Thursday, October 22, 2020

Things I Love Thursday // 10.22.20

  • Christening our "porch refresh" - We spend a lot of time out here when the weather is cooperating. While we love our patio furniture sets (we have another pair of chairs and table facing these across the rug), unfortunately, the cushion covers are not removable. Even less fortunately, we are not known for taking fussy care of our outdoor things (or any care, really). Long story, short: we needed to replace four pillows. I found these gorgeous ones at Marshalls for a steal. They looked great with the brick and trim but clashed with our well-loved and super-sturdy outdoor rug (which was predominately yellow). Soooo.... that got updated too. The other rug had held up like a champ (despite our neglect) so I made it a point to order a replacement made from the same material (recycled plastic) and from the same company (on Amazon). I'm absolutely loving the way this less-than-$200 project rejuvenated a space where we spend so much time! Our patio set(s) are no longer available; however, I did find this similar patio set at a great price. And this one

  • Target Poncho - I saw this cozy sweater on Ashley Petrone a super-positive, very pregnant, design blogger that I follow on Instagram. I was INFLUENCED. So happy to report that it is roomy (and also flattering), cozy, and perfect to layer with leggings or jeans this fall/winter. It comes in four colors. Boring me chose oatmeal and it's lovely! (one size)
{image via}

  • Guilt-free sweet treats - Wow. This is a generous serving of creamy deliciousness --that if you're counting/calculating carbs and sugar, is only 1g of net carbs and <1-1g sugar per pop. That's bananas. Only it's not bananas --because those are actually full of carbs and sugar and this is not. It's just yummy and seems super indulgent. They're Enlightened (clever name) and pay attention to the packaging because not all the flavors are made the same. Big thanks to Samantha who brought them to my attention! Linked here to see the packaging --but you'll need to look for them at your local grocery store.

  • Swedish Dish Cloths - I first "discovered" these little sponges at a favorite local boutique, Paper Skyscraper. I bought two, one to gift and one to keep. Since then, I've gifted several others. They really have become a favorite thing! Not only are they mighty kitchen workhorses (Reusable. Washable. Compostable.), I am also quite obsessed with the artful designs. Sadly, Paper Skyscraper does not do online sales. Happily, I've found them elsewhere online just for you! Unable to find my Tigers, but I love these Cheetahs. Check out these LEMONS (already ordered myself some, of course). J'adore these Paris ones! And check out these big ones --adorable!

  • A surprise delivery - My thoughtful friend, Sarah, popped over this week and surprised us with an adorable box of homemade macaroon cookies. Sarah's daughter and her friend have recently started a macaroon business. I've been meaning to place an order and sample them... WOW! These are seriously good cookies. If you're in the Charlotte area, I encourage you to follow M&K Macaroons. They have a simple ordering system that you can access from their BIO and they're even doing a giveaway (ends 10/29) that you can enter for a chance to win some goodies!

  • Homemade pizza - that has been grilled on the pizza stone we gifted Greg for father's day. I'm pretty sure you can use it in the oven as well, but for some reason, the pizzas taste better when I know they've been cooked outside (Or maybe it's the fact that I didn't have to bake them?). In any event, we love homemade pizza night. Everyone does their own and makes it just the way they like. You can make your own dough (I've shared the recipe before). Or you can buy store-bought. When I buy it from the store, I usually split a "standard" (Pillsbury or deli-fresh) portion in half to create two generous individual size pizzas. Always a dinner hit!

  • Wicker Christmas Tree Skirt - We went to Walmart last weekend to pick up a few more stackable adirondack-style chairs for the fire pit area and as we were walking through the holiday department toward the garden center, I caught sight of a beautiful tree "collar" made of natural fiber (wicker?). I'd never seen anything like it. It's certainly not the traditional fabric "skirt" but for $20, I thought we'd give it a go this year. Later the same day, I was walking through our neighborhood (chain) hardware store and saw an almost identical item for $130! Good grief! For some reason, I can't find the one I bought online but I did find this one that's really similar but a little pricier (it comes apart in more pieces for easier storage and has a cute ribbon) and this burlap one that is simpler and very cute too.

