Thursday, October 31, 2013

Things I Love Thursday // 10.31.13

  • Our family hike in Crowders Mountain State Park last Sunday 
  • Angela Duckworth's TedTalk, The Key to Success? Grit - "Let's be gritty about getting our kids grittier!"
  • Little people who happily choose to eat their green beans before they eat their chicken nuggets
  • The Ohio State University marching band
  • This silly little scarf-wearing fashionista ~ Be careful when you bust out the box of winter accessories! 
  • Blackfish ~ This documentary about killer whales in captivity is worth your time and attention. I will never take my kids to another marine-themed park. 
  • The Good Wife's "Hitting the Fan" episode ~ Dude. $hit just got real. 
  • Stitch Fix ~ So. Much. Fun. This is like Birchbox on steroids. It's clothes--not cosmetics and they make it so easy. I have to say, after just 2 "fixes," I'm totally impressed. If you decide to try it, spend some thoughtful time on your profile because this is how they generate your "fix."  
  • When my husband makes a trip to Frugal MacDoogal ~ Living in an ABC state, trips to neighboring states for alcohol purchases are necessary. 
  • Charlotte's Queen of Sheba Ethiopian restaurant
  • Jon Stewart and all the writers at the Daily Show
  • My masterfully crafted (yes, I do say so myself) playlist for a 30-35 minute run/workout ~ What would you add? 

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pumpkin Carving Play Date + Pumpkin Seed Recipe

The girls insisted on "spookifying" our fall porch with Grandma Lulu several weeks ago and they did a great job adding some creepy elements {insert that ominous "muah-ah-ah" sound}. However, with the weather as gorgeous as it's been, we've had to wait until the last possible moment to get our jack-o-lanterns carved. We decided today would be the perfect day (and really, the last chance). The weather was amazing and we were hosting G's friend (the blond cutie) for an afternoon play date.  
After a thorough discussion on knife safety and pleading with all three that we get through the project with all 30 of their sweet little digits, I outfitted them with manageable-sized steak knives and "safety mitts" (aka, oven mitts). They set to work right away bringing their carefully planned creations into existence. 
 And because they are between the ages of 6 and 8, they had their own ideas of how to stage the "after" picture. 
 And because I'm the one "in charge" (most of the time), I suggested another pose too.
Of course, my favorite part of carving pumpkins is the reward of roasted pumpkin seeds when everything is said and done.
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
What you need:
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
ground pepper to taste
2 cups pumpkin seeds, cleaned (mostly) and rinsed
What to do:
Whisk the first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl until you have a vinaigrette. Toss the pumpkin seeds in to coat. Lay the seeds out on a large, rimmed baking sheet and bake at 275F for one hour. Once cooled, these can be stored in an air-tight container.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Recipe Review | Roasted Cauliflower and Mushroom Quinoa Salad

This is a great side dish for the fall. The roasted vegetables mix really well with the creamy goat cheese and the brightness of the vinaigrette. The toasted walnuts add an easy and delicious crunch. The salad can be served warm or cool. Originally, I came across this recipe on Pinterest. I made a few small changes and the results were delicious. I hope you try this one.

Roasted Cauliflower and Mushroom Quinoa Salad (Closet Cooking)
What you need:
1/2 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
8-10 ounces mushroom
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup quinoa, well rinsed
1 1/2 cups water or broth (I used water)
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup goat, feta, or blue cheese, crumbled (I used goat)
1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette (I used this one because we love it)
1 cup of arugula (because we had it and I thought it would be a good addition)
What to do:
1. Toss the cauliflower and mushrooms in the oil, thyme, salt and pepper, place on a baking sheet in a single layer and roast in a preheated 400F oven until they start to caramelize, about 20-30 minutes, flipping them halfway through.
2. Meanwhile, bring the water and quinoa to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the quinoa is tender and has absorbed the water, about 15-20 minutes, remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes, covered.
3. Mix everything and enjoy.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Things I Love Thursday // 10.24.13

