Friday Favorites: Healthy Snacks!

I’m not too much of a snacker, in general, but I do struggle with the hangry when my blood sugar dips.  Due to that, I’m always looking for healthy snacks that get me to the next meal, raise my blood sugar, and turn me back into something that resembles an agreeable human being.  So, here are my favorite healthy snacks!


1.  Popcorn

jar-topObviously, I’m not talking about the loaded down with butter and salt popcorn (though that is quite tasty).   Unflavored popcorn (though bland) is actually quite a healthy snack!   If you walk down the snack aisle at the grocery, there are an overwhelming number of boxed, microwaveable popcorn options on the shelves.  Avoid them!  It’s much cheaper (and healthier) to just buy the kernels and pop your own.  All you need is a microwave safe bowl, a microwave safe plate, and popcorn kernels.  Put 1/4 cup of kernels in the bowl, cover with the plate, and microwave until you hear the popping kernels slow down to about 2-3 seconds between pops.  Voila!  Popcorn, minus the waste of the bag.  Because I enjoy flavor on my popcorn, I usually add some spices to my already popped popcorn.  Cumin is really nice (use sparingly), as is garlic powder and kosher salt.  If I’m feeling extra lazy, I’ll just lightly salt the popcorn and dig in!  The best part about it is you can totally doctor it up to your taste!  Just remember, the more butter and fats you add, the less healthy it becomes.

2.  Hummus

460px-Hummus_from_The_NileHummus is everything that I love in a snack.  It’s creamy, healthy, tasty…I could go on and on.  Plus, it’s another snack where you can completely tailor it to your individual tastes.  I really like to pair hummus with carrot sticks for a veggie, but it’s also really good with pretzel crisps or a pita (for some extra calories, the pita is amazing).  You can buy a lot of different types at the grocery nowadays (ten years ago you’d have to go to a specialty store), but it’s also incredibly easy to make on your own.  I go both ways…if I’m feeling lazy I’ll buy some, and if I’m feeling more culinary with some extra time, I’ll whip up a batch of homemade.  I enjoy both, and don’t feel guilty about taking some shortcuts.  Just be sure to look at the label to make sure it doesn’t have a ton of “extra” stuff that you really don’t need (if you can’t pronounce it, you probably don’t need it).  One of my favorite recipes (brace yourself, it calls for peeling the chickpeas…and it really does make all the difference) is from Smitten Kitchen.  And please, for the love of all that’s good and holy, don’t skimp on the olive oil!


3.  Energy Bites

6907215929_29ed2b0329_zI’m sure many of you have heard of the Lara Bar craze.  I get it…they’re chewy, unprocessed (for the most part), and delicious.  They’re also expensive as crap!  Plus, I don’t usually want an entire bar, so then I’m left with half a bar that dries out and is pretty gross when I want some more (usually the next day).  Which is why energy bites is a much better alternative for me.  If you get on Pinterest, you can find plenty of recipes on how to make them, but most of them have the same method.  A grain (usually oats), some seeds, some nuts, a sweetener (I prefer honey), dried fruit, maybe some chocolate, and a binder (either a nut butter, or a sticky fruit).  Gimme Some Oven has a great recipe for Cranberry Pistachio Energy Bites, and it’s my favorite (I’m a sucker for pistachios).  It takes a little longer than the 15 minute prep time, but the results are totally worth it!  I like to make these before J and I go on a hike, because they’re great on the go, and are easily transportable.  Plus, these are fantastic for road trips, because they’re not messy and you can pre-pack them and pull them out as needed.


4.  Fruit

fruit-bowlThis one almost seems too easy.  But, raw fruit is a great healthy snack, and is easy to grab when you’re pressed for time.  For many fruits, the peel holds a lot of the fiber, which helps you feel full longer (obviously, this is only true for fruits that have edible peels), so don’t peel them if you don’t mind the taste.  When I’m at work, I like fruits that are easy to eat and not incredibly messy, so berries or grapes are usually my go-to.  However, when I’m at home, I prefer messier fruits, like plums and oranges.  My favorite fruits, overall, are blackberries and raspberries.  They’re tart and juicy, and easy to eat.  Plus, the more color to the fruit, the more nutritional value!  Another great way to eat fruit, especially in the summer, is to spread out whole pieces of fruit (berries, melon balls, and grapes work best for this) in a single layer, on a baking sheet. Then, place in the freezer and let the fruit freeze.  This really offers a sweet, cool treat during the hot summer months!


5.  Avocado

72468dd777e471da_cottage-cheese-avocadoI absolutely love avocado, and it’s one of my favorite “snacks,” when I have the time.  I don’t usually keep avocado in the house, so it’s more of a treat when I remember to pick one or two up at the grocery.  One of my favorite snacks with avocado (I have several) is avocado with cottage cheese.  The creamy avocado with the cold cottage cheese…it’s awesome!  Plus, cottage cheese (especially european style) has a more dry texture, so I really like how it tastes with the avocado.  If you feel like adding some more flavor, without a ton of extra calories, a light drizzle of balsamic vinegar or balsamic reduction would be really tasty on this as well!  When looking for avocados, I’ve found the best way to see if they’re ripe is to peel off the little nub where the stem would be.  If it’s green in there, it’s not too old.  Also, a gentle squeeze to see if it’s hard as a brick is a good trick too.


There you have it, my favorites in healthy snacking!  What are some of your favorites?  Feel free to let me know in the comments, as I’m always looking for new ideas!

Much love,

Friday Favorites: Wedding Trends

This past month has been a whirlwind of weddings.  Over the past 10 months, I’ve witnessed four friends (four couples) get married, and of that four, three were in the past month!  Which, of course, made me think about my wedding and how I really enjoyed planning the entire thing.  For a brief while, I even considered starting my own business as a wedding planner!  It’s still a dream of mine, but one that probably won’t come to fruition for another 5-10 years.  So, with that, I thought I’d do a Friday Favorites post on my favorite wedding trends!

