SOCIAL MEDIA

Slider

This week we tried a new recipe from Plated. They describe it perfectly on the recipe card, "In tonight's Moroccan-inspired feast, cinnamon-spiced beef and lamb are folded into a simple tomato sauce with pine nuts, then spooned over silky roasted eggplant with a a balancing garnish of salty feta."
The cinnamon was unexpected and delicious. Plated's description of the eggplant as "silky" is spot-on. If you're not a fan of lamb, an easy substitution would be more beef. We also found the accompanying greens with sumac vinaigrette to be the perfect side because the tangy zip of the dressing balanced so well with the warm creaminess of the main dish. The recipe below incorporates the ingredients and instructions for the side salad. 

We all loved this one!

Roasted Eggplant with Moroccan Lamb and Feta
Recipe is for 2 dinner entrées or 4 lunch servings 
(We double it for a dinner serving for our family of four --which leaves a lunch serving left-over.)
~
What you need:
2 small/medium eggplants, halved through the stems
6 ounces plum tomatoes, cut into a 1/2-inch dice
1/2 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
5 ounces ground beef
5 ounces ground lamb
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup tomato purée
1 teaspoon sumac
3 ounces spring mix lettuce
2 ounces crumbled feta cheese
olive oil
salt and pepper
~
What to do:
  1. Roast Eggplant: Preheat oven to 450ºF. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and rub with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season cut sides of eggplant halves with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Place them cut-side down, and roast until skin is charred and flesh is very tender, 18-20 minutes. (Your eggplant is finished roasting when it easily lifts off the foiled baking sheet. If it's sticking, continue roasting another 3-5 minutes.) Gently lift the foil and loosen the eggplant, keeping it intact. Transfer to serving plates, cut-side up.
  2. Sauté Aromatics: While eggplant roasts, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add onion and cook, stirring, until softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more.
  3. Brown Beef and Lamb: Add beef and lamb to pan with aromatics, still over medium-high heat. Cook, breaking up meat until browned, 4-5 minutes. Then, stir in pine nuts, cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired to combine.
  4. Simmer Sauce: Add tomato purée and plum tomatoes to pan with beef and lamb. Increase heat to high and bring sauce to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until tomatoes are very soft and sauce has thickened, 4-5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together sumac, juice of your halved lemon, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired to make dressing. Set aside. 
  5. Plate: Pat lettuce dry with paper towel, add to bowl with dressing, and toss to coat. Divide salad between serving plates with eggplant. Spoon Moroccan lamb over eggplant, garnish with feta, and dig in!

    Recipe Review | Plated Roasted Eggplant with Moroccan Lamb and Feta

    Monday, September 18, 2017

    This week we tried a new recipe from Plated. They describe it perfectly on the recipe card, "In tonight's Moroccan-inspired feast, cinnamon-spiced beef and lamb are folded into a simple tomato sauce with pine nuts, then spooned over silky roasted eggplant with a a balancing garnish of salty feta."
    The cinnamon was unexpected and delicious. Plated's description of the eggplant as "silky" is spot-on. If you're not a fan of lamb, an easy substitution would be more beef. We also found the accompanying greens with sumac vinaigrette to be the perfect side because the tangy zip of the dressing balanced so well with the warm creaminess of the main dish. The recipe below incorporates the ingredients and instructions for the side salad. 

    We all loved this one!

    Roasted Eggplant with Moroccan Lamb and Feta
    Recipe is for 2 dinner entrées or 4 lunch servings 
    (We double it for a dinner serving for our family of four --which leaves a lunch serving left-over.)
    ~
    What you need:
    2 small/medium eggplants, halved through the stems
    6 ounces plum tomatoes, cut into a 1/2-inch dice
    1/2 lemon
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 yellow onion, diced
    5 ounces ground beef
    5 ounces ground lamb
    2 tablespoons pine nuts
    1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/2 cup tomato purée
    1 teaspoon sumac
    3 ounces spring mix lettuce
    2 ounces crumbled feta cheese
    olive oil
    salt and pepper
    ~
    What to do:
    1. Roast Eggplant: Preheat oven to 450ºF. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and rub with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season cut sides of eggplant halves with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Place them cut-side down, and roast until skin is charred and flesh is very tender, 18-20 minutes. (Your eggplant is finished roasting when it easily lifts off the foiled baking sheet. If it's sticking, continue roasting another 3-5 minutes.) Gently lift the foil and loosen the eggplant, keeping it intact. Transfer to serving plates, cut-side up.
    2. Sauté Aromatics: While eggplant roasts, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add onion and cook, stirring, until softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more.
    3. Brown Beef and Lamb: Add beef and lamb to pan with aromatics, still over medium-high heat. Cook, breaking up meat until browned, 4-5 minutes. Then, stir in pine nuts, cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired to combine.
    4. Simmer Sauce: Add tomato purée and plum tomatoes to pan with beef and lamb. Increase heat to high and bring sauce to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until tomatoes are very soft and sauce has thickened, 4-5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together sumac, juice of your halved lemon, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired to make dressing. Set aside. 
    5. Plate: Pat lettuce dry with paper towel, add to bowl with dressing, and toss to coat. Divide salad between serving plates with eggplant. Spoon Moroccan lamb over eggplant, garnish with feta, and dig in!
      • The fact that my Florida family is ok ~ Harvey, Irma, José?... So much powerful devastation --it's hard to wrap your head around. It looked, for some time, like Irma was going to roll over Ft. Myers with Category 4 strength. Under mandatory evacuation, my brother, sister-in-law, niece, and nephews relocated to a secured shelter nearby and rode out the storm safely. Returning home yesterday, they found that their house sustained far less damage than many neighbors and so many other Americans. We are all so grateful. 
      • Laughable, Lovable, Longtime-Friends ~ Goodness... Where to begin with the time I was able to spend with one of my closest childhood friends this week? Tiff flew out to NC from California for a business trip and arranged her schedule to rent a car and drive 3 hours south to visit me and spend time getting to know my peeps. We filled 2 days by eating and drinking our way through Charlotte, porch-sitting, laughing, sharing, and catching up --until the wee hours of morning (in the way that's so easy to do with the friends who've known you since you were awkward and pimple-faced). 
      • Laughing gas ~ Geneva had to have four teeth pulled last week in preparation for braces. The kid has never had a cavity and her anxiety about the extractions reached epic levels when we arrived to the dentist's office for her appointment. Honestly, without nitrous oxide, WE never would have made it through the procedure (no they didn't share any with me --and the whole "pulling" part lasted maybe 90 seconds). 
      • Fringe You ~ Oh my goodness! These delightful shoe accessories are so fun! My friend, Dani, introduced me to them and now Geneva and I are fighting over the rose gold and sapphire blue (both paired with white). Cheers to fall, laces, and many more opportunities to sport our #fringe. 
      • Neighborhood Peeps ~ We were delighted to host a small gathering over the holiday weekend and it was a great reminder of the friendships and connection we've made over the past 4+ years in Charlotte. Since our first home in Land Park (Sacramento), Greg and I have been fortunate to live among some of the most engaging, genuine, and friendly people. So much "everyday happiness" is found when you're among good peeps. #SpendTimeInYourFrontYard (or backyard, in this case) 
      • Tiny Desk Concert with Jason Isbell ~ First of all, I just love NPR's Tiny Desk --if you haven't checked any out yet, do so. Greg sent me a link to the recent session with Jason Isbell. We love Jason Isbell and I love this easy performance. I hope you do too. 
      • New patio furniture ~ We are in the process of updating the front and back porches (as I like to do with pillows, seasonally). After 4 years with the wooden rockers, I thought it was time for a bigger change. I look forward to showing you what I'm planning with the fun table/chair sets I recently found. No worries! We are keeping a couple rockers out there --this IS the South. ;) 
      • Geneva's painting ~ If you've been reading along, you might already know that Geneva and I took an amazing painting class with local artist, Heidi Kirschner, to celebrate Geneva's birthday (I blogged about it here). Doesn't Geneva's piece look great in our family room??  