  • The chilly evening we enjoyed outside last night in the Wing Haven Garden listening to Amy Stewart talk about botany and booze (and her new book) while we we sipped some of her tastiest fall creations (I think we need some "selfie" practice! lol We were not even inebriated! At least the Autumn Leaves cocktail photographed nicely.)
  • Falling temperatures ~ coats, boots, scarves, and changing out the comforter
  • The bubblegum pink blossoms on the camellia that grow outside my window as I type this post
  • The delicious glass(es) of Hook & Ladder's The Tillerman Red Blend that I recently enjoyed ~YUMMY 
  • The most recent episode of Homeland "Game On" --WHAT? 
  • Listening to the girls' teachers express how much they enjoy having our little people in their classrooms during our parent-teacher conferences
  • Unexpected reminders of "home" out here on the east coast ~ Really, Target? So random and awesome  (but not nearly cute enough to actually purchase). {sigh} 
  • Making popovers for my family ~ I remember making these with my mom many times, many moons ago. It was nice to revisit those happy memories (and then to enjoy the indulgence afterward). P said they tasted like "crispy, pillowy, soft air."
  • Russell Brand
  • Eiffel Tower Branch Silliness 
  • Too many things in the J. Crew November Style Guide ~ like this, this, this, and this ~ Unfortunately, even at 25% off (code: SHOPNOW) most of these will continue to be loved from afar. 
  • These Whiskey Garden centerpieces, inspired by Amy Stewart's The Drunken Botanist ~ It's a beautiful galvanized bucket filled with fresh, plantable herbs that are great for infusing in alcohol or muddling in cocktails. Attached, are drink recipes and garden ideas for planting a "Cocktail Garden." To top it off, there are a couple little decorative (and drinkable) mini bottles of whiskey. This would be a TERRIFIC housewarming gift! And of course, now I want to plant a Cocktail Garden. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Snack Fun: Apple Tasting Activity

G had a friend over to play after school last week and before I "released them into the wild" we had some simple fun with a healthy snack.

We had just come from the grocery store where I asked the girls to grab 6 apples as I gathered other produce items.
"What kind?" G asked.
"I usually get Gala, Fuji, or Honey Crisp," I replied.
They returned to the cart a minute later, "Can we get a Golden Delicious too?"
"Sure." As she reached to add it to the bag of apples she had already gathered, I explained that it needed to go in a separate bag because the apples would be weighed at the register and they all cost different amounts.
"Oh. Well... there are two Galas, two Fujis, and two Honey Crisps in that bag already." :)

So we reorganized the apples into their own bags and decided to have a little taste-test when we got back to the house. They devised a scoring rubric and were very thoughtful about rating each variety in categories like: Flavor (sweet or sour or both), Texture (soft or crisp), Color (pretty, not as pretty LOL). I would definitely let your little come up with their own score cards as that's part of the creative freedom they enjoy.

Each of the three had a different favorite and they all ran outside to play in the fall sunshine with full bellies. So simple; so fun!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Things I Love Thursday // 10.17.13

  • Having Grandma Lulu visit for her birthday weekend
  • How different it felt celebrating Lulu's birthday this year (post-chemo and in remission) versus where we were at this time last year (just diagnosed and pre-treatment)
  • This "Leaf Kabob" that G put together on a walk with Grandma 
  • Fall creeping into the trees and the breeze and the chilly mornings
  • Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Almond Toffee (in the little red bags) ~ Conveniently located at the checkout counter in individual serving-sizes 
  • Grandma's Sewing Circle 
  • These cute and cozy sweatshirts with attention to stylish detailing (length of cuffs, zippered shoulder, stitched accent at the back of neck) at Target ~ Which color must you have?
  • Watching paint dry ~ Well, only because it's drying in my updated pantry closet ;)
  • Well Read Women: Portraits of Fiction's Most Beloved Heroines by Samantha Hahn ~ Not only do I love the illustrations and the quotes which give each character a voice as well as a presence, I love the book as a reference for the novels, plays, and poetry I have yet to consume. As Samantha Hahn writes, "I invite you into this book... to meet these heroines, befriend them, and in the process perhaps, learn about yourself... I hope you enjoy gazing into the eyes of all of the powerful, damaged, beautiful, and incandescent women in my book. I hope you follow them back to their original stores and come to see them in your own way too."
  • The idea of using your children's art work as cake toppers (That's Lulu's "Birthday Breakfast Zucchini Bread) ~ Martha Stewart Living (October, 2013) 
  • Oven Roasted Tomato Jam with Garlic and Herbs from Copper Pot Traditions, located in Asheville, NC but available to YOU on Etsy
  • That my kids think my singing voice is "wonderful" and they enjoy singing with me in the car ~ This is seriously a phenomenon of the beautifully filtered way we are seen (and heard) through the eyes and hearts of our children.
  • When, on a random Sunday afternoon, you can wander around my house and find this happening 
  • These funky and fun Brass State Rings from Larissa Loden
  • This fun Colorblocking Twist Knitting Sweater that I haven't pulled the trigger on yet... but that's a really good price, y'all!
  • My silly peeps 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Looking Back and Moving Forward