1. Earthy, Neutral Wedding Color Palettes

gold_cream_white_color_paleI am in love with the latest trend of incorporating earthy, neutral tones into the wedding color scheme.  Creams and greens, paired with taupe and light browns are the sweet and simple colors that dreams are made of.  Earthy inspirations also add a touch of whimsy to the day, by bringing a bit of the outdoors indoors.  Hints of gold or copper can go even further to create a night-time elegance that is perfect for any style wedding, no matter how casual or opulent you want your day to be.  These colors can’t help but suggest understated elegance, plus they’re going to be a classic color pairing that won’t leave you cringing when you look back at your wedding photos 20 years from now.


2.  Family Style Reception Dinner Service

family style diningThere’s nothing that inspires the feeling of love and closeness like family style dining.  Brides and grooms are now choosing to forgo the traditional plated service in favor of serving food “family style” at the tables.  This style allows for large plates of food to be served at the table, and individual guests serve themselves, never requiring anyone to leave.  This style really encourages guests to get to know one another, especially if you have some out-of-town guests that aren’t familiar with everyone sitting next to them.  Combine this with long tables that seat several (instead of smaller tables seating 6-8) and you’ve recreated the dining set-up from your favorite old-world restaurant!


3.  Typography Invitations

invitesNew trends in wedding invitations are all about reminding the readers what is most important, the actual words!  Typography is the art of arranging type in the most appealing way possible, and invitations are a perfect place to use this style.  What’s more important than the “Who, What, Where, and When” of the wedding?  Making sure that the message gets through to your guests is key, and what better way that letting the message really shine than with typography.  For added elegance, using letterpress and luxurious paper to make your invites is a trick that will really give your guests something to remember!


4.  Textured Cakes

wedding cakeI enjoy fondant as much as the next person, but I can honestly say that nothing gets my tummy rumbling like ultra rich buttercream frosting.  Before, brides shied away from buttercream because it wasn’t as sleek and smooth as fondant, but now that textured wedding cakes are making a comeback, buttercream can reclaim the throne.  Another trend that textured buttercream really lends itself well to is the ombre effect that is so gorgeous.  While it’s true that wedding cakes aren’t around for long, many brides find it more economical to have a small tier or two to show for the cake cutting, and then have sheet cakes in the back that can be cut to serve guests.  Bottom line, as long as it tastes amazing, people won’t care if it’s from the cake at the front of the room or from the cake at the back.


5.  Making it Personal, a Timeless Trend

welliesThis is a trend that really shouldn’t be a trend at all.  Above all, a wedding should be a reflection of the bridge and groom, and their life and love together.  Weddings are for the happy couple to share their excitement and new beginnings with their closest loved ones, and is a time for celebration and well wishing.  Focus on those aspects that really mean the most to you and your significant other, and let those bits shine throughout the ceremony and reception.  One of my favorite weddings (as a guest) was one where the wedding and reception just looked like the bride and groom.  It was set in Seattle, a location very dear to the bride (and also became a favorite destination for the groom), and incorporated their love of tartan plaids and Wellies (her Welsh heritage) and Slivovitz – a clear liquor (his Slovenian heritage).  Their wedding was understated and simple, and it really focused on their love of each other and the simple things in life, which exemplifies their everyday personalities.  Those weddings are the type that really stick with the guests, the weddings where the focus is on the love of the couple, rather than on the material “things” used during the day.  That is a wedding “Trend” that really shouldn’t be a trend at all, but is one I’d consider of utmost importance, so I had to include it.

And there you have it, my favorite wedding trends!  Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it, and please feel free to add a few favorite of your own in the comments!

Much love,

Friday Favorites: Comfort

Every so often, I find myself in need of comfort.  Maybe something major happened, or maybe it’s just a bad day.  Maybe there’s nothing wrong at all, but I just feel the need for something that comforts me and feels safe.  Either way, we all have those moments, and here are my “Favorites” for various items I look to for comfort.  Hopefully some of these will spark something for you all, or maybe you have some of your own you’d like to share!

1.  Comfort Food.

IG1009_Grown_Up_Mac_and_Cheese_jpg_rend_sni12col_landscapeI have so many different foods that I think of as comfort foods.  But, of all of them, my favorite is macaroni and cheese.  Carbs + cheese = match made in heaven (unless you’re a lactose intolerant celiac’s disease sufferer.  In that case, I imagine it’s closer to hell).  I don’t really discriminate against kinds of macaroni and cheese…my favorite is one I haven’t had to make myself.  Annie’s Organics has a great box mix one, but homemade is better nearly every time.  One of my favorite recipes is from Ina Garten’s Grown Up Mac and Cheese.  It’s creamy and full of flavor, and really easy to make.  It’s great for cold evenings when all you want to do is curl up on the couch and watch a movie!

2.  Comfort Clothes.

tunic sweaterI love sweaters.  In fact, I wait for fall and winter each year, just so I get the opportunity to drag out my box of sweaters.  There’s something so warm and snuggly about them.  I recently bought a new tunic sweater, and I am in love!  It’s soft and warm, and perfect for lying around the house or running errands.  I pair it with warm leggings and some boots, and I’m good to go.  Plus, the color goes with darn near anything, so it’s a great “Grab and Go” option for if you’re headed out and won’t know whether you’ll need an extra layer to stay warm.  I picked it up from The LOFT, which is one of my favorite places to shop, and I am considering getting another one because I love it so much!