      Things I Love Thursday // 9.14.17

      Thursday, September 14, 2017

      • The fact that my Florida family is ok ~ Harvey, Irma, José?... So much powerful devastation --it's hard to wrap your head around. It looked, for some time, like Irma was going to roll over Ft. Myers with Category 4 strength. Under mandatory evacuation, my brother, sister-in-law, niece, and nephews relocated to a secured shelter nearby and rode out the storm safely. Returning home yesterday, they found that their house sustained far less damage than many neighbors and so many other Americans. We are all so grateful. 
      • Laughable, Lovable, Longtime-Friends ~ Goodness... Where to begin with the time I was able to spend with one of my closest childhood friends this week? Tiff flew out to NC from California for a business trip and arranged her schedule to rent a car and drive 3 hours south to visit me and spend time getting to know my peeps. We filled 2 days by eating and drinking our way through Charlotte, porch-sitting, laughing, sharing, and catching up --until the wee hours of morning (in the way that's so easy to do with the friends who've known you since you were awkward and pimple-faced). 
      • Laughing gas ~ Geneva had to have four teeth pulled last week in preparation for braces. The kid has never had a cavity and her anxiety about the extractions reached epic levels when we arrived to the dentist's office for her appointment. Honestly, without nitrous oxide, WE never would have made it through the procedure (no they didn't share any with me --and the whole "pulling" part lasted maybe 90 seconds). 
      • Fringe You ~ Oh my goodness! These delightful shoe accessories are so fun! My friend, Dani, introduced me to them and now Geneva and I are fighting over the rose gold and sapphire blue (both paired with white). Cheers to fall, laces, and many more opportunities to sport our #fringe. 
      • Neighborhood Peeps ~ We were delighted to host a small gathering over the holiday weekend and it was a great reminder of the friendships and connection we've made over the past 4+ years in Charlotte. Since our first home in Land Park (Sacramento), Greg and I have been fortunate to live among some of the most engaging, genuine, and friendly people. So much "everyday happiness" is found when you're among good peeps. #SpendTimeInYourFrontYard (or backyard, in this case) 
      • Tiny Desk Concert with Jason Isbell ~ First of all, I just love NPR's Tiny Desk --if you haven't checked any out yet, do so. Greg sent me a link to the recent session with Jason Isbell. We love Jason Isbell and I love this easy performance. I hope you do too. 
      • New patio furniture ~ We are in the process of updating the front and back porches (as I like to do with pillows, seasonally). After 4 years with the wooden rockers, I thought it was time for a bigger change. I look forward to showing you what I'm planning with the fun table/chair sets I recently found. No worries! We are keeping a couple rockers out there --this IS the South. ;) 
      • Geneva's painting ~ If you've been reading along, you might already know that Geneva and I took an amazing painting class with local artist, Heidi Kirschner, to celebrate Geneva's birthday (I blogged about it here). Doesn't Geneva's piece look great in our family room??  
      To celebrate Geneva's birthday this year, Greg and I each planned separate one-on-one "dates" with her. Because she loves to be in the kitchen, I had thought we might take a cooking class together; however, all of the cooking classes in my area require students to be at least 18 years old. Then I remembered the oil on canvas class I took with friends at the studio of local artist, Heidi Kirschner. Heidi was happy to have us.
      We had a lovely date celebrating her birthday together. Geneva was definitely the youngest student in the class but it didn't matter because Heidi is one of those talented people who manages to translate/teach her skill in a totally approachable way. She's relaxed, funny, engaging, encouraging, and so so helpful. The two-hour class flew by and when we were finished we had two complementary canvases that we were both proud to have created. We look forward to more classes together with Heidi. If you're lucky enough to live in Charlotte, DO consider taking a class. Trust me, this is nothing like the "Paint and Sip" acrylic painting class you may have taken before.
      Geneva's piece found a home in our living room shelves.
      This is the piece I painted in my first class with Heidi (2014).

      Queen City | Heidi Kirschner Painting Class

      Sunday, September 3, 2017

      To celebrate Geneva's birthday this year, Greg and I each planned separate one-on-one "dates" with her. Because she loves to be in the kitchen, I had thought we might take a cooking class together; however, all of the cooking classes in my area require students to be at least 18 years old. Then I remembered the oil on canvas class I took with friends at the studio of local artist, Heidi Kirschner. Heidi was happy to have us.
      We had a lovely date celebrating her birthday together. Geneva was definitely the youngest student in the class but it didn't matter because Heidi is one of those talented people who manages to translate/teach her skill in a totally approachable way. She's relaxed, funny, engaging, encouraging, and so so helpful. The two-hour class flew by and when we were finished we had two complementary canvases that we were both proud to have created. We look forward to more classes together with Heidi. If you're lucky enough to live in Charlotte, DO consider taking a class. Trust me, this is nothing like the "Paint and Sip" acrylic painting class you may have taken before.
      Geneva's piece found a home in our living room shelves.
      This is the piece I painted in my first class with Heidi (2014).
      • The stories pouring out of Texas of those who are going above and beyond ~ Many are showing up and doing whatever they can to rescue, support, feed, and clothe people in need. "Mattress Mack", Zachary Dearingneighbors, first responders, officials, doctors and hospital staff... The examples go on and on. 
      • Siblings ~ This is a picture of my brother, Bobby, Greg's sister, Jessica, and Greg at Jessica's baby shower last weekend. Isn't she beautiful?? Greg flew out to Portland to attend and beforehand he had lunch with Bobby. Then they all got to spend time together at the shower and celebrate the pending arrival of our newest nephew. Yahoo!
      • Out of the Black ~ I heard this song during Savasana last weekend at my friend, Sam's b-day yoga gathering. Savasana is my absolute favorite "post-vinyasa-hot-as-$hit-yoga" pose. It's also know as "corpse pose" --which I think is SO fitting. (They do it in all yoga classes --but I find it especially rewarding after "vinyasa-hot-as-$hit-yoga" which they specialize in at Y2 in Charlotte.) Do you know the pose? It's the one where you get to just lie on your back after the instructor has kicked your a$$ and reflect on the amazing and difficult hour you just put your body through. I digress. The song, by Billie Marten, is terrific. Give it a listen. 
      • Sisters ~ The girls started school this week and it's the first time in almost 5 years that they are on different campuses. They are also on different schedules. Geneva begins almost 2 hours after Piper in the morning and she gets out later too. With the wakeup time so drastically different on the front end, I had wondered if Geneva would end up wanting to finally move out of Piper's room for sleeping. So far, that is not the case (not terribly surprising --given that G is our early riser). In fact, on the first morning of school Geneva popped up, got dressed, and hopped in the car with us because she wanted  to see Piper off on her first day. The day was long and quiet for me. I had to leave to pick Geneva up before Piper even made it home on the bus despite the almost 2 hour difference (the details of our bus saga are not for a "things I love" post). So when I pulled into the garage with Geneva in-tow, Piper was already home. She did not run into my arms... 
      • Makeup Tutorials ~ Women, these are so worth your time. My favorite makeup tutorial vlogger is Tanya Burr. Her YouTube channel used to be "PixiWoo" --but now she has her own (very affordable makeup line) and goes by her given name. Just listening to her accent and cheerful demeanor will keep you engaged --but pay attention to the details too. This tutorial for a blue/black smokey eye is one of my favorites (Though, I put it into practice only about twice a year, tops. Also, the video is very early in her vlogging days and a little grainy.) This one for an "everyday look" is great too. Most recently, I watched THIS TUTORIAL from Ali Andreea (another great accent). I have to admit, I was making so many of the "mistakes" she points out. So... if you "make up" your face from time to time (beyond just the everyday mascara and lipgloss) this is worth a few minutes and some possible note-taking.
      • Having a few of my great-grandmother's scrap-quilted pot holders ~ I posted this picture today of the delicious leftovers I was enjoying for lunch (recipe here). Later, glancing at the photo, I had a sweet moment of realization that the potholder my recently micro-waved dish is sitting upon is a handmade reminder of my maternal grandfather's mother. GGMa Lizzie made a lot of pot holders and quilts. Scrap quilting was her favorite and I just love the effortless and "happy" result that I am so grateful to  have as an "everyday" item in my home. 
      • This article, What I said When My White Friend Asked for My Black Opinion on White Privilege, by Lori Laken Hutcherson ~ My friend, Mary Heath posted this to her Facebook page this week and I'm so glad that she did and that I had/took the time to click and read. I hope you do too. 
      • My "Portland Fur" ~ I saw this bag on a woman in a store about a year ago and I was so compelled to reach out and pet it. I felt a little guilty to be so drawn to it --as clearly, a bambi had died to make such a beautiful tote. Instead of groping it, I just quietly confessed to her, "I really love your bag." And guess what?? She said, "Thank you. It's made of vinyl. You can touch it." I was like, "Whaa??!" (but only on the inside). She told me where she bought it. If you live in Charlotte, you can go get one there... However, in doing a little research, I discovered that I could order one online and also have it monogrammed. (!!!) Of course, I promptly ordered one for myself, wrapped it in beautiful paper and stuck it under the tree last Christmas with a tag to me from Greg. I've enjoyed it ever since. It's indestructible and I love it. He was also thoughtful enough to put this matching keyring wallet in my stocking. *wink*
      • These Suede d'Orsay loafer flats from J.Crew Mercantile in bright cerise ~ I took Geneva shoe shopping yesterday. She needed a pair of dress flats for Promenade (that's another blog post). Do you know, she wears 1/2 size smaller than I do?? In any case, she came away with a very cute ballet flat and I scored these in the mix. You may notice that they will pair beautifully with my Fringe Cuff from Club Monaco that I blogged about last week

