April 30, 2010

breaking in the Le Creuset

Well hi, friends. Sorry I've been a bad blogger this week. I've just needed a little bit of a break and I didn't feel like I had anything interesting to say over the last few days!

Last night, I christened the glorious and lovely Le Creuset Dutch oven that you all talked me into getting a few weeks ago; on the menu were some delicious country ribs drowned in a homemade barbecue sauce. Nick and I barely spoke to each other while chowing down on the yumminess, so I'm pretty sure that implies that they were a success.

Nick got the pork ribs on sale the other day, so when I searched for recipes, I limited my search to ones that included ribs, and wouldn't require buying lots of other ingredients. I'm looking forward to making different dishes in the future, but I'm sure we'll try this one again sometime, too, because the result was fabulous.

Below is the recipe I found at Just Dutch Oven Recipes, for which we ended up already having most of the other ingredients.

Country Ribs

1 c Sweet red wine
1/2 c Chili sauce
1/3 c Vinegar
1/4 c Honey
2 tb Soy sauce
1 tb Worcestershire sauce
2 ts Salt
2 ts Dry mustard
1 ts Horseradish
1 ts Red pepper sauce
1/2 ts Ground pepper
1/2 ts Paprika
3 tb Vegetable oil
3 lb Pork country-style ribs

Mix all ingredients except oil and ribs in saucepan. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Heat oven to 350'. Heat oil in Dutch oven over low heat. Brown half of the ribs in hot oil; remove ribs. Repeat with remaining ribs; drain off fat. Return ribs to Dutch oven; pour sauce over ribs. Cover and bake 1 hour. Uncover and bake until done, about 30 minutes. Remove ribs to serving bowl. Strain sauce; skim off fat. Pour sauce over ribs.

Because I'm a nerd, I made Nick take a picture as I was getting ready to put the ribs into the oven. It's par for the course when you live with me. (Oh, please ignore my terribly messy hair and the mess on the sink. Do you like my apron? It makes me feel fancy.)

The Dutch oven is pretty heavy and I'm a klutz (I could just see myself dropping that thing on the first go-round), so I made Nick take it out of the oven for me when the timer went off. Check out that action shot. Go, Nick, go!

And, the final result. Yummmm.

Mission: Break In Le Creuset Dutch Oven... accomplished! What should we try next?

April 26, 2010


Today marks a special occasion for my in-laws — it's their 35th wedding anniversary!

35 years ago today, cutting their cake

Nick and I took a day-trip yesterday to visit and celebrate with them. We brought along some pretty tulips for the occasion.

We aspire to a marriage as long and happy as theirs. Happy anniversary, M & J! Here's to many, many more years of happiness together.

Monday music, vol. 13: Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough

Every Monday, I'll be sharing a pick-me-up song with the hopes of helping you begin your week on a positive note. Happy Monday!

I don't know what's better — the song that makes me want to dance, or the "high tech" special effects.

Buy this song here.

April 22, 2010

William Dohman

I came across these great recycled wood signs by William Dohman (via decor8) and I love their worn, slightly imperfect appearance. I'd love to get my hands on one, particularly, "Keep Calm"— I'm a little bit of a spaz sometimes and could probably use this reminder once in a while.

He also has some great photos and prints available. This one made me laugh:

(I'm immature.)

images via Willam Dohman on Etsy

April 21, 2010

Number 38: temporary husband substitute

I've been working on number 38 on my 101 in 1001 list lately:

38. Have fresh flowers at home for 4 weeks

It is amazing how much fresh flowers can boost my spirit. Nick has been out of town for the last ten days for work training (did I tell you all that he started a new job last month? Changes all around for us!), and I've been missing him a lot. He'll be home Friday and I can't wait — the schmoopy factor is off the charts and we need to be reunited, already!