This post contains affiliate links and I may make a HUGE commission (j/k it's literally pennies) when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. You should know (and I'm legally required to tell you) that as an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Feel free to make me RICH. lol ;)

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Things I Love Thursday // 10.15.20

  • Celebrating Lulu - Grandma's in town! We were overdue for a visit and we're finally having one. She arrived yesterday (her birthday) and is swinging right into our routine. Last night we all put on real clothes (I even put on some makeup!) and went out to dinner to celebrate. There was a great sunset, live music, delicious food, and lots of laughs. Cheers to a tiny taste of normal!

  • Masks from GAP - Of course, the aforementioned dinner was outside, socially distanced, and masks were worn whenever we were not seated at our table. Speaking of masks, the ones from GAP are my favorite. They are soft, washable, adjustable, and both styles fit really well! Of course, my favorite one is the one that says VOTE (on super sale). The rest (sold in packs of 3) are BOGO half off right now. 
    {image via}
  • Rosemary Toasted Marshmallows - I mentioned it last week and it's worth bringing up again: we are making the most of the season and enjoying the yard as much as we can right now. Evenings on the back driveway/patio have been a welcomed change. A few weeks ago, we hung some lighting and pulled our weathered chairs around the fire pit. It feels a little like we have a brand new space! I know everyone has been spending extra time at home these days. Creating a great outdoor experience can be simple and easy. We bought our patio fire pit years ago from the local hardware store. They're even more affordable now. I found this one on Amazon for a great price. If you're willing to spend more, they also have this one that is bigger and has a more open style, or this one that has a more contemporary look (which I love). Any of these could be at your house by this weekend, I'll bet!

  • The sound of cards being shuffled - Seriously. This is one of these sounds that can take me right back to happy memories. Card games have always been a regular feature in my life. I recall cigarette smoke, old men, and gruff voices accompanying the card shuffling in the days when my grandfather hosted poker nights in his backyard workshop. My mom often enjoyed a game of solitaire at the kitchen table. I played an outrageous amount of Gin Rummy in college (instead of studying). While visiting my family in Portland this summer, I learned to play Spades. Spades is a team game with four players. I look forward to teaching the girls and Greg to play. In the meantime, I'm completely addicted to playing through an app on my phone. Not only is the game super fun --but the card shuffling sound effect alone makes me happy! 
  • Soup Weather - Y'all (for my Charlotte peeps). Dude (for my West Coast peeps). Soup Weather. It's a thing. It's one of my favorite things. I'm a person who could maybe live on soups and stews alone. I could be a perfectly content toothless person --and maybe someday I will be; who knows? Anyhoo... I've been hitting the soup/stew button regularly these past few weeks. Here are three of my favorite NEW recipes. Top left: Mulligatawny Soup (I had never even heard of this supremely popular take on a curry dish). Top right: Nourishing White Bean and Lemon (Blogged about this one last week. If you haven't made it yet, here is your reminder. I added a few cups of shredded chicken to the recipe.) Bottom left: Naked Wonton (The meatball prep is more time-consuming than you think it might be --but so worth it!) Bottom right: homemade sourdough. (Obvi.)
    (I also enjoy soups that are not yellow.)

  • Black Planter Pot - I found this planter on sale at a local shop and I love it. Most of my indoor planters are terracotta or white. We are redoing the living room and went with a charcoal sofa so I'm adding some darker pops to the room. The tribal pattern is fun and adds great texture. I love how the greenery feels even more vibrant against the black and white ceramic. While I could not find my exact pot online for you, here are some very similar options from Amazon: footed, wooden stand, 2-piece set

  • Cash Monays - At the suggestion of my friend, Miranda, a successful blogger, hilarious Instagram Story-er,  baker of world-famous banana bread, and all-around great gal, (follow, follow, follow) I have finally jumped through a few hoops to get a special "link-up" through Amazon. Because I'm already such a shopper/sharer of Amazon links in this space, you likely won't notice any difference. However, if you end up ordering an Amazon product that I've specifically linked in this blog, word on the street is that they will throw some pennies my way! I'll let you know how it goes --or, if you see me out around town in a new McLaren, then I guess you'll figure it out on your own. (p.s. The only reason I know what a McLaren is is because a sweet 10 year old I know had a dream-come-true birthday surprise when he was taken on the ride of his life a few weeks ago!) 