      Things I Love Thursday // 8.31.17

      Thursday, August 31, 2017

      • The stories pouring out of Texas of those who are going above and beyond ~ Many are showing up and doing whatever they can to rescue, support, feed, and clothe people in need. "Mattress Mack", Zachary Dearingneighbors, first responders, officials, doctors and hospital staff... The examples go on and on. 
      • Siblings ~ This is a picture of my brother, Bobby, Greg's sister, Jessica, and Greg at Jessica's baby shower last weekend. Isn't she beautiful?? Greg flew out to Portland to attend and beforehand he had lunch with Bobby. Then they all got to spend time together at the shower and celebrate the pending arrival of our newest nephew. Yahoo!
      • Out of the Black ~ I heard this song during Savasana last weekend at my friend, Sam's b-day yoga gathering. Savasana is my absolute favorite "post-vinyasa-hot-as-$hit-yoga" pose. It's also know as "corpse pose" --which I think is SO fitting. (They do it in all yoga classes --but I find it especially rewarding after "vinyasa-hot-as-$hit-yoga" which they specialize in at Y2 in Charlotte.) Do you know the pose? It's the one where you get to just lie on your back after the instructor has kicked your a$$ and reflect on the amazing and difficult hour you just put your body through. I digress. The song, by Billie Marten, is terrific. Give it a listen. 
      • Sisters ~ The girls started school this week and it's the first time in almost 5 years that they are on different campuses. They are also on different schedules. Geneva begins almost 2 hours after Piper in the morning and she gets out later too. With the wakeup time so drastically different on the front end, I had wondered if Geneva would end up wanting to finally move out of Piper's room for sleeping. So far, that is not the case (not terribly surprising --given that G is our early riser). In fact, on the first morning of school Geneva popped up, got dressed, and hopped in the car with us because she wanted  to see Piper off on her first day. The day was long and quiet for me. I had to leave to pick Geneva up before Piper even made it home on the bus despite the almost 2 hour difference (the details of our bus saga are not for a "things I love" post). So when I pulled into the garage with Geneva in-tow, Piper was already home. She did not run into my arms... 
      • Makeup Tutorials ~ Women, these are so worth your time. My favorite makeup tutorial vlogger is Tanya Burr. Her YouTube channel used to be "PixiWoo" --but now she has her own (very affordable makeup line) and goes by her given name. Just listening to her accent and cheerful demeanor will keep you engaged --but pay attention to the details too. This tutorial for a blue/black smokey eye is one of my favorites (Though, I put it into practice only about twice a year, tops. Also, the video is very early in her vlogging days and a little grainy.) This one for an "everyday look" is great too. Most recently, I watched THIS TUTORIAL from Ali Andreea (another great accent). I have to admit, I was making so many of the "mistakes" she points out. So... if you "make up" your face from time to time (beyond just the everyday mascara and lipgloss) this is worth a few minutes and some possible note-taking.
      • Having a few of my great-grandmother's scrap-quilted pot holders ~ I posted this picture today of the delicious leftovers I was enjoying for lunch (recipe here). Later, glancing at the photo, I had a sweet moment of realization that the potholder my recently micro-waved dish is sitting upon is a handmade reminder of my maternal grandfather's mother. GGMa Lizzie made a lot of pot holders and quilts. Scrap quilting was her favorite and I just love the effortless and "happy" result that I am so grateful to  have as an "everyday" item in my home. 
      • This article, What I said When My White Friend Asked for My Black Opinion on White Privilege, by Lori Laken Hutcherson ~ My friend, Mary Heath posted this to her Facebook page this week and I'm so glad that she did and that I had/took the time to click and read. I hope you do too. 
      • My "Portland Fur" ~ I saw this bag on a woman in a store about a year ago and I was so compelled to reach out and pet it. I felt a little guilty to be so drawn to it --as clearly, a bambi had died to make such a beautiful tote. Instead of groping it, I just quietly confessed to her, "I really love your bag." And guess what?? She said, "Thank you. It's made of vinyl. You can touch it." I was like, "Whaa??!" (but only on the inside). She told me where she bought it. If you live in Charlotte, you can go get one there... However, in doing a little research, I discovered that I could order one online and also have it monogrammed. (!!!) Of course, I promptly ordered one for myself, wrapped it in beautiful paper and stuck it under the tree last Christmas with a tag to me from Greg. I've enjoyed it ever since. It's indestructible and I love it. He was also thoughtful enough to put this matching keyring wallet in my stocking. *wink*
      • These Suede d'Orsay loafer flats from J.Crew Mercantile in bright cerise ~ I took Geneva shoe shopping yesterday. She needed a pair of dress flats for Promenade (that's another blog post). Do you know, she wears 1/2 size smaller than I do?? In any case, she came away with a very cute ballet flat and I scored these in the mix. You may notice that they will pair beautifully with my Fringe Cuff from Club Monaco that I blogged about last week
      Our first Plated box arrived in early November, 2015. At that time, several friends had already tried meal delivery subscription/services and I was definitely intrigued. I enjoy cooking and I even enjoy grocery shopping (most of the time).  This service appealed to me because I often get hung up on generating ideas.
      I don't remember exactly what made me chose Plated over the other options but we've been really happy with the weekly options, the portion choices, the beautiful and easy-to-read menu cards, and the flexibility with ordering (skipping weeks on end because of calendar conflicts). One of the best things about Plated is the "globally inspired" menu. Every week there are 16 recipes to choose from for your box (not including desserts). We've tried a lot of new flavors over the course of our subscription: Asian Meatloaf, Japanese Chicken Wings, Beef Picadillo with Yuca Fries, Lemongrass Pork... to name a few. This week, I'm sharing one of our new go-to favorites. I've prepared it as an entrée a few times and last night we enjoyed it as a side to grilled chicken.