Anyhow, I took a walk to Trader Joe's yesterday to pick up a few things, and I couldn't resist when I walked in and saw a bunch of ranunculus for $4.99. They're my favorite flower and they remind me of our wedding day, so they'll help to tide me over until Nick gets home. Aren't they pretty?

April 20, 2010

Blanca Gomez

I absolutely adore the sweet and stylized illustrations of Blanca Gomez. I particularly love these cheerful city illustrations that she created for The Art Group; don't they just make you sigh with delight?


Because every girl needs a pair of cute purple patent-leather flats, doesn't she?

On clearance at DSW for $27. Purchased with a $10 off rewards coupon. Grand total: $17. Holler.

April 19, 2010

Monday music, vol. 12: Amie

Every Monday, I'll be sharing a pick-me-up song with the hopes of helping you begin your week on a positive note. Happy Monday!

I'll never tire of this song... I've loved it since I discovered it in high school and it's still one of my all-time favorites. If your name is Amie (or Amy, Aimee, etc.), I'm betting you love it, too.

Buy this song here.

April 18, 2010

back on the wagon: C25K

You guys have heard me talk about my latest workout/get healthy attempts before. I try really hard to keep up with something once I start it, but the reality is that I just don't love working out, and I just don't love healthy foods, so it's easy to fall off the wagon. I am within the healthy weight and BMI range for my height and I have an okay body image, but I'd still like to feel a bit healthier and be on the lower end of the weight range for my height. And, sure, I'll admit, I'm a little vain — I want to be able to feel comfortable and attractive in a cute bathing suit on the beach this summer.

A few months ago I was doing the 30-Day Shred. I was keeping up with it really well, and was feeling/seeing a difference... but then I got sick. About a week before my Vegas trip, I came down with a terrible cold that had me out of commission for a while, and I didn't work out at all that week, after about 20 days of consistently keeping up with the Shred. I went to Vegas and still wasn't feeling 100% health-wise, but I did feel comfortable in my clothes (and felt that my arms were definitely more toned due to the Shred — WIN!). Then I came home, still couldn't shake that cold, and didn't work out again that week. And two weeks is all it takes for me to totally fall off the wagon. I pretty much didn't work out at all for the rest of March, and got back into my old habits of choosing the unhealthiest thing on the menu when eating out and regretting it an hour later. (I love me some greasy food.) FAIL.

A few weeks ago I kept reading about Couch to 5K on Twitter, and I decided that maybe I should try it. For me, when I don't have the money for a gym membership, finding something that has some accountability attached to it or a set time line that will help me to stay motivated is key. I've never been a runner, but everyone kept saying how great this program is for easing into it. My blog friend Amy raved so much about how it has been empowering and life-changing for her (she has completed two 5K races now! Go, Amy!), so I couldn't not try it.

There are several C25K apps out there for the iPhone (most run $2.99); I chose the variation by Felt Tip, mostly because I'm a design snob and I liked the way it looked :)

I am about to begin week 3, and while it's still not what I would call easy for a 100% non-runner like me, it has been doable and, for the most part, an exciting challenge. I really, really hope I can keep up with it and turn a corner in my fitness routine. I will keep you posted.

On top of doing C25K, I've been trying to make smarter decisions with the way I eat, particularly after watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. I love me some French fries, but I don't need them every time I eat out, and I need to start looking at the big picture a bit more (because I'm not getting any younger). The realities of how poorly we eat in this country have been setting in for me, and hopefully the impact won't wear off anytime soon!

Anyone else trying to turn over a new leaf before summer hits?

April 16, 2010

ultimate chocolate chip cookies

My friend and business partner Terry recently gave me this amazing chocolate chip cookie recipe that may just trump the trusty Nestle Toll House variation. The key seems to be in using cake flour in addition to all-purpose flour, and sprinkling sea salt on top before baking for the perfect salty-sweet combination.

