscaping. So we gutted and redid the kids bathroom, had the wood floors stripped and restained, added a wood floor to the family room, replaced the front steps and front walkway, landscaped the entire front and back yard, painted every single room (some twice now!), sealed the garage floor....whew! I'm tired just thinking about everything we have done in 7 years!
That's not even mentioning how we've replaced all the lighting fixtures, ceiling fans, shelving in every closet, adding crown molding ...this home has truly been a labor of love and finally looks EXACTLY like I knew it would from the moment I laid eyes on it.
Except the kitchen.
I think people are surprised we haven't done the kitchen yet, especially the way I love to cook. I've always planned on a full gut job, so why waste time and energy messing with it when it's all going away anyway?
Last year, while I was on my sabbatical from working, I decided to at least pull the horrible wallpaper border down and give it a paint job. Then my phone rang and I ended up starting a new/old job and the thought went right out the window along with most of my free time.
Fast forward exactly one year, and I really am over it now. The biggest issue is, how can we update the kitchen on a minimal budget? The footprint is good, the cabinets are solid quality, and appliances can be replaced as needed. You can say what you will about kitchen overhauls adding value to resale, but at this point in the game, that's not a gamble we are not willing to take.
So without further ado, here's what we are dealing with:


I know my kitchen was top of the line when Nirvana and Pearl Jam dominated the radio with it's Jenn-Air appliances and such. In 2013? Not so much....
Here's what I dream my kitchen will look like:

For almost 2 decades I have never waivered from my dreams of an all white kitchen with bold black accents. The problem is, would my 90's kitchen look ok repainted white? We painted the cabinets in our last home and it was a laborious nightmare. Is it worth the undertaking?
Then I saw this on Pinterest and my decision was made:


Are those my cabinets?
I have a similar horrible ceiling fixture too!
Well, I'll be.
This might just work out after all.

We are undertaking this task in March so it will be completed by Easter.
Wallpaper comes down, cabinets get painted with this promising paint I found and here are some of the other elements that I have already decided on.
I so much prefer planning those finishing touches....


I'm debating between the two light fixtures but leaning towards the one on the left. I think the dark bronze and tobacco finished stools will add that element I have long admired.
We're not replacing the countertop at this time, so I am going with a gray wall color so it picks up the tones in my existing one.
And I already found the perfect kitchen wall hanging:


So cute, right?
I'll be adding my own spin to the chalkboard, this was on display in the store.

What do you think?
Would you hold out longer for a full gut job, or play it safe with a budget friendly upgrade?


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

P.S. ~ Personal Style: A Gray Moment

I'm having a real moment with the color gray.
It's the perfect neutral for me lately. It compliments everything: navy blue, reds and oranges, even rich kelly greens look amazing with gray.
 I'm especially loving it when mixed with a delicious shade of cognac.
Whether it be my weekend uniform of gray jeans and cognac boots, in home decor or a beautifully crafted handbag (I die Celine, I do...) it is a color combo that has been turning my head for months.

While the cognac and gray is rich and serious and sends a nod to tradition, thoughts of spring are creeping in and I already sense myself drifting towards a lighter shade of coral mixed with a stately gray.
We have a modest kitchen facelift happening here in about a month (more on that tomorrow!) and I have already selected Benjamin Moore's Chelsea Gray as the wall color.
How pretty are these little kitchen accessories with my wall color?



What color combos are you loving right now?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Busy

 I sat across from Charlie in a dark and cozy restaurant booth last night celebrating with a glass of wine and a strong old fashioned the fact that we had made it through another week . We discussed my insane work and travel schedule for February and it dawned on me that if I look at my life based on the calendar of events that fill it, 2013 will be gone in an instant. The thought of it is depressing.
As the week went by, the weekend drew closer and my anticipation of those precious two days together grew, I started thinking of all the little things we had to do on Saturday. In my mind, the day was a complete loss before it had even arrived and I found myself feeling anxious and aggravated about it. Then it dawned on me that I control how this weekend goes. I can focus on all the things I need to get done and the minutes they are absorbing or I can absorb all those amazing moments that I would have missed if I let the "busy" overwhelm me.
 I turned the alarm off last night and slept in a little later than normal this morning. We lingered in bed and enjoyed our morning coffee. And I decided that the "busy" isn't going to get the best of me. I need the fuel that these beautiful moments of life provide to keep me going.

I hope you absorb all the amazing moments this weekend brings your way.
Thanks to this lovely lady for inspiring me to write this post. Her blog inspires me regularly. Check it out ~ I bet it inspires you too.


Friday, February 1, 2013

The Best Of: January

I like January.
I like the emptiness and uncluttered feeling the house has after Christmas has been tucked away for another year.
The short days, long nights and freezing temperatures are nature's way of giving you permission to stay indoors and unwind from the hectic month that December usually is.
It's a month where curling up under cozy blankets, snuggling and watching movies should become de rigueur.

This January provided those snuggles and some incredibly lazy weekends as well. It was also pretty monumental for me because after months of hemming and hawing over it, I finally made the decision to walk away from my old blog after almost 4 years of writing it and start fresh with a whole new identity amongst the interwebs.
I also decided the time had come to open a new online venture and asked my sister in law to join me. It has been very exhilirating to say the least!

But the best parts of January?
Well, that had to be:


....getting a few beautiful snowstorms....

...listening to my best girl tell me all about her day while I cook dinner each night....

...trying a new recipe that is beyond amazing...

....making sunday morning bagel runs...and catching them right as they are hot and fresh out of the oven...

...having a few 60 degree days and taking the opportunity to walk with Charlie through a nearby seaside hamlet...

... having a true "girl's night" while the boys were both out. I made her favorite dinner, we baked brownies and watched a movie.

What were the best parts of your January?