3.  Comfort Smells.

hot-spiced-ciderAhh…it’s amazing how a certain smell can bring back so many memories (both good and bad).  There’s been studies done that show smells being one of the biggest links to memories for people, and that is definitely true for me.  I have a very small sense of smell, due to way too many sinus issues as a child.  My mother can’t smell at all, so I’m happy to have what small sense of smell I do have, even if it’s limited and faulty at times.  One of my favorite smells that brings such comfort to me is hot apple cider.  It reminds me of fall back home, pumpkin patches and apple orchards, and freshly baked cinnamon sugar donuts.  The only downside is that it’s hard to find if it’s not fall, so it’s not really something I can get a whole lot outside the fall months.  Sometimes you can find a few small jugs at the grocery store, but it’s rare.  However, I keep the mulling spices in a jar at home (I make my own) that I can use to put in black tea, and that is a good substitute in a pinch.  Here are 15 Cider Recipes (I’ve only used two, but they were good) from Martha Stewart.  I have a plan to try a few more now that fall is upon us!

4.  Comfort Movies.

Daffy_Duck's_Fantastic_Island_PosterThis was an easy one, primarily because I have one (exactly one) comfort movie.  When I am sick, there is a movie that I will watch, regardless of what is wrong with me.  Daffy Duck’s Fantastic Island movie has been a favorite of mine ever since childhood.  Whenever I was sick and at home from school, my mom would stuff me in bed and put that movie on to watch.  9 times out of 10, I’d fall asleep before the movie was half over, but since sleep is best for a sick body, it was a win/win.  It’s funny  how, even now that I’m in my 30s, it’s still a go-to for me whenever I don’t feel well.  J has even joined me a few times to watch it, and agrees that it’s a great cartoon (and agreement is agreement, regardless of coercion), so I think this one is a winner.  In fact, when J realized how much I loved this movie, he took my beat up VHS tape that was falling apart (and really, who uses VHS anymore) and had a DVD made of it, so that I’d have it longer.  Now, if that isn’t true love, I don’t know what is!

5.  Comfort Places.

libraryThis one has two answers, both equally important to me.  I think that everyone has a spot that always brings about comfort.  For some, it’s the beach, others it’s the mountains.  One of mine, thankfully, is a place I can find just about anywhere I am.  Whenever I’m down, or just needing a feeling of home, I find a library.  There’s something about the smell of aged paper, combined with the quiet peacefulness of the stacks of books that puts me instantly at ease.  I’ve worked in a few different libraries, and would love to move back into librarianship, and they were always my most favorite jobs.  I enjoyed being surrounded by so much knowledge, and the feeling of having the answer to just about anything at my fingertips was incredible.  Even when I was overwhelmed with school work or life, stopping in to a library, just to find a corner to myself, brought back an amazing amount of perspective for me.

cathedralAnother comfort place for me is church.  Much like libraries, the quiet calmness of churches help bring about peace and tranquility for me.  J and I were in DC a few months back, and we had been racing around trying to see different things, and we took a moment to pop into a cathedral there.  I took a minute to step into a prayer room, and it was as though all my worries melted away.  God has such a calming presence in my life, that just stepping foot into a church is usually enough to release the tension.  I’m so thankful for that, especially when I think about how stressed I get in my job, and how I’m usually always close to a church of some sort, that I can walk into and gather my thoughts.


There are my favorites in the way of finding comfort.  I hope you enjoyed them, and that this post inspires you to go out and seek comfort for yourself.  Also, if you have some truly favorite comforts, feel free to share, as I’d love to hear them!

Much love,

Friday Favorites: Make-Up

When it comes to make-up, I am a minimalist. In my  mind, less is definitely more, and if I can get away with nothing at all, I’ll do it. But for those times when I’d like to add a little oomph to my outfit, I’ll whip out my make-up bag and slap on my war paint! Some of my favorite make-up tutorials are by the Pixiwoo sisters on YouTube, so if you’re interested in learning make-up techniques, I would definitely recommend them. They do a lot of high fashion tutorials, as well as plenty of your everyday type lessons, so there’s something for everyone.

Because I am fairly low maintenance on make-up, my favorites are very much the basics. For some of you, this will seem ridiculous at how minimal it is. My friend, R, is a make-up goddess and she would shake her head at this if she were sitting next to me. Oh well…this is my Powerpoint, kids…so hang on.

1.  Tarte BB Tinted Primer

BB CreamI love this stuff. It feels like powder after it’s applied, and just has an overall silky feel to it. One of my favorite things about Tarte is the fact that their entire line is cruelty free. It’s harder to find cruelty free make-up out there, but it’s very important to me, and Tarte is my favorite brand of it. The tinted primer comes in five shades, and I have one each of the two lightest. The lightest is for my everyday shade, and the slightly darker one is for summer, when no matter what I do I’ll still wind up with a slight tan on my face. But, because they’re tinted primers, there doesn’t need to be that many options because most of it will blend in with your natural skin tone. I don’t wear foundation, but I do occasionally want minimal coverage, so this is my go-to option for that.

2.  Tarte Amazonian Clay Blush

Tarte Amazonian Clay Blush in ExposedI wasn’t joking when I said I love Tarte make-up. Their blush is just as awesome as their tinted primer. I have Exposed, which is a nude pink shade. It gives a hint of color without looking ridiculous (as most blushes do when you’re this pale). This is a must have in my tiny make-up bag, and I have used it when both tan and not, so it goes well with my skin regardless of how “sun-kissed” it is. Tarte cosmetics are a bit on the pricey side, but since I absolutely love the way they feel, I splurge. It’s one of the few make-up brands that down break me out, so it’s worth every penny!

3.  Urban Decay’s Naked Palette

Naked UDThere’s a reason why there’s so much hype about this eyeshadow palette. It’s because it really is that good! I can do any look I’d ever need with that palette, and had I bought it first, I never would have spent another penny on eyeshadow. The colors in the Naked palette (the original) are fairly pinky, so if you’re not a fan of pinks and browns, this might not be for you. There aren’t any purples, which surprised me a bit, because all these colors are fairly warm, but even though I’m a big purple color fan (it looks good with hazel eyes), I don’t even miss it in this set. Also, the original Naked came with a trial size of the Urban Decay eye primer, which is another fantastic product. It’s a win/win!

