Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Shopkeep






I spent all day Sunday styling Spring table settings with these gorgeous vintage dishes I found for the shop. The more I mix and matched them with some of my own dinnerware, flatware and linens the more they started to pull on my heartstrings, making them harder to part with. I had quite the silent debate with my inner hoarder. In the end, they all went up in the shop. Even the set of red and green floral Charm House dishes which seem to be an extremely rare find. Starting to talk myself back into keeping them now....

I've been thinking a lot lately about which way to continue moving forward with the shop. I began asking myself questions like: What am I most passionate about? What am I most excited to find and bring to the shop? How can I keep a well edited collection of wares? How can I keep this merchandise from spilling over into my home and creating a mess? Truth be told, that inner hoarder of mine may rear her head every now and again but she is inevitably squashed by the very powerful streak of organizational OCD that runs through my veins. 

After all this self reflecting I had to admit that my heart is always in the kitchen. It's the center of my home and chances are it's the same way in your house too. I adore all things related to cooking and dining. From old cookbooks to vintage cookware and kitchen tools, these are the things that keep me hungry for more. One thing led to another and I redesigned my shop logo, edited the existing merchandise and began to list some newly found items for sale. I hope you'll stop by and check it out. (Link in sidebar)

There's a ton of stuff on clearance in the Sale section right now - some really great deals!
I will be updating the shop all week with new arrivals so make sure you check back.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Evolution



It all started this time last year when all I wanted to wear were oversize, draped cardigans with skinny jeans and ankle boots. I began purging the hell out of my closets reducing them down to only one. I craved less structure and more comfort and creativity. Then, after over a decade of being a blonde, I started thinking about dying my hair closer to my natural color to save on both time and money. Spending 4 hours in a chair at a salon is not my idea of how to have a day off. Not to mention the cost of base color and whole head highlights. I needed to simplify.
It's become a resounding theme in my life.
In November I finally took the plunge. My hairdresser has been doing my hair for almost 13 years now. She is very stylish and has a great eye. I trust her implicitly. When she said that there is no way she was dying my hair all the same shade of brown because it would look to heavy and overwhelming I agreed. Not only did she change the color but she changed where I part my hair and even how it is layered.
It was drastic and a full departure from my typical style but it was so, so right. It propelled me into the direction I was slowly headed anyway. Albeit taking baby steps. I've been streamlining my wardrobe even more now since I've adopted a uniform of sorts and I'm very specific about what can come back into my closet. This whole evolution  just might get me down to that 10 item wardrobe I long for!
I feel confident and more comfortable in my own skin and getting dressed has become effortless. I have long said that as I grew older I wanted to nail down a more uniform look - remember Meryl Streep in It's Complicated? I swooned over her wardrobe in that movie. Bohemian blended with a little bit of the classics. Wardrobe perfection. 

Do find that your style evolves over the years or do you stick with the same tried and true looks?