      Recipe is for 2 entrées or 4 side servings
      Because we love it, I alway double it. The leftovers reheat nicely.
      ~
      What you need:
      1 spaghetti squash
      6 ounces dinosaur kale, rinse and sliced thinly, crosswise
      3 cloves garlic, divided: 1 clove sliced thinly, 2 cloves minced 
      1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted (in a dry pan over medium-low heat, stir until golden --about 5 minutes)
      1 tablespoon butter
      1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
      1/2 cup heavy cream
      1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
      2 tablespoon olive oil
      salt, pepper
      ~
      What to do:
      1. Roast spaghetti squash: Preheat oven to 450ºF. Halve squash lengthwise (this is the trickiest part of the whole process). Using a large spoon, scoop out and discard seeds. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over cut sides and season with salt and pepper. Place cut-side down on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast until flesh is tender and easily pierced with a fork, about 25-35 minutes. Set aside to cool until ready to use.
      2. While the squash roasts, sauté the kale. In a large high-sided pan over medium-low heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. When oil is shimmering, add sliced garlic and sauté until golden, about 1 minute. Add kale and sauté until tender, about 2-3 minutes more. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
      3. Cook Parmesan-garlic sauce: Wipe pan from kale clean and add 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. When butter is foamy, add crushed red pepper (skip or use half for less heat). and minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in heavy cream and cook until thickening, about 30 seconds, then remove pan from heat. Stir in Parmesan and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper as desired.
      4. Pull spaghetti squash and add to pan with sauce: Using a fork, pull roasted squash flesh to create spaghetti-like strands. Rake the fork back and forth across the squash flesh and it will begin to fall out, into the sauce. (The squash is hot from the oven and I find it helpful to use a few paper towels to buffer the heat in my "holding" hand while I work quickly with the fork.) If you've cooked the squash well, then you should be left with just the skin after raking. Discard.
      5. Plate: Add sautéed kale to pan, place over medium heat and cook, stirring, until everything is warmed through, about 2 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper as desired. Garnish with toasted pine nuts.
      The whole family loves this recipe. The girls will even take leftovers in their lunches the next day. Keep in mind that the red pepper flakes really add a good amount of heat. I have tolerant kids and I use between 1/8-1/4 teaspoon. Grilled chicken or shrimp would be a delicious addition to the dish (cook separately and toss in at the final step). If you're sensitive to garlic, skip the sliced pieces --cutting the recipe to 2 cloves. Also, when pressed for time, I have used pre-washed and cut kale --it works like a charm.

      Enjoy!

      Recipe Review | PLATED Creamy Garlic Spaghetti Squash

      Wednesday, August 30, 2017

      Our first Plated box arrived in early November, 2015. At that time, several friends had already tried meal delivery subscription/services and I was definitely intrigued. I enjoy cooking and I even enjoy grocery shopping (most of the time).  This service appealed to me because I often get hung up on generating ideas.
      I don't remember exactly what made me chose Plated over the other options but we've been really happy with the weekly options, the portion choices, the beautiful and easy-to-read menu cards, and the flexibility with ordering (skipping weeks on end because of calendar conflicts). One of the best things about Plated is the "globally inspired" menu. Every week there are 16 recipes to choose from for your box (not including desserts). We've tried a lot of new flavors over the course of our subscription: Asian Meatloaf, Japanese Chicken Wings, Beef Picadillo with Yuca Fries, Lemongrass Pork... to name a few. This week, I'm sharing one of our new go-to favorites. I've prepared it as an entrée a few times and last night we enjoyed it as a side to grilled chicken.

      Recipe is for 2 entrées or 4 side servings
      Because we love it, I alway double it. The leftovers reheat nicely.
      ~
      What you need:
      1 spaghetti squash
      6 ounces dinosaur kale, rinse and sliced thinly, crosswise
      3 cloves garlic, divided: 1 clove sliced thinly, 2 cloves minced 
      1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted (in a dry pan over medium-low heat, stir until golden --about 5 minutes)
      1 tablespoon butter
      1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
      1/2 cup heavy cream
      1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
      2 tablespoon olive oil
      salt, pepper
      ~
      What to do:
      1. Roast spaghetti squash: Preheat oven to 450ºF. Halve squash lengthwise (this is the trickiest part of the whole process). Using a large spoon, scoop out and discard seeds. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over cut sides and season with salt and pepper. Place cut-side down on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast until flesh is tender and easily pierced with a fork, about 25-35 minutes. Set aside to cool until ready to use.
      2. While the squash roasts, sauté the kale. In a large high-sided pan over medium-low heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. When oil is shimmering, add sliced garlic and sauté until golden, about 1 minute. Add kale and sauté until tender, about 2-3 minutes more. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
      3. Cook Parmesan-garlic sauce: Wipe pan from kale clean and add 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. When butter is foamy, add crushed red pepper (skip or use half for less heat). and minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in heavy cream and cook until thickening, about 30 seconds, then remove pan from heat. Stir in Parmesan and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper as desired.
      4. Pull spaghetti squash and add to pan with sauce: Using a fork, pull roasted squash flesh to create spaghetti-like strands. Rake the fork back and forth across the squash flesh and it will begin to fall out, into the sauce. (The squash is hot from the oven and I find it helpful to use a few paper towels to buffer the heat in my "holding" hand while I work quickly with the fork.) If you've cooked the squash well, then you should be left with just the skin after raking. Discard.
      5. Plate: Add sautéed kale to pan, place over medium heat and cook, stirring, until everything is warmed through, about 2 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper as desired. Garnish with toasted pine nuts.
      The whole family loves this recipe. The girls will even take leftovers in their lunches the next day. Keep in mind that the red pepper flakes really add a good amount of heat. I have tolerant kids and I use between 1/8-1/4 teaspoon. Grilled chicken or shrimp would be a delicious addition to the dish (cook separately and toss in at the final step). If you're sensitive to garlic, skip the sliced pieces --cutting the recipe to 2 cloves. Also, when pressed for time, I have used pre-washed and cut kale --it works like a charm.

      Enjoy!