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Things I Love Thursday // 10.8.20

To say that I've been conflicted about getting back into my groove of posting here about the simple pleasures and often superficial things that make me smile, would be an understatement. There are critical issues, sobering and devastating events, and daily WTF moments happening all over our country that leave me reeling. I believe we are living through an unprecedented time with much at stake. Maybe the minutes you spend here might serve as a small escape from the abundant heaviness? I've decided to tiptoe back into this space, as it has always been a part of my own self-care and helped to make me feel connected to people near and far. Cheers to some cheerfulness! 

  • Boobie Pot - How cute is this hand-painted, terracotta boobie pot from ViaUrban on Etsy? I first discovered Jasmine on Instagram through her amazing account @bookish_botanical. She's all about books and plants, so basically, it's a perfect match! AND I got to fill this little goodie with another sweet goodie: this lovely "elephant bush" succulent that was an unexpected gift from my girlfriend, Megan.  

  • This kid - Honestly. How is she in high school already? I love this picture of GJ laughing about something and enjoying an evening this summer visiting longtime friends in Portland. Their house is a masterpiece and just being inside it makes G happy. The company is icing on the cake --of which I'm sure, she'll take two servings every time! Love.

  • New Lip Gloss - My friend, Gretchen (of the masterpiece house above), turned me onto this new drugstore lip gloss and it is so so good! It's Maybelline Lifter Gloss and there's some fancy ingredients (apparently) but overall, it just looks and feels great. The wand is bigger than normal for quick application and the shine is just right. There are lots of choices for color. On Gretchen's recommendation, I went with Stone and it's the perfect neutral. Just noticed that Stone is not available through the Amazon link above but you can find it online at Target or probably at your local drug store.

  • Ted Lasso - DUDE. This is the feel-good show of the year. Available on AppleTV and so incredibly delightful. Jason Sudeikis is perfection --as is the rest of the cast. The humor is spot-on for those 13+ (IMO). Greg and I sailed through the first season and have been enjoying watching the episodes again with the girls. Talk about a little escape from the troubles of our times and a great way to wrap up an evening with the family... Enjoy!
  • Bitchin' Sauce - My California girlfriends just texted me about this new dip last weekend. We had a funny exchange and then lo and behold, I did find some at our Charlotte Costco --and avoided the need for smuggling. You can also find it at Target. It's excellent! I want to put it on everything. The base is almonds. Very low carb, no sugar, good amount of protein and fiber for the quantity. Overall a terrific find! Thanks, Ladies! xxoo 

  • Insta Dri Polish from Sally Hansen - I've blogged about this polish before (in "Slick Slate"). Here's why I love the product: it goes on in one coat, the texture is smooth and not at all sticky, it dries very quickly (as promised), it holds up to the dishes like a champ, and I never have to use a topcoat for extra shine. It's a great drugstore find --I get mine at my local Food Lion grocery store --but you can find it at Target online and other places too, I'm sure! My latest color is "Expresso" and it appears to be shimmery in the linked photo from Target but it's not.

  • Dinner by the fire - The evenings have cooled and we are enjoying fall out here in Charlotte. After some much-needed yard cleanup, we've been trying to spend more time outside during what is definitely my favorite season. This week, on the recommendation of my friend and fellow "foodie night" contributor,  Amy, I made Nourishing White Bean and Lemon Soup. Oh my! This one should go on your short list! It's all about the lemon (and so am I)! Anyhoo... in a spontaneous move, we decided to eat it campout-style from our laps by the fire pit. Such a simple idea that I think made a big impact toward appreciating the moment.

  • This Amazon Cardigan - I have been trying to purchase less "fast fashion." I really have. After our shopping hiatus (ugh... longest 5 months of my life!) I was on a fairly good streak. Then COVID and quarantine. After all the bread-baking, plant cultivating, new recipes, overeating, etc... I've fallen back into some less-than-great habits. Among them, a little fast fashion. However... THIS is the softest, coziest, perfect-length, pockets-included fall cardigan. It's $37. I ordered a Medium. I'm going to wear it all of the days. Perhaps you will too?