4.  Pixi Large Lash Mascara

pixi mascaraPixi by Petra is another cruelty free brand that I really like. I’ve admittedly only tried their mascara, but mascara is usually one of my biggest issues in make-up, and I’ve never had any problems with Pixi. The wand is quite fat, and doesn’t cause clumping. On top of that, it’s one of the rare mascaras where it’s easy to find a brown/black color, instead of the harsh black that most mascaras come in. You can find this brand at Target (which is where I get it) and while it’s a bit expensive for a brand you can find at Target, because it’s so easy to apply and never clumps, I think it’s well worth the extra money. I’ve had several tubes over the past two to three years, and each one is as good as the last. I’ve had no reason to find a new brand, so that’s good enough for me!

5.  Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm

burts-bees-tinted-lip-balmMy last go-to make-up product is one step up from chapstick.  It’s Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm. I love the feeling of the lip balm; it’s not sticky like gloss, and doesn’t have that thick feeling like lipstick. It feels exactly like my favorite chapstick, while giving my lips just a hint of color. I already have fairly red lips to begin with (though they’ve gotten paler as I’ve gotten older), so I don’t need a ton of color. I have the Red Dahlia color, which is a perfect reddish pink color that looks great with my natural lip color.  To top it off, it’s incredibly moisturizing, so even after it wears away my lips are left feeling very smooth and soft.


So, you’ve now seen what’s in my make-up bag, but what about you?  What are your favorite cosmetic products that you can’t live without?  I’d love to hear about them!

Much love,


Friday Favorites: Date Night Activities

When J and I first started dating, we spent quite a lot of time meeting up for dates and just hanging out.  We hadn’t been dating long when I moved back to my parents’ place for the summer, in order to intern for a judge, after my first year of law school.  During that time, we initiated “date night,” where we’d meet up after work during the week, go on a date, and then go home.  It was a great way to see each other during the work week (when we lived 2 hours apart), while still preventing the relationship from moving too far, too fast.  So, here are some of my favorite “date night” activities, which we still incorporate into our relationship today!

1.  Picnics

Picnic-DateDuring our summer date nights, many times J and I would meet up in the city, pick up take-out from a local restaurant, and then drive to the nearest state park for a picnic.  We’d have dinner in the grass and then walk around and talk, just getting to know each other more and talking about anything and everything.  I really fell in love with J during these dates.  We were only a few months into our relationship when we instituted “date night” over the summer, and those evenings of just sitting and talking brought about a closeness that we probably wouldn’t have developed as quickly, any other way.  Even now, when it’s nice outside, we’ll often pack a picnic and go find a quiet spot to sit and relax, and talk about life.

2.  Duckpin Bowling

HR-UICoverPhotos6I’m the world’s worst bowler.  Seriously.  It was several years before I ever broke a triple digit score in bowling, and even now, J will give me a hard time about my less than fabulous bowling skills.  Regardless, I love it!  It’s fun, it’s active, and it always gets me laughing.  J and I decided to give duckpin bowling a try during one of our early dates, and I have to say that I like it much better than regular bowling.  The bowling balls are smaller, as are the pins, and it’s just so delightfully old-fashioned!  There’s a really neat duckpin bowling place in downtown where we go, that has a lot of really unique restaurants nearby.  It’s a perfect evening and great for a date!

3.  Cooking Classes

couples-cookingJ and I never did this as a date prior to marriage, but we have gone to cooking classes as married couples, and I have to say they’re a great time!  If you and your partner enjoy cooking (or hell…even enjoy eating), then this could be a great date night!  J and I have taken cooking classes in both Hungary and Morocco, and we love the opportunity to learn a new cooking technique, spend time together, and share a great meal that we made together.  Of course, even if you don’t have any local cooking classes you can do for a date night, there’s nothing stopping you from just cooking a meal together in your kitchen.  Sharing space and working together are great ways to improve your relationship, and you can reap the rewards of a fantastic meal afterwards (bonus points for including a good bottle of wine).  And the best thing of all, there are plenty of beginner recipes on the internet that walks you through new recipes and techniques, so just find one that looks good, grab your partner, and get cooking!

4.  Rock Climbing

rock climbingNow, this one isn’t for the faint of heart.  But, if you really like being active, and like to incorporate teamwork into your date nights, then rock climbing is a great way to do it.  Rock climbing is fun, even as a beginner, and it really brings out a sense of adventure.  As a plus, it also really works on trust between couples (because being suspended 40 feet above the ground while your partner holds on to the rope definitely requires trust) and can help bring you closer to your partner.  J and I really enjoy indoor rock climbing, because you can even go in the winter and not freeze your tail off, and it’s a fantastic workout that is fun while being challenging.  If you and your partner are the adventurous and thrill-seeking type, then this date night activity is definitely for you!

5.  Movie Night

movie nightWhat better way to spend an evening together than curled up together (at the movie theatre or at home on the couch) watching a movie with a bowl of popcorn.  Those tentative touches as your hands glance off each other while reaching for the popcorn kernels.  THIS is what date nights are made of, people!  If you want to go one better, pick a scary movie so that you can spend the evening clinging to your man (or, equal opportunity, clinging to your woman) as the suspenseful music creeps you out.  There’s a reason why the most clichéd options are sometimes the best, because they’re the tried and true methods of dating.  So go out there, fight over which movie is one you’re willing to sit through, and hunker down on the couch with your loved one.  If you’re lucky, you might even be able to steal a few kisses and miss the movie entirely!