      • Marte Frisne "Raquel Tassel Bangles" ~ I've been coveting one of these babies for quite some time but cannot justify the price (£165.00). Then, I found this one when Greg and I happened upon a Club Monaco sale in Charleston (I blogged about that last week). It's similar enough to make me exceedingly happy and for the price (on sale for $19.00), I can easily justify more than one color! I will say that my wrists are on the normal/small side and the cuff fits snugly. 
        {via Marte Frisne}
      • Eclipse-watching with these three ~ Charlotte enjoyed 98% totality. I considered making the normally short drive to Columbia to be in the path of totality; however, the news outlets had me worried about traffic and crowds. In the end, we watched from the lawn across the street with some neighbors and enjoyed the comfort of home. Admittedly, it did not get as dark as I thought it would, but the street lamps came on and the temperature dropped significantly. 
      • Listening to Piper play her guitar ~ After a couple years spend learning notes, chords, reading music, and working on her finger dexterity (and callouses), she's at a point where she can play the songs she likes with more and more fluidity. Hard work paying off!
      • This "Softspun Flutter Sleeve" shirt from GAP ~ I bought this shirt in white and I really love it. It's comfortable, it washes well (though, I do hang it to dry), and I think it's really flattering. Plus, it's on SALE and available in two other colors. The fabric is heavier than cotton and holds its shape really well. Paired with jeans and sandals, it makes an effortless, elevated "t-shirt and jeans" look --especially with the feminine sleeves. The bodice is cut to show that you do have a waist, yet the length and fit around the hips is just right. I ordered it in a small. 
      • The girls' increasing skill at baking ~ I have to say, it's pretty awesome to confidently delegate a couple dozen homemade cookies, some cupcakes, or even scones to these two and have them happily measure, mix, bake, and clean up afterward. 
        (Piper adds the flour to her face to really get into the task.)
      • Grandma's mixer ~ Sweeter even than the goodies they produce, is the fact that they put to use my grandmother's KitchenAid mixer in doing so. This one has a lot of miles on her. Aside from a slightly tricky lock/release lever, she works like a charm!
      • These Eileen Fisher shoes ~ I researched and selected these shoes specifically for lots of walking before our trip to Paris/London this summer. Along with my Stan Smiths, these sandals trekked many, many miles and served me well. They are definitely worn in after just this one season --especially because I continue to wear them almost daily. I found that they ran at least 1/2 size small. (Though, I do have very high arches and they may have accounted for the discrepancy.) 
      • Polish-free toes ~ Looking at my feet closely (don't really), you'll see that my toes are not polished. Following the lead from another friend who tried it, I decided to give my toenails a break from the constant smothering of polish. I honestly could not remember a time when I didn't have polish on them. Getting a pedicure is lovely, indeed; however, there were times when I felt like squeezing one in was more of a chore than a treat. In between pedicures (especially when I really "needed" one) has often lead to having to plan an entire outfit around close-toed shoes. (First World Problems, I know.) Being polish-free is somewhat liberating.
      • Inizio's ~ Inizio Pizza Napoletana opened its Dilworth location in April of this year. I've been following their Instagram account since before then. And only this week did I have my very first taste. Let me tell you, it lives up to the hype. My friend, Jenn, ordered it for a get-together and I happily sampled Margherita (San Marzano Tomato Sauce, Buffalo Mozzarella, Basil, Garlic, Pecorino) and Pistachio (Rosemary, Sea Salt, Ricotta, Buffalo Mozzarella, Garlic, Pistachio Pesto Sauce). Wow. I look forward to trying all of the creations. If you live in Charlotte, get there. If you don't, follow them on Instagram and try not to drool on your phone. --Better yet, come visit and we'll go there! 
      • This time --right now ~ The transition between childhood and young-adulthood is here. In a beautiful juxtaposition of these phases of life, Geneva recently inherited one of my dresses. While it is very rare (and always has been), both girls decided to play in my makeup and then "dress up" in my closet a couple weeks ago. When they felt they were suitably made up, they tromped downstairs in my heels. Alarmingly, their makeup application was VERY good. More alarmingly, Geneva was wearing a dress of mine that looked way better on her than it ever had on me. I gave it to her on the spot. *sigh*
      • Adventure Dining ~ Speaking of this transition time between "too little" and "big enough," the girls and I have been able to enjoy more things together. Geneva and I took a painting class together for her birthday and recently, we made plans with friends to visit the USNWC for a kayaking/dinner adventure. Three moms, four daughters, and a handful of other friendly folks caught perfect weather and enjoyed delicious food on the Catawba River. I posted about it here.     

      Things I Love Thursday // 8.24.17

      Thursday, August 24, 2017

      • Marte Frisne "Raquel Tassel Bangles" ~ I've been coveting one of these babies for quite some time but cannot justify the price (£165.00). Then, I found this one when Greg and I happened upon a Club Monaco sale in Charleston (I blogged about that last week). It's similar enough to make me exceedingly happy and for the price (on sale for $19.00), I can easily justify more than one color! I will say that my wrists are on the normal/small side and the cuff fits snugly. 
        {via Marte Frisne}
      • Eclipse-watching with these three ~ Charlotte enjoyed 98% totality. I considered making the normally short drive to Columbia to be in the path of totality; however, the news outlets had me worried about traffic and crowds. In the end, we watched from the lawn across the street with some neighbors and enjoyed the comfort of home. Admittedly, it did not get as dark as I thought it would, but the street lamps came on and the temperature dropped significantly. 
      • Listening to Piper play her guitar ~ After a couple years spend learning notes, chords, reading music, and working on her finger dexterity (and callouses), she's at a point where she can play the songs she likes with more and more fluidity. Hard work paying off!
      • This "Softspun Flutter Sleeve" shirt from GAP ~ I bought this shirt in white and I really love it. It's comfortable, it washes well (though, I do hang it to dry), and I think it's really flattering. Plus, it's on SALE and available in two other colors. The fabric is heavier than cotton and holds its shape really well. Paired with jeans and sandals, it makes an effortless, elevated "t-shirt and jeans" look --especially with the feminine sleeves. The bodice is cut to show that you do have a waist, yet the length and fit around the hips is just right. I ordered it in a small. 
      • The girls' increasing skill at baking ~ I have to say, it's pretty awesome to confidently delegate a couple dozen homemade cookies, some cupcakes, or even scones to these two and have them happily measure, mix, bake, and clean up afterward. 
        (Piper adds the flour to her face to really get into the task.)
      • Grandma's mixer ~ Sweeter even than the goodies they produce, is the fact that they put to use my grandmother's KitchenAid mixer in doing so. This one has a lot of miles on her. Aside from a slightly tricky lock/release lever, she works like a charm!
      • These Eileen Fisher shoes ~ I researched and selected these shoes specifically for lots of walking before our trip to Paris/London this summer. Along with my Stan Smiths, these sandals trekked many, many miles and served me well. They are definitely worn in after just this one season --especially because I continue to wear them almost daily. I found that they ran at least 1/2 size small. (Though, I do have very high arches and they may have accounted for the discrepancy.) 
      • Polish-free toes ~ Looking at my feet closely (don't really), you'll see that my toes are not polished. Following the lead from another friend who tried it, I decided to give my toenails a break from the constant smothering of polish. I honestly could not remember a time when I didn't have polish on them. Getting a pedicure is lovely, indeed; however, there were times when I felt like squeezing one in was more of a chore than a treat. In between pedicures (especially when I really "needed" one) has often lead to having to plan an entire outfit around close-toed shoes. (First World Problems, I know.) Being polish-free is somewhat liberating.
      • Inizio's ~ Inizio Pizza Napoletana opened its Dilworth location in April of this year. I've been following their Instagram account since before then. And only this week did I have my very first taste. Let me tell you, it lives up to the hype. My friend, Jenn, ordered it for a get-together and I happily sampled Margherita (San Marzano Tomato Sauce, Buffalo Mozzarella, Basil, Garlic, Pecorino) and Pistachio (Rosemary, Sea Salt, Ricotta, Buffalo Mozzarella, Garlic, Pistachio Pesto Sauce). Wow. I look forward to trying all of the creations. If you live in Charlotte, get there. If you don't, follow them on Instagram and try not to drool on your phone. --Better yet, come visit and we'll go there! 
      • This time --right now ~ The transition between childhood and young-adulthood is here. In a beautiful juxtaposition of these phases of life, Geneva recently inherited one of my dresses. While it is very rare (and always has been), both girls decided to play in my makeup and then "dress up" in my closet a couple weeks ago. When they felt they were suitably made up, they tromped downstairs in my heels. Alarmingly, their makeup application was VERY good. More alarmingly, Geneva was wearing a dress of mine that looked way better on her than it ever had on me. I gave it to her on the spot. *sigh*
      • Adventure Dining ~ Speaking of this transition time between "too little" and "big enough," the girls and I have been able to enjoy more things together. Geneva and I took a painting class together for her birthday and recently, we made plans with friends to visit the USNWC for a kayaking/dinner adventure. Three moms, four daughters, and a handful of other friendly folks caught perfect weather and enjoyed delicious food on the Catawba River. I posted about it here.     
      Living in Charlotte, we are quite lucky to be so close to the US National Whitewater Center. The USNWC is an outdoor recreation and training facility situated on 700 acres beside the Catawba River. Activities at the USNWC are plentiful: whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, mountain biking, running trails, and hiking. The center serves as an official olympic training center for whitewater slalom racing. They also have zip lines, ropes courses, evening concerts, summer camps... A full activity schedule is available here.