  • Lamb Kofta from Whole Foods - My friend, Anne, turned us onto these delicious ground lamb kabobs from the prepared meat section. Greg grills them and I usually serve with a green salad and roasted or grilled veggies. They usually offer two flavors: Greek and Turkish. Greek is our jam. If you have access to Whole Foods through Amazon delivery, then it's even easier to get your hands on some. Let me know if you try any!

And finally, a special shoutout to my pal, Sally, who with a little phone call this week pushed me toward the decision to spend a little time thinking about some happiness and sharing it with y'all.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

What I've Read Recently // May 2020

After a slow reading month in April, I finished 8 books in May. I always list the books below in the order that I read them but they rarely line up (if ever) in the order that I enjoyed them. The month started strong, took a dip, and finished solidly. There are a lot of GREAT books in this month's post. Six of the eight rated were 8 or higher on a scale of 1-10. I hope you'll take the time to read through all of the summaries. And I really hope you take the time to pick up a couple and read them yourself.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Adapted from Goodreads:
Toni Morrison's first novel tells the story of black, eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove. In the autumn of 1941, the year the marigolds in the Breedloves' garden do not bloom. Pecola's life does change- in painful, devastating ways.
What I thought: 8.5/10
Obviously, this book is full of beautiful writing. Morrison has a gift of language that is breathtaking. There is a deeper and parallel commentary occurring in these pages in nearly every passage. I experienced this textured storytelling in a way that felt similar to Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (Reviewed for October 2019). These two novels read both brutally and beautifully. There are countless examples of this figurative writing throughout the text. One that comes to mind is the description of the delivery of the Breedloves' new, yet torn, sofa and all that it signifies. This passage perfectly captured the circular trap of powerlessness, racism, and poverty --even though the words on the page, at the surface, seemed to be about a piece of furniture. Another striking example for me was the haunting symbolism in the "See Jane Run" segments throughout the novel. As Pecola's psyche deteriorates, so goes the cadence and completeness of the primer excerpt that opens the chapters. The bottom line is that this book is stunning and heartbreaking. While it was published in 1970, it speaks clearly to the realities of 2020 (living in a racist society, the systemic and racist hierarchy of beauty and value, violence, the treatment of black women during pregnancy/labor, colorism, institutionalized cycles of poverty, AND...). You should definitely read it.

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen
Adapted from Goodreads:
Emma Saylor doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when she was ten. But she does remember the stories her mom told her about North Lake (where she grew up) that went on forever, with cold, clear water and mossy trees at the edges. Emma hasn't been there or seen her mother's family since she was a little girl. How will her life evolve as a result of spending a few weeks in North Lake?
What I thought: 5/10
Emma Saylor is our protagonist. Her dad and everyone in her current teenaged life call her Emma. We quickly learn that her deceased mother used to call her Saylor. Emma doesn't have a lot of memories of being called Saylor. Emma is upper-middle class. She is careful to not upset or challenge her dignified (live-in) paternal grandmother or her quiet and predictable dentist dad. Through a series of events, Emma's dad has no other option than to ask his mother-in-law (who he has not been in touch with for a very long time) to let Emma come stay with her (surrounded by Emma's barely-remembered aunts, uncles, cousins, and childhood friends) in the blue-collar community of North Lake where her mother was raised. Emma's parents actually met as teenagers at the lake. See the lake is split between blue-collar/year-round North Lake (Emma's mom's family) and affluent/seasonal Lake North (where her dad summered with his upperclass family). Emma has been primarily raised to fit the stereotype of a "Lake North Girl." She shows up to grandma's house and is immediately referred to as "Saylor." What follows is her swift transformation into a hard-working, uncomfortable with entitlement, not-afraid-to-get-dirty, cousin/granddaughter --a solid "North Lake Girl." Are you on the edge of your seat to know what happens next? I'm embarrassed to have spent so many words on this thin book.