What are some of your favorite date night activities?  Any that I’ve missed that should make the top 5 list?

Much love,

Friday Favorites: Blogs

I get a lot of inspiration from various blogs out there, and love to be able to share some of my favorites with you all!  I always look for inspiration for tons of different things:  new recipes, home décor, crochet patterns, sewing ideas, and more recently, recipes for canning!  I hit up a lot of various blogs, but of course I do have my favorites, and here they are (in no particular order).


Favorite for Everyday Recipes: Smitten Kitchen

SMKSmitten Kitchen has some of the best recipes out there!  I adore her fresh take on foods, and so many of her recipes are easy to follow and don’t have a million odd ingredients that you’ll only use once.  Plus, her recipes are categorized in several ways: by ingredient, by season, by dish, by cuisine type…basically, any way you normally look for recipes, you can find them on her site.  I really encourage all of you who love to cook to go check out her page, you won’t be disappointed!


Favorite for Home Décor and Renovation Ideas:  Young House Love

younghouseloveThis husband-wife duo have some of the best ideas out there for home décor and all things DIY!  I’ve found so many cute things on this blog to incorporate into our home (or at least cute things that spark my own inspiration), and refer to their blog quite a bit for ways to fix and update things in the house.  Plus, these two are incredibly funny and entertaining, which makes reading their blog a breeze!


Favorite for Crochet, Knit, and Craft Patters: Whistle and Ivy

boat slippersThis blog is relatively new to me, but I have really enjoyed reading Bethany’s posts and looking through her various crafts.  She has quite a few crochet patterns available, some for purchase through her Etsy shop, and some for free.  I haven’t had an opportunity to make any of them yet (sadly), but they are currently topping my project list for once I finish my mom’s afghan for Christmas.   I’m currently coveting her pattern for Women’s Boat slippers (FREE!!), so that’s my first project on the list.  I’ll try to do a post on it once I finish them up!  I’m thinking, if they’re super quick and easy, I might be able to make some for Christmas presents to give to friends and family.  Who knows, I might even be able to con J into wearing a pair!


Favorite for Sewing: V and Co.

shag pillowVanessa Christenson’s blog on sewing is my absolute favorite.  I’ve used her fabric line a few different times on simple projects, and every time I think about starting another sewing project, I immediately head over to her blog.  Her fabrics are absolutely gorgeous, and she is always making new quilt patterns for her blog.  In addition to her quilts (which are gorgeous), she usually has more beginner projects interspersed within her posts, and I’ve been tempted to make a few of them.  They’re very easy to read and understand, and I imagine they’d be a breeze to make.  Her shag pillow is going to be my next sewing project once I get a moment to work on it!  I’m thinking, if they’re super quick and easy, they’ll be nice little Christmas presents for friends and family.  I might even be able to con J into wearing a pair.

Favorite for Canning:  Food in Jars

foodinjarsI will admit, I’m new to the canning world.  In fact, I’m so new, I’m still waiting for my pressure canner to show up from Amazon so that I can put it to good use.  Growing up, my aunt would can, and my best friend’s mom canned, but my mom was having none of it.  She would garden and cook, and could bake cakes that would make you cry tears of joy, but she had no time for canning.  Nope, no time.  “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”  So, I am a newbie when it comes to this canning craze.  J and I have done our best to make a commitment to clean eating (though who can resist a McDonald’s cheeseburger every now and then) and we’d really like to eat as seasonally as possible.  So, when I suggested we try our hand at canning, he thought it would be a great idea (though probably won’t help much, go figure), and off I went.  I came across this blog and it has a great wealth of information on how to can, ways to can, and a ton of recipes to try!  I think my first recipe is going to be her Tiny Batch Black Raspberry Jam, just to get my hands wet!  So excited!


So, there you go, my Friday Favorites, blogging style!  I hope you enjoyed my favorites, and feel free to leave some of your own, as I’m always looking for new blogs to explore and enjoy!


Much love,

Friday Favorites: Vegetables

Early last year, I decided to give a vegetarian diet a try.  I’ve always struggled with the moral issues around eating meat, and felt that moving away from an animal based diet, to one of a plant-based diet, would be best for me.  I was a vegetarian for over a year, and then slowly started introducing meat back into my diet.  I still rarely eat meat, and plan to continue a primarily vegetable based diet, but every now and then I do enjoy a meat dish.  I still feel bad about eating animals, so I try really hard to make sure that the meat that I do eat is sustainably and ethically sourced.  However, since becoming a vegetarian, I have found a new appreciation for vegetables, so I thought I’d do a Friday Favorites post on my favorite vegetables!

1.  Brussel Sprouts

brussel sproutsI know what most of you are thinking about brussel sprouts.  They’re bitter, and small cabbages, and really tasteless.  And, for the longest time, I would have agreed with you.  But then, I came across some good recipes, and learned how to cook brussel sprouts, and now they’re my absolute FAVORITE vegetable of all time!  Roasted brussel sprouts with shallots, salt and pepper, are fantastic in so many ways.  They’re a great side dish, they’re fantastic cut up in cold salads, and I even use them as the main toppings for one of my favorite pizzas (roasted brussel sprout pizza with potatoes and goat cheese…YUM).  Sure, they get a bad rap, but I’d encourage you all to go out there and try them again, because they really can be amazing!

2.  Eggplant

eggplantEggplant, or aubergine, is another highly overlooked vegetable (in my opinion).  Eggplant parmesan sandwiches were a huge staple in our house during my year of meat-free living, and we still enjoy the vegetable regularly.  I really enjoy it breaded and baked (never fried), with spicy marinara and fresh mozzarella melted on top, but it’s also fantastic just grilled with some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.  I also use eggplant quite often in my Couscous with Seven Vegetables recipe which I got from the cook of our riad in Morocco.  J and I will also eat leftovers that were grilled and put into the fridge, as a topping for pizza or cold salads.  Another favorite is a roasted vegetable sandwich, in which eggplant plays a starring role, along with onion, bell peppers, zucchini, and feta cheese!