      A few weeks ago, I spent an exceedingly enjoyable evening at one of the Center's regular events: Paddle to Table. Paddle to Table is an "Adventure Dining" option. You can choose to flatwater kayak or paddle board followed by a fireside dinner, al fresco. Geneva, Piper, and I joined four other girlfriends and made the outing a very sweet Girls' Night.
      Thankfully, we lucked out with the weather and arrived for our departure just after a fairly intense summer storm. Following a short (and slippery) hike, we enjoyed a sunset paddle on the Catawba River with our outstanding guides. The current was mild, the skies had cleared, and the heron were fishing. It was very relaxing.
      Dinner followed in the Ridge Pavilion. It was delicious! Chicken Papusas, Braised Red Cabbage, Tomato, and Queso Fresca made up the entree. Dessert was Prickly Pear Flourless Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Streusel, and Forest Berry Compote. Yum! 
      Adventure Dining continues at the USNWC through September (Paddle to Table) and October (Zipline and Dine). Explore your options here

      Queen City | USNWC Paddle to Table

      Tuesday, August 22, 2017

      Living in Charlotte, we are quite lucky to be so close to the US National Whitewater Center. The USNWC is an outdoor recreation and training facility situated on 700 acres beside the Catawba River. Activities at the USNWC are plentiful: whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, mountain biking, running trails, and hiking. The center serves as an official olympic training center for whitewater slalom racing. They also have zip lines, ropes courses, evening concerts, summer camps... A full activity schedule is available here.

      A few weeks ago, I spent an exceedingly enjoyable evening at one of the Center's regular events: Paddle to Table. Paddle to Table is an "Adventure Dining" option. You can choose to flatwater kayak or paddle board followed by a fireside dinner, al fresco. Geneva, Piper, and I joined four other girlfriends and made the outing a very sweet Girls' Night.
      Thankfully, we lucked out with the weather and arrived for our departure just after a fairly intense summer storm. Following a short (and slippery) hike, we enjoyed a sunset paddle on the Catawba River with our outstanding guides. The current was mild, the skies had cleared, and the heron were fishing. It was very relaxing.
      Dinner followed in the Ridge Pavilion. It was delicious! Chicken Papusas, Braised Red Cabbage, Tomato, and Queso Fresca made up the entree. Dessert was Prickly Pear Flourless Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Streusel, and Forest Berry Compote. Yum! 
      Adventure Dining continues at the USNWC through September (Paddle to Table) and October (Zipline and Dine). Explore your options here
      It's been ages (okay 2+ years) since I compiled a list here of the things in my life that are bringing me joy. It is really nice to spend some time and attention considering those (sometimes small, sometimes big) moments, experiences, things, and people who add happiness or positivity to our days--especially in times when there is so much to feel overwhelmed, saddened, and even sickened by.

      Even taking the events of our world out of the equation, I think that often, I feel caught up in all of the things to do and places to be that it's easy to miss a lot of the very good stuff. So here's my list today. I hope it's a nice distraction.
      • Geneva's watercolor ~ I took a fun watercolor class earlier this year and have since invested a little to acquire some brushes, paints, and paper to play around with when I find the time. The girls like to paint too and it's a new medium for all of us. In the middle of one of her "practice" pages, Geneva brought this little guy to life and I immediately fell in love. So now he is framed and hangs in the dining room above my great-grandmother's cabinet (something else that brings me joy).

      • The scent of our laundry ~ I was reminded recently about how much I appreciate the smell of our clothes when they come out of the dryer. My sister-in-law visited this summer with my niece and nephews. A few days ago she sent me a text and asked what detergent we use because my nephew liked the way his clothes smelled after washing them here. :) I actually owe my friend, Miffy, all the credit. Many years ago, when we were the joyful recipients of her daughter's hand-me-downs, I asked her what detergent she used because I fell in love with the scent. So here you have it: Arm & Hammer Plus Oxi Clean (Fresh Scent) followed by Bounce (Outdoor Fresh) in the dryer. 
      • Idaho ~ I read this debut novel by Emily Ruskovich for my book club. The story is about loss, grief, redemption, and memory--or lack thereof. At the center of the story is a brutal act of unspeakable violence. The author was somehow able to tell the story with an abundance of grace. It wasn't so much the individual characters, the storyline, or the setting that made me love the book. It was the fact that I continue to think about the writing and the story-telling. However, if you require tidy endings, this one is not for you. 
      • Gearing back up for school ~ Of course I love the summer. I enjoy lazy days, traveling, loose plans, evenings at the pool, and not being tied up in scheduling. However, it's easy to look forward with happy anticipation to the beginning of the school year (especially when my kids do too). I also appreciate routine.  
      • Club Monoco ~ Greg and I happened upon a Club Monoco storefront while visiting Charleston a few weeks ago. The skirt in the window caught my eye and we needed a reprieve from the heat of the day so we popped inside to discover an excellent "Summer Sale" and lots of great styles. He found a few shirts and I scored several tops, the skirt from the window, and a fun fringed bracelet. Unfortunately, there are no storefronts near Charlotte; however, I do have my eye on this from the website. I think it would be great with black slacks and fun heels or distressed jeans and booties. 
      • Cycle South ~ I started going about a year ago. Before that, I would have emphatically reported to you that I loathe spin/cycle classes. They are too intense, too boring, and definitely painful in the wrong way (yes, I mean down there). However, I've been converted. Firstly, the thing everyone says about the pain (yes, I mean down there) getting better after a few classes is true! It does stop hurting. Really. Secondly, Cycle South classes are in the dark. Your workout is yours and while the energy of the room carries you through the intense cardio session, it's an affirmation that "everyone is on their own fitness journey," (as my favorite instructor, Annie, likes to remind us). Also, there are no monitors, screens, or digital readouts in the classes. The workout is based on the music; the beats within the song instruct the tempo of the track --making it more like "dancing" on the bike rather than just sprinting or climbing to reach a number. It's good. If you're in Charlotte, you should try it. 
      • PURE Inventions Water Enhancer ~ I first tasted this water "enhancer" while visiting the spa at the Grove Park Inn. The pitchers of water in and around the relaxation room and locker area tasted subtly of coconut. At first, it was a little off-putting because I was just expecting water with some lemon or cucumber; however, after a few sips, I was enamored. If you're like me, you have a hard time drinking "enough" water throughout the day. I've just never been a big water drinker. Now I add .5ml (half the recommended amount) to 16oz of water and have no problem finishing 64oz in a day. It is a bit pricey, but a little bit goes a long way. Also, this is just a flavor thing for me in trying to consume a healthy amount of water each day. There are other "flavors" available that imply targeted results. I can't speak to any of that. ;) 
      • London Fog tea ~ While we're talking about beverages, I'm also still enjoying the sugar-free version of the "London Fog Latte" I fell in love with in Charleston and blogged about here.
      • Italian Aperitivo Cocktails ~ And while I continue to talk about beverages, the ones I learned to create at the Liberate Your Palate cocktail class (and blogged about here), are definitely worth your attention. With just a few key ingredients, you can make several delicious sips. Campari is an acquired taste --expect bitterness and be delighted by how quickly your appreciation grows. If you're in Charlotte, you can sign up for the same class (August 24th) here. If you miss it, sign up for another one instead --you may see me there!
      • Hip Hop BBQ on Pandora ~ Before my friend Sara introduced me to this station last month, I had apparently been living under a rock --as there are 3M listeners, according to Pandora. Good stuff.
      • Ozark ~ This show on Netflix starring Jason Bateman and Laura Linney is engrossing. You can binge watch the first season now and they've just renewed for a second season. Yay!
      • Newspaper-wrapped clippings ~ A friend of mine needed some rosemary from our yard (to create amazing bouquets for a wedding!). I happily cut a bundle and brought it inside. Acting on auto-pilot, I reached for a page from the newspaper and found myself swaddling it like a baby. Smiling, I recalled fond memories of my great-grandmother wrapping fresh cut roses from her garden this way for visitors upon leaving. Often, I cradled her fragrant blooms in my lap on the car ride home and I was so happy to have been reminded of this practice. 