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
Adapted from Goodreads:
Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has an eight-year-old son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. Something beyond horrific happens and Lydia and Luca are forced to flee. Lydia and Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia—trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place they might find safety. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?
What I thought: 8/10 (Listened on Audible)
I had reservations about giving my attention to this book. Oprah chose it as her (January 2020?) book club selection and the criticisms came swiftly. Here's the problem: While the book is primarily about undocumented immigration, the US-Mexico border crisis, and violence in South America, it has been written by a nonimmigrant and non-Mexican. I read it (listened to it) anyway. Since then (and embarrassingly recently) I am making a concerted effort to educate myself about systemic racism. A small component of how this ubiquitous racism operates lies in the publishing/media world of which books get printed, marketed, and purchased. There are lots of books about this topic already written by Latin American authors who I should have/could have given my time and attention. I found American Dirt to be compelling and sweeping. I was captivated, horrified, and informed by the story. I loved the writing and the voice of the narrator (Yareli Arizmendi) in my Audible version. It's my responsibility (and all of our responsibility) to know more and to try to understand how to witness and address our border crisis. To this end, I've committed to begin by reading Latinx authors on the subject in both fiction and nonfiction. If you have a recommendation of a book you found important, I'd love to hear it. If not, there are eight books recommended HERE as a place to begin.

Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts
Adapted from Goodreads:
Seventeen years old, seven months pregnant, and broke, Novalee Nation is abandoned by her boyfriend at a Walmart in Oklahoma on their way to California. Stranded in an unfamiliar small town, Novalee builds a life with the help of some amazing people she meets along the way.
What I thought: 8.5/10
If you've seen the movie but haven't read the book, do yourself a favor and pick this one up! This story overflows with heartache, hardship, and struggle --all balanced beautifully with love, kindness, and generosity. The characters are vivid, original, and layered. I think you'll fall in love with more than a few --just like I did! Sister Hubbard, Moses Whitecotton, and Benny Goodluck come into Novalee's life on her first day and they grow to root her into her new life with every page.

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
Adapted from Goodreads:
Based on a true story, the Baileyville Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky face danger and challenge in the rural mountain terrain and work in the gossip and distain of town fold who would punish them for their unconventional ways.
What I thought: 8/10
Books? Libraries? Women fighting for a place in the world that they get to define? I'm IN! This is a beautiful story of courage, friendship, and fierce independence. I found it to be funny, moving, and spirited. A friendship like Alice and Margery's is one for the times. Izzy, Beth, and Sophia each have so much to offer and I loved following their journeys through these pages. These characters and the men in their lives came to life in the reading and I was thoroughly entertained.

The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham
Adapted from Goodreads:
A psychological thriller about the unlikely friendship between two pregnant women that asks: how far would you go to create the perfect family? Agatha is pregnant and works part-time stocking shelves at a grocery store in a ritzy London suburb. Meghan is the effortlessly chic customer whose elegant lifestyle dazzles her. They meet and then...
What I thought: 7/10
I thought this book was really very good. I did compare it to the other books read this month --and that is a lot to live up to. As far as thrillers go, the pacing and twists were exciting and compelling. Not everyone was who they appeared to be from the outside --in hindsight, I'm not sure I can recall a single character who didn't have at least one surprise. This is the perfect book for a weekend away.

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray
Adapted from Goodreads:
A dazzling debut novel about mothers and daughters, identity and family, and how the relationships that sustain you can also be the ones that consume you. The Butler family has had their share of trials—as sisters Althea, Viola, and Lillian can attest—but nothing prepared them for the literal trial that will upend their lives.
What I thought: 8.5/10 (Listened on Libby)
"As a mother, I am my father's daughter. And I hate everything about him." -Althea Butler.
This book gets under your skin and agitates. Gray writes her characters to life --every moment of their pain drips into your heart through her passages. Listening to the story in the distinct voices of the narrators January LaVoy (Viola), Adenrele Ojo (Althea), Bahni Turpin (Lillian), and Dominic Hoffman (Proctor) added depth and nuance. Centered around the struggle to connect and forgive within families, this novel also speaks to racial inequities of the justice system, the will and strength of women of color, abuse, and addiction. This is a great story!