Sometimes the most simple of gatherings bring about the best memories (sunshine, room to play, good food and nice wine, friends, bugs, and horses too). Flipping through the photos of our 3-week trip to Oregon over the summer, I came across so many moments and get-togethers that graced our time there with family and friends. It's nice to be in a place, emotionally, where I can look through these pictures (that so clearly represent many of the relationships and connections we made in Oregon) and not feel super sad. While we picked up and relocated across the country only 8 months ago, we are all making new connections, new friends, and finding our way. Honestly, it gets easier every day. There's really nothing "sad" about Charlotte (and that helps). This not being our first big relocation as a family, we came in knowing that what makes embracing this kind of change so special is not limited to the opportunity to meet new people, the prospect of discovering new places to explore, or even the deliciousness of new flavors and food we get to enjoy on this coast. Mostly, for me, it has been the opportunity to focus on and appreciate the beautiful life I have built with my family and the unique way we function together as a team that is most amazing. What a gift--to be given this chance to hold onto one another as we learn to grow and bloom in our new soil. So, in the spirit of new adventures: Cheers to staying connected to the friends you have, to extending yourself and making new friends, and to giving yourself and your loved ones some room to grow!

I look forward to sharing some of the other spectacular moments we enjoyed on our trip with y'all (wink) soon.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Recipe Review | Bruschetta

Before all the tasty tomatoes are gone for the season, I encourage you to try this easy and delicious recipe for bruschetta. The components are simple and the end result is always a crowd-pleaser. Just make sure your kissing partner has some too. This recipe is the result of many years of adjustments and additions. The quantities are estimates and you should taste as you go and make tweaks to suit your palate.

Tammy's Bruschetta
What you need:
2-3 cups ripe tomatoes (cherry, grape, roma, and some heirloom are ideal), diced
1-2 cloves fresh garlic, pressed through a mincer 
1 clove garlic, peeled and left whole
10-15 basil leaves, julienned (see photo above- stack leaves, roll like a cigar, and slice thinly)
1 cup cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained and rinsed
3-4 tablespoons olive oil, separated
salt and pepper, to taste
French baguette
goat cheese (optional)
What to do:
In a medium bowl, combine diced tomatoes, pressed garlic, basil, cannellini beans, and about 1-2 tablespoons olive oil (go lighter at first--you can add more later if you need to). Season with salt and pepper. Cover and set aside.

Preheat the broiler and slice your baguette (on the diagonal will give you a little more surface area to balance your bruschetta upon). Layer the bread on a cookie sheet and toast under the broiler until the edges brown and the bread becomes fragrant. Remove from the oven and flip each slice over. Toast the second side. (This side will NOT take as long as the first side--so keep you eye on it!)

Pour 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small dish. With a fork, spear your remaining whole garlic clove; dip the garlic into the oil and while the bread is still warm from the oven, rub/scrape the garlic clove over one side of each toast. 
To serve:
I always serve my tomato mixture separate from the baguette toasts. I find that if I assemble the bites too early (depending on the juiciness of the tomatoes) the bread can get soggy before people can enjoy it. In addition, I always place a small dish of soft goat cheese on the side of the baguette and encourage guests to first spread goat cheese on the toast and then to top with the bruschetta. The creaminess of the goat cheese and the cannellini beans are the secrets to the success of this crowd-pleaser. 

Along side a plate of savory-sweet crackers, triple cream, and a fruit chutney, this bruschetta makes for a delightful, almost-effortless, late-afternoon gathering with family and friends. Cheers!