3.  Asparagus

asparagusIn the Netherlands, people anxiously await the spring because it brings with it “aspergeseizoen” or asparagus season.  Both green and white varieties are celebrated there, and they even have specific recipes that include asparagus.  One staple recipe is the asparagus soup (which is divine) and another is its chlorophyl-free counterpart, white asparagus served with thinly sliced ham and soft-boiled eggs, with a lemon butter sauce.  Here in the US, we still eat a ton of asparagus, and it isn’t quite as seasonal as it is there, though we do eat the most of it in the summer.  Grilling the asparagus stalks or roasting them in the oven are our two primary ways of cooking it, though each Easter I do make the Dutch white asparagus, complete with soft-boiled eggs and roasted potatoes, and that delicious butter and lemon sauce.  It’s quite a special treat, and one that we look forward to every year, especially because it brings back such fond memories of our lives in the Netherlands.

4.  Avocado

avacadoOk, this one is cheating, because technically it’s a fruit.  I don’t care, I still love it.  It’s creamy, it’s got fiber, and it tastes amazing with some salt and lemon juice.  Avocado is a go-to adder for a lot of our recipes at home.  We’ll dice it up and add it to salads, we’ll smash it onto toast with an egg for a quick breakfast, and I’ll even eat it plain for a snack (either topped with lemon juice or some balsamic vinegar).  The healthy fats in the avocado add to heart and brain health, and it also improves the absorption of certain nutrients by up to 400%.  Another way we eat them at home is to add them to our protein shakes in the morning.  The velvety texture really adds smoothness to the shakes, plus you can’t really taste the avocado if you are adding other ingredients.  I only started eating avocado a few years ago, prior to that I wasn’t a huge fan of the flavor, but I’m so glad I gave it a second try.  Now, it’s one of our go-to snacks in the house and we always have one or two of them ready to eat!

5.  Artichokes

artichokesLast, but surely not least, is my love affair with artichokes.  These are another staple in our house, either raw or in their jarred variety.  I’ll put them on anything: pizzas, salads, couscous or quinoa…pretty much, if I’m making something that has any sort of mediterranean flavor to it, I’ll add artichokes.  My favorite is my Mediterranean couscous salad, which I make with whole wheat couscous, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, garlic, and feta.  It’s basically a “chop everything and add together” type of salad, and it keeps in the fridge well for next day’s lunch.  We’ve also really liked them lightly steamed and then grilled for a side addition to our main meal.  I’ve come across a few stuffed artichoke recipes that I’d love to try, but haven’t given them a whirl yet.  Once I do, I’ll be sure to post back here in a recipe post, because I’m sure that we’ll love it!  While we really enjoy the marinated variety, I’ve found that some of the jarred, marinated artichokes have a high sodium content, and lots of additional fat from the oils, so you should be careful if you’re buying the jarred artichokes.  Be sure to read the label, because you never know what else is in the jar if you don’t look at the ingredients!

There you have it, my top five favorite vegetables (ok…four vegetables and a fruit)!  What are your favorites?  Also, if you have some recipes that include my vegetables above that I haven’t mentioned, I’d love to hear about them!

Much love,

Friday Favorites…Children’s Books!

I love reading. Ever since I was a child, when you couldn’t find it, it was probably because I was hiding somewhere with a good book. My best friend’s mom likes to tell the story of when we were kids, she would have to drag her daughter to the library for summer reading, and I’d be coming out of the library with a stack of books taller than my head, happy as can be. In high school, I snagged a very coveted job (ok…I was probably the only one coveting it, to be honest) at the local library. I was a page, and I shelved books and movies. Boring for most, but I loved it! Later, during law school, I stuck around for another year to finish a Master’s in Library Science, which would allow me to be a librarian at a law library (if I decide to go that route, eventually). As you can see, books and reading are a HUGE part of my life.

Which is why, I’m now going to share with you all my top five favorite children’s books of all time. Hopefully, if you haven’t already read them, it’ll inspire you to pick up a book and maybe you’ll like it just as much as I do!

1. Harry Potter. All of them.

HP SeriesI know, it’s clichéd, the Harry Potter craze, and I swore to myself that I wouldn’t be sucked in. I managed to resist all the way until the 4th book came out, in 2003. At the time, I was an orientation leader at Indiana University, and all my leader buddies were reading the books, and I wanted to know what the hype was about. I picked up the first book and was completely captivated!  The books were magical and quick reads, and I found myself waiting excitedly for the next book to come out.  I started watching the movies shortly after.  I won’t lie, a part of me felt like family members had passed once the books reached their conclusion, because I had become so close to the characters.  The series is a fabulous one, and J even purchased for me the British version, in hardback, so that we can one day read them to our children.


2.  The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

LWWC.S. Lewis has a gift for storytelling, to be sure.  I’ve read several of his books, including all in The Chronicles of Narnia series, and I haven’t really found a book that I didn’t enjoy and learn something from.  I picked The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe because that book was a favorite from childhood that I still enjoy reading, several years later.  Much like the Harry Potter series, there’s something so magical about the world of Narnia that Lewis has created, and it’s something that both children and adults can appreciate.  I also have more recently been able to appreciate the spiritual aspect of the series, and of Lewis’ writing in general, which has opened up a new area of exploration for me.


3.  The Secret Garden.

SGI remember reading The Secret Garden several times when I was a younger girl, and loving everything about it.  Then, last year, I had a desire to pick it back up again to see if it was as good as I remembered it to be.  It was still amazing (though by far a much quicker read), and I realized that this is one of those books that are truly timeless.  We can all remember a point in time where we found something that was ours, and ours alone, and it was the sweetest secret of all.  We’ve all dealt with feelings of anger and ostracism, and the desire to find that place in the world where we feel like we belong.  This book really drove that home for me, and made me realize that, though it’s a children’s book, the inherent desire to feel safe and secure in our own special spot in the world is universal.