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
Adapted from Goodreads:
Exploring the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a precocious yet naïve teenage girl and her magnetic and manipulative teacher, My Dark Vanessa is a brilliant, all-consuming read. Vanessa is 15. Her English teacher, Jacob Strane, is 42. Jumping between memories of her sophomore year of boarding school in 2000 and the present, 17 years later, this novel explores victimhood, trauma, consent, and societal complicity.
What I thought: 8.5/10
This was a book I needed to take little "breaks" from. The content is disturbing, thought-provoking, complex, and crushing. It is beautifully written, achingly painful, and further opens the conversation around topics of sexual violence that have been historically oversimplified. I had a hard time putting Vanessa away from my thoughts after I had finished the book. To read about what happened in 2000 is heartbreaking on its own (but not to Vanessa who refuses to name Strane a predator). As the reader, to also confront the reality of Vanessa's subsequent and enduring understanding/definition of what love looks and feels like through her life after Strane (harsh, punishing, and superficial) evokes sympathy and sadness. However, Vanessa is unwilling to consider herself a victim. She ignores the truth that his abuse has left a residue over her being that contaminates nearly every aspect of her life --only she has to believe that this poison is somehow a perfume --because if she doesn't, then she has no power at all.

~ Pin for Later ~

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Things I Love Thursday // 5.28.20

  • A Weekend Away with Friends - Like everyone else, I've seen way too much of the inside of my home for over 2 months now. It was an incredible gift to be invited to spend the holiday weekend with our dear friends at their house in the mountains. Like us, they have been predominantly sequestered during this time so we all felt comfortable sharing the house with one another. Despite the forecast, we had great weather, got out on the boat several times, relaxed and read books, ate incredible food, and truly enjoyed the time with one another. 

  • Children's Theatre of Charlotte/City Stems - My year-long term as president of ENCORE!, the Children's Theatre of Charlotte's volunteer auxiliary, has come to a close. It was an incredible honor to serve the Theatre and the community in this role. The season definitely did not wrap up the way anyone was expecting it might. Theatre leadership and the board of directors are busting their behinds to forecast, plan, and execute on an engaging (virtual) summer and (hopefully) eventful and joyous 2020-21 season. The creative energy and passion that lifts up The Arts in Charlotte can always use extra financial support and volunteer efforts. My amazing ENCORE! Council tapped my favorite Charlotte creative to make me a parting gift that I am in love with. Laura Hughes of City Stems knocked it out of the park (again). Look at this stunner! The polkadot pot has ears! Doesn't get any cooler than a raven zz and the size of the airplant is unreal. #swoon

  • Clairol Root Touch-Up - Not allowed/ready to head back into the salon? Me neither. A longtime favorite of mine is here to help out all the graying brunettes who are reading along! I just treated myself to a freshening-up this week. 15 minutes. $7. Grays are covered for about 4 more weeks. Voilà. Please, do enjoy my partial Elvis impression below.