Monday, February 17, 2014

Scratch Cooking




I mentioned the other day how I cheated on making the Dark Chocolate Pudding With Pretzels from Bon Appetit magazine. Then I told you it was another whole story in itself. It is.
As I navigated my way through the grocery store gathering the ingredients for this recipe it dawned on me that the 12 ounces of bittersweet chocolate I needed (I was doubling it) was going to cost me $10.00 alone. Never mind the 8 egg yolks, 2 cups of heavy cream, 4 cups of milk....you see where I am going with this don't you? As the cost of all of these different components added up in my head, I reached into the shopping cart, lifted up the 3 bars of Ghirardelli chocolate, looked at my husband and asked, 
"Am I stupid to be making this from scratch when I can just buy a few boxes of Jello pudding? This chocolate alone is like $10."
He looked at me as is I had just asked him a question like, "Have we gotten a lot of snow this year?" because he gave me a look that said, "are you stupid? Of course!"
Fast forward a few aisles where I stood looking at the empty spot where DeCecco orrechiette should be. Damn. How could this be the only kind they are out of? Since it is hard for me to get something out of my mind once I have my heart set on it, I sent a clerk to the back to see if they had more. (which they did not and I was extremely disappointed) As I stood there waiting, my eyes wandered over to the opposite side of the aisle where the boxes of fake potatoes sit. 
I noticed that a box of faux au gratin potatoes was only $1. I've attempted to make them from scratch on a few occasions and have not always succeeded. I stared at that $1 box for a few seconds contemplating picking it up because it was so cheap. Then the voice of reason in my head reminded me that they are full of additives and unnatural things that I prefer not to feed my family so I turned away. Besides, already in the bottom of my cart was a bag of fresh sweet potatoes, baking potatoes and a pound or two of baby potatoes. We were clearly covered in the underground vegetable/starch arena.
Now, don't worry ~ I'm not standing on a soapbox preparing to preach to you about buying processed foods. In fact, I am sitting down quite comfortably in my office chair silently debating if I should make my family Aunt Jemima pancakes this morning. You know, the kind you just add water to the mix and voila! Your family thinks you turned into Martha Stewart overnight.
We eat processed foods. Not a lot of them, but our pantry does contain what I like to call "dinners-in-a-box". My kids love our grocery store brand macaroni and cheese and can make it themselves so I always have a box or two on hand. My husband is constantly reaching into the cookie jar and with my work schedule, the only way I can keep it filled is to buy ones that were baked in a factory 
somewhere. While I dream of living solely on homegrown or fresh, local foods, the reality is that some things I buy are processed. My kids wish I didn't make dinner at home every night and I quite often hear them whine that "there is never anything good to eat in this house!" because my pantry is filled with components for meals instead of instant gratification.
 My point here is this: I think it is a sin that it is cheaper to eat like crap than it is to eat healthfully. I realize that statement can create a lot of different conversations and go down a few different roads, but the reality is that for most suburban families, it is more budget friendly and easy to buy that $1 box of au gratin potatoes than it is to buy a pound of fresh potatoes for double the price. Then add the cost of all the other ingredients to make those potatoes into something special. When you look at it that way, scratch cooking is cost prohibitive. 
But why?
I realize that growing food takes a ton of time and tlc. And money. We are expanding our gardens this year and invested in a heating lamp, heating pad, seeds and seed trays to get a jump on our crops. My husband just ordered a composter so we can cut down on waste and fuel the growth of the garden. These things cost money. I get it. I don't expect tomatoes to cost me only a few cents at the grocery store, but knowing that they cannot currently grow here and are flown in from another country makes me a bit queasy. Of course, if we didn't import/export stuff there would be a hell of a lot of jobs gone and worse economic issues than we currently face. 
Geez.
We've made a real mess of things, haven't we?
So, never mind the conspiracy theories and debates on government control. Or being caught in a hamster wheel of destroying our planet and our bodies. I still can't get over the fact that you can eat like crap for pennies. I guess that's where the term "eat like a king" came from.
Maybe I won't make those pancakes after all.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dinner Party





Last night we had some family over to celebrate my sister in law's birthday. We are not a family that exchanges gifts, but somehow the simple act of cooking each other dinner in honor of the day you were born means so much more than a trinket or token ever could.
As each year passes I find myself becoming less and less fussy. Tablecloths feel too stuffy nowadays so I stopped worrying about my table getting scratched and just use a charger under the dinner plate. A few thrifted French mustard crocks and an old Ball jar made perfect vessels for the Valentine's flowers my husband gave me. I've also found that mix match dishes from Target or the thrift store are much more fun than fancy china anyway.
The same thought process now applies to the meal I am making. I no longer want to stand in the kitchen sauteing, frying or doing any major cooking whatsoever.  Give me a cohesive menu with simple, hearty fare. I can't imagine many of you would disagree. Since we were expecting a few more inches of snow yesterday, Ina Garten's Weeknight Bolognese seemed like the perfect entree. I have spent hours making other bolognese recipes and let me tell you, this one is just as good as any other. Possibly better. Plus, all I had to do once everyone was here was boil the pasta. This recipe is in Ina's How Easy Is That? book and all I can say is, "It was damn easy and super delicious. Now, will you and Jeffrey adopt me please????"
While I will always have undying love for Ina, there's another player in the forefront of my kitchen idolatry. I don't know if any of you have noticed, but Bon Appetit magazine is just rocking the world lately. They make Food & Wine seem old, antiquated and full of complex recipes I would never try. I find myself tearing page after page out of every issue. I stick them on the side of my fridge like a sports line up ~ each one eagerly waiting their turn to play in the kitchen. When they published their Roasted Pepper Panzanella salad in the September issue I was dumbfounded. They took my favorite summer salad and made a winter version?!?!
Game changer. 
Since I like change and am always switching up the way I go about things, I wasn't feeling birthday cake. Or pie. Or even ice cream cake. (Probably because this winter has felt like we live in Antarctica). I turned to my trusty recipe line up and found the quarterback of simple but satisfying desserts. From Bon Appetit, of course. Dark Chocolate Pudding With Pretzels. And whipped cream. I totally cheated on preparing this dessert, but that in itself is a totally different post because it will lead us down a road of different conversation. In the meanwhile, you can find their recipe in the January 2014 issue of the magazine. 
Wrapping up such a great meal with salt and chocolate?
Winning.
Now excuse me while I pat myself on the back a little.... just kidding. Maybe not.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Life Lately