      Things I Love Thursday // 8.17.17

      Thursday, August 17, 2017

      It's been ages (okay 2+ years) since I compiled a list here of the things in my life that are bringing me joy. It is really nice to spend some time and attention considering those (sometimes small, sometimes big) moments, experiences, things, and people who add happiness or positivity to our days--especially in times when there is so much to feel overwhelmed, saddened, and even sickened by.

      Even taking the events of our world out of the equation, I think that often, I feel caught up in all of the things to do and places to be that it's easy to miss a lot of the very good stuff. So here's my list today. I hope it's a nice distraction.
      • Geneva's watercolor ~ I took a fun watercolor class earlier this year and have since invested a little to acquire some brushes, paints, and paper to play around with when I find the time. The girls like to paint too and it's a new medium for all of us. In the middle of one of her "practice" pages, Geneva brought this little guy to life and I immediately fell in love. So now he is framed and hangs in the dining room above my great-grandmother's cabinet (something else that brings me joy).

      • The scent of our laundry ~ I was reminded recently about how much I appreciate the smell of our clothes when they come out of the dryer. My sister-in-law visited this summer with my niece and nephews. A few days ago she sent me a text and asked what detergent we use because my nephew liked the way his clothes smelled after washing them here. :) I actually owe my friend, Miffy, all the credit. Many years ago, when we were the joyful recipients of her daughter's hand-me-downs, I asked her what detergent she used because I fell in love with the scent. So here you have it: Arm & Hammer Plus Oxi Clean (Fresh Scent) followed by Bounce (Outdoor Fresh) in the dryer. 
      • Idaho ~ I read this debut novel by Emily Ruskovich for my book club. The story is about loss, grief, redemption, and memory--or lack thereof. At the center of the story is a brutal act of unspeakable violence. The author was somehow able to tell the story with an abundance of grace. It wasn't so much the individual characters, the storyline, or the setting that made me love the book. It was the fact that I continue to think about the writing and the story-telling. However, if you require tidy endings, this one is not for you. 
      • Gearing back up for school ~ Of course I love the summer. I enjoy lazy days, traveling, loose plans, evenings at the pool, and not being tied up in scheduling. However, it's easy to look forward with happy anticipation to the beginning of the school year (especially when my kids do too). I also appreciate routine.  
      • Club Monoco ~ Greg and I happened upon a Club Monoco storefront while visiting Charleston a few weeks ago. The skirt in the window caught my eye and we needed a reprieve from the heat of the day so we popped inside to discover an excellent "Summer Sale" and lots of great styles. He found a few shirts and I scored several tops, the skirt from the window, and a fun fringed bracelet. Unfortunately, there are no storefronts near Charlotte; however, I do have my eye on this from the website. I think it would be great with black slacks and fun heels or distressed jeans and booties. 
      • Cycle South ~ I started going about a year ago. Before that, I would have emphatically reported to you that I loathe spin/cycle classes. They are too intense, too boring, and definitely painful in the wrong way (yes, I mean down there). However, I've been converted. Firstly, the thing everyone says about the pain (yes, I mean down there) getting better after a few classes is true! It does stop hurting. Really. Secondly, Cycle South classes are in the dark. Your workout is yours and while the energy of the room carries you through the intense cardio session, it's an affirmation that "everyone is on their own fitness journey," (as my favorite instructor, Annie, likes to remind us). Also, there are no monitors, screens, or digital readouts in the classes. The workout is based on the music; the beats within the song instruct the tempo of the track --making it more like "dancing" on the bike rather than just sprinting or climbing to reach a number. It's good. If you're in Charlotte, you should try it. 
      • PURE Inventions Water Enhancer ~ I first tasted this water "enhancer" while visiting the spa at the Grove Park Inn. The pitchers of water in and around the relaxation room and locker area tasted subtly of coconut. At first, it was a little off-putting because I was just expecting water with some lemon or cucumber; however, after a few sips, I was enamored. If you're like me, you have a hard time drinking "enough" water throughout the day. I've just never been a big water drinker. Now I add .5ml (half the recommended amount) to 16oz of water and have no problem finishing 64oz in a day. It is a bit pricey, but a little bit goes a long way. Also, this is just a flavor thing for me in trying to consume a healthy amount of water each day. There are other "flavors" available that imply targeted results. I can't speak to any of that. ;) 
      • London Fog tea ~ While we're talking about beverages, I'm also still enjoying the sugar-free version of the "London Fog Latte" I fell in love with in Charleston and blogged about here.
      • Italian Aperitivo Cocktails ~ And while I continue to talk about beverages, the ones I learned to create at the Liberate Your Palate cocktail class (and blogged about here), are definitely worth your attention. With just a few key ingredients, you can make several delicious sips. Campari is an acquired taste --expect bitterness and be delighted by how quickly your appreciation grows. If you're in Charlotte, you can sign up for the same class (August 24th) here. If you miss it, sign up for another one instead --you may see me there!
      • Hip Hop BBQ on Pandora ~ Before my friend Sara introduced me to this station last month, I had apparently been living under a rock --as there are 3M listeners, according to Pandora. Good stuff.
      • Ozark ~ This show on Netflix starring Jason Bateman and Laura Linney is engrossing. You can binge watch the first season now and they've just renewed for a second season. Yay!
      • Newspaper-wrapped clippings ~ A friend of mine needed some rosemary from our yard (to create amazing bouquets for a wedding!). I happily cut a bundle and brought it inside. Acting on auto-pilot, I reached for a page from the newspaper and found myself swaddling it like a baby. Smiling, I recalled fond memories of my great-grandmother wrapping fresh cut roses from her garden this way for visitors upon leaving. Often, I cradled her fragrant blooms in my lap on the car ride home and I was so happy to have been reminded of this practice. 
      Charlotte's got a lot.

      Lately, I've been doing more to explore the variety of fun social/learning opportunities in our city. Last night I had the pleasure of attending a cocktail class presented by Tamu Curtis and Liberate Your Palate. From their website: "We have a passion for cocktail culture, we live it, love it  and have a burning desire to share it with you." Based on the time I had last night with my friend Anne, this thesis absolutely captured the evening. LYP offers their #ShakeStirSipSocialize classes in addition to cocktail catering. I imagine any event would be elevated with these passionate people on the job.

      Our class, "The Italian Aperitivo," was taught and hosted by Jessica Annunziata, who with her husband, Chef Luca Annunziata, own and operate Luca: Modern Italian Kitchen. Jessica's personality, knowledge, and love for food and spirits was a highlight of the evening. The "stuzzichini" (appetizers and nibbles) that were created by Luca to accompany each cocktail were delightful little surprises that made the sips even tastier. 
      Aperitivo is northern Italy's version of happy hour that is enjoyed at the end of the workday as a warmup to dinner. People gather at their neighborhood bar or cafe with friends and family to enjoy a light cocktail and a snack. Aperitivo is typically between 7-9pm and dinner follows.

      All three aperitivo cocktails we made in our class used traditional ingredients (Campari, Vermouth, and Bitters) balanced with simple modifications to change the resulting flavors. Because of these primary ingredients, the drinks were light on alcohol and bitter on taste, resulting in a beautiful pairing with the sweet and salty nibbles that the kitchen turned out as accompaniments. 