  • Cooking - I continue to entertain and busy myself by trying to bring culinary happiness to the dinner table during our extended social distancing. Half Baked Harvest remains a popular feature in my Foodie Night text chain and in my Instagram feed. This week, my family loved HBH's Thai Black Pepper Chicken + Garlic Noodles. The original recipe called for broccoli florets but welcomed substitutions. I had red bell pepper and sliced mushrooms on-hand (and decided to save my broccoli for the next dinner). It was fantastic! Everyone loved the way the sticky heat complimented the buttery noodles and we will surely have this again very soon. HBH's One-Pot Lemon Basil, [Broccoli], + Sausage Pasta originally called for asparagus. Not only did I not have any --but one of my teens refers to asparagus as "asparaGROSS" --so broccoli to the rescue. We found the pasta to be very satisfying but it didn't win any prizes at the dinner table (maybe it really needed the asparagus?). If I make this again, I will reserve about 1/2 cup of pasta water and use it to make the sauce more velvety and a better consistency to coat the noodles. Over the holiday weekend at the lake, we very much enjoyed Half Baked Harvest's Burrata with Pepperonata + Tomatoes over toasted homemade sourdough. The flavors and colors were beautiful! I loved how the zip of the balsamic was balanced by the creamy burrata and the sweetness of the peppers and tomatoes. Next time I make this one, I'll include extra cheese. Looking for a delicious way to enjoy the recent "harvest" from the backyard garden, I found a simple recipe by Gail Simmons in her beautiful cookbook, Bringing it Home. Shaved Zucchini Salad with Harissa Citrus Dressing + Mint, will continue to please as long as the zucchini and yellow squash keep producing. I plan to double or triple this dressing next time and keep it on-hand for a quick assembly. It rained all day yesterday and we cozied up with another indulgent and comforting recipe from HBH. Skillet Cheesy Pepperoni Pizza Chicken was as good as it sounds. Pictured below, in order, and with the recipes linked are the highlights of the week: Thai Black Pepper Chicken + Garlic Noodles, One-Pot Lemon Basil, Asparagus, + Sausage Pasta, Burrata with Pepperonata + Tomatoes (from my Super Simple cookbook which has gone up from $18 to $22.50), Shaved Zucchini Salad with Harissa Citrus Dressing + Mint (also from my cookbook but maybe this link will work?), and Skillet Cheesy Pepperoni Pizza Chicken.

  • Not Cooking - I definitely love to cook and I certainly enjoy a break from cooking too --especially when I have the pleasure of consuming anything prepared by our friend Adam. His culinary exhibitions have been featured in the blog before. A self-taught home chef, I've never seen him work from a recipe. What he delivers to the plate has never fallen short of amazing. This weekend's delights included an incredible salmon filet over bottarga noodles with crisp-charred cherry tomatoes, [magic] herb sauce, and crispy salmon skin. Holy moly. I wish I could share the recipe with you (and have a copy for myself) but as I said, Adam never seems to be working from a recipe. *crazy-impressed*

  • My New Fabric Face Mask - Lemons! Perfection. This sweet little mask is from a local shop called Roses + Azalea --a wife/husband team that makes organic personal care and beauty products that "heal + nourish the body holistically." This is my first purchase from the shop; however, I am interested in sampling the Beauty Cream and Face Serum.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Things I Love Thursday // 5.21.20

  • Puppy Breath - We finally got to meet our friends' new puppy this weekend! Bella is a Cavapoo. She is very sweet, very sleepy, and very much the owner of my heart now.

  • Love Notes - We celebrated Mother's Day a week late this year. Some of the sweetest parts of the day were finding these little notes all over the house. I actually just found another one yesterday! So simple and thoughtful. Bookmark this idea for your loved one's birthday! (If you're interested in the reason we celebrated late, keep reading --otherwise, skip ahead). My husband had surgery the week of Mother's Day and asked me if I'd take a "rain check" on celebrating. He didn't feel "prepared to prepare" a fabulous day. Of course, I said it would be no problem. He expressed great thanks and insisted that it was supremely generous of me to agree to postpone --while I (secretly) thought the generous thing would have been to just roll with the situation and lower my expectations. When I (later) admitted this to him, he said it never crossed his mind that having a "not fabulous" day might be an option. Haha. You might be thinking, "Goodness! What on earth does she expect?" Here's my definition of fabulous: No plans, no dishes or picking up (but enjoying a clean house), handmade cards from the girls, my favorite meal. It's really not over-the-top. BUT the "favorite meal" part is critical and it requires my husband to grill. Grilling was not allowed on May 10th because of his surgery. Let me tell you, it was worth the wait.
  • Snake Huggie Earrings - I'm loving the style of wearing multiple earrings in my original piercings these days --after a break from doing just that (which lasted about 20 years). I was surprised to find that while my helix piercing had closed, my lobe piercings were still open. For now, (ha!) I have three piercings in one ear and one in the other. I've been wearing a combination of tiny studs and asked for a few small pairs of "huggie" hoops for Mother's Day. This Amazon link has lots of very fun styles to choose from and each of these 14K gold plated pairs is only $12. A huge bonus is the way these are designed to "click" open and closed. The hinges might wear out at some point, but it's worth it to me to not have to struggle to get the back wire inserted (as some hoop-style earrings are designed). In addition to the snakes, I chose these ones and these ones.  *affiliate links make me rich!