I take off today for a full week of travel. While my mama heart always aches when I am away from my little family for more than a night, I am riding on the bliss of a wonderful 3 day weekend and hoping it carries me through to until Thursday night when I return.
Friday night we headed into Manhattan to see Lord Huron at Terminal 5. What a show! Saturday we went on a thrift excursion quite a few towns south and took the long way back home. Sunday offered another thrift stop and some slices for the little lady and I. We also planted our first round of seeds for this year's garden adventure. Eggplant, onions, tomatoes, broccoli, and a bevvy of peppers have me dreaming of spring. Too bad we had another couple inches of snow last night.
Here are a few things that have caught my attention recently and I just had to share:

I CANNOT stop listening to this song and I can't find it to download! I am addicted to Blue Grass lately.
This lovely lady shared this moisturizing tip and I am officially a convert. My skin tends to be very dry and it is just what the doctor ordered.
I picked up this book. A teenage punk rock chick named Eleanor? Is this book about me?
I thought this was the reason I have been suffering from heartburn but it hardly seems possible. Then I found this discussion. Crazy. Thank goodness for the internet!

Have a great week friends!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Tiny House

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Lately I spend my time dreaming of cabins in the middle of nowhere and tiny houses nestled in the most bucolic of settings. With my recent ramblings about my desire to visit the Smoky Mountains and be in Tennessee, it probably comes as no surprise. I have started thinking about what life could be like if we maintained minimal overhead ~ and yes, I mean in more than just finances! I contemplate things like having a well vs cistern and do these newer composting toilets really not smell so bad?
While decisions like that are not in my immediate future, it would be easy to move into such tight quarters as a second home or weekend getaway. Our little family is so tight knit that we could do that in a snap.
But what about living like that on a full time basis? We would have to get rid of 90% of our things. What would we be able to part with and what would pull on our heart strings and be hard to walk away from?
I could pare down my dinnerware collection and some of my kitchen tools. I could very easily pick only my favorite clothing items and get rid of the rest. I could sell the furniture and most of the tchotchkes that fill our house. But I could never live without books. I could function with a library close enough to visit every few weeks and I could scale down my immense collection a bit, but there would have to be ample book storage somehow squeezed in.
I think of a quote from the song I Need Fun In My Life by The Drums.
"The less you own the more freedom you have."
The truth in that thought is still not enough to make me imagine living without (most of) my book collection.

If forced to reduce your belongings, what would you struggle to part with?


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Mornings Like These



There is nothing like the weekend mornings. The rush and chaos of getting everyone out the door to school and work is replaced with a much welcomed slowness ~ from the time we rise until we turn in, we can breathe a bit differently than we do during those hectic weekdays.
Saturday morning I was up long before the sun and decided to make a loaf of pumpkin bread to have for breakfast. Last weekend I posted a picture of a slice I made from a copycat recipe online  of Starbucks pumpkin bread. Someone on Instagram requested that I share it. So here you go:
note: I did not sift the dry ingredients but I would recommend you do, because my cake was not as light as I would have liked. So much for laziness. Also, I use applesauce in place of the vegetable oil for health reasons. I also find it adds moisture to my baked goods and does not forsake flavor. I used an entire single serve cup in place of the 1/2 cup of oil. We did not have cardamom so I omitted.

Copycat Starbucks Pumpkin Bread

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift together dry ingredients
Mix eggs, oil, and vanilla. Pour over dry ingredients and stir out the lumps. Do not overmix!
Bake until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean (about an hour).