4.  A Wrinkle in Time

AWITMadeleine L’Engle was one of my favorite authors growing up.  The first book of hers that I read was A Wrinkle in Time, which I quickly followed up with the next three books in the series.  Every now and then, I still pick up this series and re-read it from the beginning, and I always find myself seeing different aspects in the books that I didn’t pick up on the last time I read it.  I only have paperback versions of these books, but I’d love to find hardback versions to keep for our children.  Plus…I just really love the books!  The protagonist is one that I identified with so well as a young girl; social misfit that doesn’t quite fit in anywhere, emotionally immature at times, and intelligent with high expectations placed on her from others (though, I didn’t feel overly intelligent as a child, so that one doesn’t quite fit).  She has tight bonds with her baby brother and willingly enters into a dangerous adventure to save him.  It was pretty much everything that I wanted to be as a young girl;  the type of person that, even though she is scared, she pushes through and does what needs to be done in order to protect her loved ones.  It’s one of those books that really has it all: science fantasy genre, an epic battle between the forces of good and evil, a burgeoning romance, family love, and adventure.


5.  Bridge to Terabithia.

Bridge_to_TerabithiaI’ll be honest, I haven’t seen the movie version of this one.  The book was my absolute favorite book during my 4th grade year (I remember the year well because this was the year we had a student teacher that I adored, and when she left I was heartbroken).  Bridge to Terabithia was the first book (that I can remember) that moved me to tears.  Up until that point, most books I had read were fluffy and light, fully of happiness and adventure.  This book was so powerful and heart wrenching, that I remember crying my eyes out for hours after finishing it.  It was a story a lot of kids could relate to; two children, trying to escape troubles at home, band together to create a magical place in the woods for their adventures.  They grow closer as friends, and (if given time) would probably grow into something more later in life, when tragedy strikes.  Even now, thinking about this book makes my heart hurt for the characters, as losing a beloved friend is a feeling I’d never want to experience in life.  I do think it’s important for children to read various genres of books to experience many types of writing, and I’m really glad that I read this book at the age I did, even though it was a tough subject to read.  When we have children, I hope to pass my copy on to my child and have them read it as well.


So, those are my 5 favorites for children’s books!  I encourage you all to pick up a copy and give them a read, and hopefully you enjoy them as much as I did as a child, and as much as I still do now!

Much love,

Friday Favorites…Cities of the World!

One of my favorite things to do is travel.  I guess you could say it’s one of my biggest hobbies, aside from crocheting (yes…I crochet.  Yes…I have cats.  Yes…I am married).  While we lived overseas, we were very fortunate in our ability to travel easily throughout Europe, on a relatively small budget.  In addition, our jobs allow for us to travel for work, to some pretty amazing places.  So, I thought I’d share with you my top 5 favorite cities outside the US!


1.  Barcelona, Spain

barcelonaThere’s something so sensual about Spain.  Maybe it’s the food, or the copious amounts of sangria.  It could be the fact that it’s an entire country of people who truly understand and embrace the need for a good nap every day (siesta, anyone?).  Maybe it’s the music, and the way it swirls and caresses you late at night, as the humid breezes pass over your skin, heated from hours of dancing in the crowds.  Or the language, the way the romantic words roll off your tongue.  Regardless, there’s something about Barcelona that sucks me in every time we visit it.  We always discover some new restaurant, or hit up a new park with amazing artwork.  I’ve been inside La Sagrada Familia multiple times, and each time I’m hit with a sense of peace and tranquility unlike any I’ve ever experienced.  Plus, the beach is stunning, the tapas are plentiful, and the people are incredibly nice and welcoming.  What more could you want?!


2.  Normandy, France

NormandyDespite its bloody history (D-Day beaches weren’t fun for anyone), Normandy, France has a lot going for it.  Obviously, for those who love history, the area is ripe with WWII tours, artifacts, museums, and personal encounters.  While we were there, we did a D-Day tour, along with a “Band of Brothers” tour that hit up several of the battle fields that were shown in the television series.  Apart from the historical significance, there are other perks to the area as well.  The French food and culture is plentiful, without dealing with the crowds (and prices) of Paris.  Also, the area is famous for its Calvados, which is an apple brandy made in the region.  One of my favorite desserts of the area, aside from the amazing pastries, is the local vanilla ice cream, covered with calvados and carmelized apples.  It’s warm and cold, and makes the lips tingle oh so nicely!  If you do happen to head to the area, be sure to stop in Bayeux, home of the “Bayeux Tapestry” which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England through the Battle of Hastings.  We didn’t happen to catch it while we were there, much to our friends’ dismay, but I’ve heard it’s pretty neat.


3.  Kyoto, Japan

Himeji-joJapan is full of amazing sights, sounds, tastes, and experiences.  It was hard to pick just once place as a “favorite” from this country, because, on a whole, this country is pretty darn amazing!  I was fortunate enough to live here for 5 weeks during summer break after my second year of law school.  J was sent on a short-term work assignment, and had been traveling back and forth between the US and Japan, and I got to go with him for one of his longer trips.  The last week I was there, we spent the week backpacking through the country, hopping train after train and seeing a lot of different cities.  My favorite, though, was Kyoto.  It used to be the imperial capital of Japan, and is full of temples and shrines, close to mountains and forests, and preserved from much of the destruction of WWII.  While we toured Kyoto, we stopped in many of the shrines and temples (though nowhere near all of them), saw several Maiko (apprentice Geisha), toured Himeji-jo (Himeji castle), and ate more Japanese food than I care to remember (I think I asked J to just roll me to the plane when it was time to send me back to the US).  This area, literally, made me fall in love with the country, and I would definitely move there if it were a possibility.  I’m hoping to make a trip back along with J, as he still travels over there for work.  Maybe then I’ll find a new favorite city!