  • Mike's Hot Honey - We first stumbled upon this product in our favorite local cheese shop, Mere's. It has really got a kick! Delicious with cheeses, on avocado toast, pizza, or grilled cheese --it went fast. We've been "unable" to get our hands on any more (because I didn't bother checking for it on Amazon). Duh. In any event, we have it again and you might find it amazing as well! 

  • Pimento Cheese - It's a southern thing. It's necessary. Before we moved here, I had never even heard of pimento cheese. Now, if you visit us from out of town, we will make it a point to serve you pimento cheese and Cheerwine (also very much a thing). My friend, Anne, popped over the other day with a lovely little surprise: Chef Jaime's Pimento Cheese. I've had lots of versions of this southern staple and this is by far one of the creamiest --with just the right amount of texture from the curds and peppers. If you're local to the Charlotte area, you're in luck! Just order through an Instagram message and delivery is free! Spicier versions of pimento cheese are usually what I gravitate toward and I can't wait to order Jaime's jalapeño version. So I have to know (especially from my West Coast peeps): Have you had pimento cheese? Are you a fan? 

  • Garden Growth - We are having a very strange spring. It's been incredibly mild, as far as temperatures go. Some days are downright chilly! It rained all day yesterday and through the night. I had planned to make a big spring salad with grilled chicken for dinner and instead remained curled up and opted for Mexican takeout last night! Given/despite (?) the weather, the garden is going like gangbusters. These zucchini seemed to burst out of nowhere overnight and this sweet little cherry tomato, though not completely ripe, had fallen from the vine. The beans are taking shape. The banana peppers continue to amaze and the crook-necked squash are almost the right size. In case you've missed the many announcements on Instagram, I'm a farmer now. Obviously.

  • Meals We Loved - We continue to eat well during quarantine. My "Foodie Night" text chain is always full of ideas, recipes, yummy-looking plates, funny memes, and good news. If you read the TILT post last week, you know my friend, Carrie, gifted me yeast packets! If you have any, I highly recommend making a fun night of homemade pizzas. Everyone in our family enjoyed creating their own version of the "perfect pie." The recipe linked here makes 2 large pizzas or 4 generous individuals. Next time (and there will definitely be a next time) I will cut the dough into 6 pieces because the size of our 4-portioned pies was tricky to transfer onto the hot pan. I used the leftover grilled asparagus and red onion from my Mother's Day meal + shredded mozzarella and creamy ricotta in a very easy and versatile frittata this week. I've also linked a recipe for spring ramp pasta. If you can't find any ramps, then small leeks, green onions and/or shallots would be a good substitute (I'd also suggest adding some lemon zest to finish the dish). Pictured below, in order, and linked recipes here, are the highlights of the week: Carrie's Yummy Pizzas, Thai Basil Beef with Peanut Salsa (this recipe came from my Half Baked Harvest Super Simple cookbook and is not available online; however, this HBH Thai Basil Beef is similar, "Mom's Favorite Meal" (rare filet, grilled asparagus and red onion, green salad, +big cabernet), Leftovers Frittata, Simple Ramp Pasta, and Coconut Chicken Tikka Masala.

  • Sourdough Strides - I have a new favorite sourdough recipe/technique and it's resulted in two beautiful, rustic loaves over the past week. Turns out, I had been over-proofing my dough and by the time it hit the hot oven, it was exhausted --which yielded a very wimpy oven spring. This new recipe from Sylvia of Feasting at Home (gorgeous blog --going to have to spend some time exploring soon) is even a "no-knead" method! In the sourdough bread post, you will find step-by-step instructions and videos about the different "folds" that are straightforward and detailed. If you're into the whole bread-baking thing --or you want to jump in, give this recipe a go. Sylvia also has a detailed methodology for making your own starter --though, the easiest way to get started is to find a baker friend in your area and ask for some of theirs. Seriously. Sharing your starter is a thing. Most bakers are very generous and love to celebrate this part of the "Bread Community."