      The first cocktail we mixed was a traditional Negroni --a favorite at my house. (If you get a chance to try the Blood Orange version that Luca keeps on their cocktail menu, be sure to indulge! With a tiny scoop of blood orange sorbet, it's not to be missed.) Our Negronis were paired on the front end with local figs, goat cheese, and blackberry jam and rounded out with a ridiculous stuffed squash blossom that was crispy, creamy, salty perfection over some "boozy peaches." I can't recall exactly how Jessica described the peach preparation but the result was incredible on the plate. 
      The Negroni
      1 oz Doc Porter's Gin
      1 oz Campari
      2 oz Sweet Vermouth  
      2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
      Orange Twist

      The next cocktail was called, Negroni Shagliato. While it contained two of the main ingredients from the Negroni, the cocktail turned out to be completely different. It was much less bitter, had a sparkly effervesce, and was surprisingly light despite its deep plum color and sweet notes. This sip was paired with a bruschetta-type bite that consisted of a well-seasoned toast topped with ripe tomato, creamy cannelloni beans, parsley, and garlic. This bite had gusto and with the sweetness of the Shagliato, the pairing was delicious. 
      Negroni Shagliato
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz Sweet Vermouth
      2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
      Sparkling Wine (Lambrusco)
      Directions: Shake Campari, Vermouth and Bitters with ice. Strain into a chilled wine glass or champagne flute. Top with Lambrusco. Garnish with 2 cherries.

      Our last cocktail was called, Costar d'alcol. It was the lightest of the three and I felt as though I could sip them all day long (especially in the heat). I also thought it was the prettiest of the three. The garnish (prepared by the kitchen) was certainly a stuzzichini in itself: basil-wrapped watermelon ball alongside prosciutto-wrapped local buffalo milk mozzarella. Seriously. Salty, sweet, creamy, crisp perfection on a stick (and floating on my cocktail). The kitchen also sent out two house-made, fried raviolis on a generous smear of heavily parmesaned marinara. More crunchy, salty, sweetness to swoon over with our sips.
      Ciostra d'alcol
      2 oz Dry Red Wine (we used Cantina Zaccagnini Rosé Dry Wine)
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz Sparkling Lemonade (we used Cedrata Italian Citron)
      Orange slice garnish (Or if you're inspired and motivated: Watermelon, Basil, Mozzarella, Prosciutto)
      Directions: Fill a rocks glass with ice cubes. Add wine, Campari and Cedrata. Stir. 

      The night was a complete success. Obviously, the company was lovely. :) Our class was an eclectic mix of people of all ages. I loved that the cocktails we made were based on only a few primary ingredients --making it more than likely that those who didn't already have them stocked, would invest in these for their own liquor cabinets or bar carts, thus making it possible to delight friends and family with the new recipes. 

      Jessica was incredibly personable, as was Tamu. While Jessica was the "casual expert" in the tradition of Aperitivo and made everything completely accessible, Tamu was the "dancing documenter" who managed to always be where she needed to be in order to lend some hands-on help and encouragement. 
      A+ to Liberate Your Palate and Luca Modern Italian Kitchen!
      Cin cin!

      Queen City | Liberate Your Palate (Italian Aperitivos with Luca: Modern Italian Kitchen)

      Friday, August 11, 2017

      Charlotte's got a lot.

      Lately, I've been doing more to explore the variety of fun social/learning opportunities in our city. Last night I had the pleasure of attending a cocktail class presented by Tamu Curtis and Liberate Your Palate. From their website: "We have a passion for cocktail culture, we live it, love it  and have a burning desire to share it with you." Based on the time I had last night with my friend Anne, this thesis absolutely captured the evening. LYP offers their #ShakeStirSipSocialize classes in addition to cocktail catering. I imagine any event would be elevated with these passionate people on the job.

      Our class, "The Italian Aperitivo," was taught and hosted by Jessica Annunziata, who with her husband, Chef Luca Annunziata, own and operate Luca: Modern Italian Kitchen. Jessica's personality, knowledge, and love for food and spirits was a highlight of the evening. The "stuzzichini" (appetizers and nibbles) that were created by Luca to accompany each cocktail were delightful little surprises that made the sips even tastier. 
      Aperitivo is northern Italy's version of happy hour that is enjoyed at the end of the workday as a warmup to dinner. People gather at their neighborhood bar or cafe with friends and family to enjoy a light cocktail and a snack. Aperitivo is typically between 7-9pm and dinner follows.

      All three aperitivo cocktails we made in our class used traditional ingredients (Campari, Vermouth, and Bitters) balanced with simple modifications to change the resulting flavors. Because of these primary ingredients, the drinks were light on alcohol and bitter on taste, resulting in a beautiful pairing with the sweet and salty nibbles that the kitchen turned out as accompaniments. 

      The first cocktail we mixed was a traditional Negroni --a favorite at my house. (If you get a chance to try the Blood Orange version that Luca keeps on their cocktail menu, be sure to indulge! With a tiny scoop of blood orange sorbet, it's not to be missed.) Our Negronis were paired on the front end with local figs, goat cheese, and blackberry jam and rounded out with a ridiculous stuffed squash blossom that was crispy, creamy, salty perfection over some "boozy peaches." I can't recall exactly how Jessica described the peach preparation but the result was incredible on the plate. 
      The Negroni
      1 oz Doc Porter's Gin
      1 oz Campari
      2 oz Sweet Vermouth  
      2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
      Orange Twist

      The next cocktail was called, Negroni Shagliato. While it contained two of the main ingredients from the Negroni, the cocktail turned out to be completely different. It was much less bitter, had a sparkly effervesce, and was surprisingly light despite its deep plum color and sweet notes. This sip was paired with a bruschetta-type bite that consisted of a well-seasoned toast topped with ripe tomato, creamy cannelloni beans, parsley, and garlic. This bite had gusto and with the sweetness of the Shagliato, the pairing was delicious. 
      Negroni Shagliato
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz Sweet Vermouth
      2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
      Sparkling Wine (Lambrusco)
      Directions: Shake Campari, Vermouth and Bitters with ice. Strain into a chilled wine glass or champagne flute. Top with Lambrusco. Garnish with 2 cherries.

      Our last cocktail was called, Costar d'alcol. It was the lightest of the three and I felt as though I could sip them all day long (especially in the heat). I also thought it was the prettiest of the three. The garnish (prepared by the kitchen) was certainly a stuzzichini in itself: basil-wrapped watermelon ball alongside prosciutto-wrapped local buffalo milk mozzarella. Seriously. Salty, sweet, creamy, crisp perfection on a stick (and floating on my cocktail). The kitchen also sent out two house-made, fried raviolis on a generous smear of heavily parmesaned marinara. More crunchy, salty, sweetness to swoon over with our sips.
      Ciostra d'alcol
      2 oz Dry Red Wine (we used Cantina Zaccagnini Rosé Dry Wine)
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz Sparkling Lemonade (we used Cedrata Italian Citron)
      Orange slice garnish (Or if you're inspired and motivated: Watermelon, Basil, Mozzarella, Prosciutto)
      Directions: Fill a rocks glass with ice cubes. Add wine, Campari and Cedrata. Stir. 

      The night was a complete success. Obviously, the company was lovely. :) Our class was an eclectic mix of people of all ages. I loved that the cocktails we made were based on only a few primary ingredients --making it more than likely that those who didn't already have them stocked, would invest in these for their own liquor cabinets or bar carts, thus making it possible to delight friends and family with the new recipes. 

      Jessica was incredibly personable, as was Tamu. While Jessica was the "casual expert" in the tradition of Aperitivo and made everything completely accessible, Tamu was the "dancing documenter" who managed to always be where she needed to be in order to lend some hands-on help and encouragement. 
      A+ to Liberate Your Palate and Luca Modern Italian Kitchen!
      Cin cin!

      Instagram