4.  Marrakech, Morocco

riad knizaOf all the places in Europe we travelled, Morocco was J’s favorite.  It was definitely at the top of my list too (as is evidenced by this list), and I found Marrakech to be completely unlike any other place we traveled.  I absolutely love to visit countries with Arab influences, and this place was a perfect mix of Arabic culture, French/European influences, and North African tastes.  Walking through the winding alleys of the Medina was almost sensory overload.  Every way you turned was a spice counter, a fresh chicken stall (and by “fresh” I mean, “still alive”), a craft and metal works shop, or vendors selling rugs.  The smells range anywhere from overpower (umm…fresh chickens?) to sweet and delicate (a lot of the stalls sell fresh Moroccan sweets in the morning), and everywhere is an explosion of color.  While we were in Marrakech, we stayed at a Riad that was incredibly nice.  The Riad Kniza was like an oasis in the middle of chaos…the streets and alleys would be frantic with activity and people, then the minute you walked inside the Riad’s doors, it would be calm and tranquil.  While there, in addition to hours spent sightseeing, we did a cooking class at the Riad, and then had a couples massage and a traditional hammam (Turkish Bath), before moving to a Kasbah in the mountains for the second half of the trip.  Marrakech is definitely a city I’d return to, as there was so much to see and do, and there was no way to see it all during our trip.  Since J loved it as well, it should be too hard to drag him back there!


5.  Tromso, Norway

TromsoLet me preface by saying Norway is absolutely GORGEOUS!  We traveled to Norway twice, once to Tromso and once to Flam, and I can’t even begin to describe the natural beauty that just permeates this country.  The views of the fjords and the mountains are breathtaking, and you can’t help but just feel at home with nature while you’re there.  We visited Tromso, which is located in the Arctic Circle, in February 2011.  We made the trip was in order to see the Northern Lights and weren’t disappointed!  We did a lot of sightseeing around Tromso, which isn’t that large, but had a lot to offer!  We drank beers at one of the oldest pubs in the city (there was a stuffed bear next to the door, I didn’t ask questions), went dog sledding, had lots of fondue, and walked across the border to Finland at midnight.  The Northern Lights were amazing to experience, and while they weren’t “dancing” a ton, it was still beautiful.  We also did a half day of cross-country skiing, which is a LOT of work (but a great bit of exercise).  I’m not a big fan of skiing, but as long as I’m not going downhill, I can handle it.  Cross-country skiing is definitely my kind of skiing.  While we were driving back from our Northern Lights excursion, we came across Tromsdalen Kirke, which is the Arctic Church in Tromso.  It was all lit up in the dark sky, and really stood out against the black backdrop of the mountains.  We were only able to go for a long weekend, but we managed to pack in quite a lot in four short days.  While Scandinavia is incredibly expensive, we’d go back in a heartbeat.  It’s definitely worth saving your pennies for a trip, if you like the great outdoors and nature!


So, there you have it, my Five Favorites…Cities of the World!  I hope you enjoyed it, and if you have any questions about any of these places, I’m happy to answer them!


Much love,

Friday Favorites…Food!

For those of you who know me in person, or those who have been around my blog for a while, you know that I love food. LOVE food.  I love to cook good food, explore good food, and most of all, eat good food.  So, I thought I’d do a quick post on my top 5 favorite foods!


1.  Sushi.  Oh my word, do I love sushi.  I used to hate it, after a nasty spell with food poisoning in high school, so one of my biggest regrets was not taking advantage of the sushi while we lived in Japan.  After we moved home, I gave it another whirl and was hooked.  I could eat sushi 3 meals a day, 7 days a week!

2.  Pizza.  I love the versatility of pizza.  It’s bread you can put anything on.  Like pineapple and apple slices?  That’s ok, make it a pizza!  Want fig and machego…slap it on a pizza crust!  It’s perfect for dinner parties because everyone gets what they want (especially if you do mini pizzas), and I am always looking for interesting combinations to put together.  My favorite pizza place, currently, is Bazbeaux’s Pizza in Indianapolis.  Their Tchoupitoulas pizza is amazing!

3.  Cheesecake.  This is probably  my all-time favorite dessert, ever.  The creamy deliciousness of cheesecake, in my mind, can’t be beat!  The Cheesecake Factory has some amazing flavors, and while I don’t always enjoy their food, I’ll go there any time for a slice of their cheesecake!  Favorite flavors are the White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle cheesecake, and their 30th Anniversary cheesecake.  Yum!

4.  Middle Eastern Cuisine.  All of it.  I’ve seriously never met a Middle Eastern dish I didn’t like.  Hummus and pita is a regular staple in our house, and I make falafel at least twice a month.  I love all the spices and flavors that are put together in each dish, and I’d love to learn how to cook traditional Middle Eastern food.  We did a cooking class while in Morocco, and I have those recipes (and make them frequently), but I’d love to learn more traditional dishes.

5.  Cheese.  J always says that when I cook, it’s “X with a side of cheese.”  Pasta with a side of cheese, vegetables with a side of cheese…you name it, I probably put cheese on it.  Since I started my weight loss journey a year or so ago, I don’t use nearly as much cheese as I used to, but it’s still one of my favorite foods.  While we lived abroad, we went to a Michelin star restaurant with our friends, in Luxembourg.  One of the courses of dinner was a cheese course, and the waiter came around with an enormous CART full of different cheeses!  It was heaven!


So, there you have it…my Friday Favorites, food style!  What are your favorite foods??  Any recipes you’d love to share?

Much love,