I sent some to my friend Emily, my brother and sister-in-law, and my husband's parents a few weeks ago, and got rave reviews. Not sure if they were just being nice, but I'm pretty sure they liked them ;-)

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

2C minus 2Tbs cake flour
1 2/3C all-purpose flour
1 ¼ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp coarse salt (or sea salt)
2 ½ sticks unsalted butter
1 ¼ C light brown sugar
1C plus 2 Tbs sugar
2 Large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 ¼ c bittersweet chocolate (or any kind of chocolate chips that you like)*

Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and coarse salt into bowl and set aside.
Using mixer, cream butter and sugars until very light (5 min).
Add eggs (1 at a time), mixing well after each addition.
Stir in vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
Drop chocolate pieces in and then press plastic wrap against dough.
Refrigerate 24-36 hours. Dough can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.**
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, roll into balls and sprinkle lightly with coarse/sea salt.
Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown (or less time if you like them
really chewy).***

Makes about 6 dozen small-ish cookies

* I dump in the full bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips :) Why not?
** refrigerating for a few hours or overnight seems to yield the same results.

*** our oven tends to overcook things, so 12 minutes seems to be the magic number for perfectly golden, chewy cookies.

April 15, 2010

introducing... Curious & Company

I've been a bit quiet on the blog front this week, but with good reason: today is the day that my business partners and I are officially introducing our company to the world!

That's right — I am now a small business owner. This is something I have always dreamed about; I often felt a nagging feeling that it was what I was meant to do, but I didn't know if it would ever become a reality. I was never quite sure how I would do it on my own, so when the opportunity presented itself to work with people whose talents I admire and whose friendships I value, I couldn't say no. While this has been a scary leap to take, it has also been an extremely fulfilling and exhilarating one. The last few months has been full of transitions, penny-pinching, soul-searching and fear-facing; this is an adventure, for sure, but I am enjoying the ride.

Please check out Curious & Company and let us know what you think! You can also follow @CuriousAndCo on Twitter and become a Facebook fan to stay up-to-date on what we're working on.

April 12, 2010

Monday music, vol. 11: Pop

Every Monday, I'll be sharing a pick-me-up song with the hopes of helping you begin your week on a positive note. Happy Monday!

It's just a boy band kind of day. Go with it.

Buy this song here.

April 8, 2010

Fossil faves | spring 2010

It's that time of year again... the time of year when my favorite brands come out with new lines that cause me to swoon and wish I could go on a shopping spree. Fossil just keeps getting it right, and I have to say that everything I have bought from there in the last few years has held up beautifully; they are, without a doubt, my favorite wardrobe staples out of everything I own. I'm constantly impressed at the price points for the quality, too.

Here are a few more things I wouldn't mind adding to my repertoire:

Alicia swim suit - $58

Eden top - $48

Maggie top - $28

Lori dress - $68

Poppy fleece jacket - $58

The bags are a bit more out of my price range, but gosh they're cute:

Isla multi hobo - $178

Liberty tote - $188
I've been on the hunt for the perfect brown leather bag... this might just be it! Sigh...

the power of persuasion

I did it. I convinced Nick that we should spend our $250 Cooking.com gift card on the Le Creuset 5.5 quart Dutch Oven! Well, actually, dear readers, your helpful comments about the Le Creuset are what helped to seal the deal. So, thank you!

In less than one week, she will be all mine:

I had to pinkie swear that I will use it at least twice a month, so please don't hesitate to share with me your favorite go-to Dutch oven recipes. I'll be needing lots of ideas and recommendations (and I promise to blog about some of my adventures with my new darling).

At $234.95 with $17.00 shipping, our total came to just over our $250 gift card limit. However, with some super sleuthing, I found a free shipping coupon code, saving us $17.00 and bringing our grand total back down to $234.95. You know I couldn't let that last $15.05 go to waste, so I added this lovely green turner set from Rachel Ray for $14.95:

... bringing our grand total to: $249.90. A measly TEN CENTS below our limit.

Am I good, or what?

Finding coupon codes is one of my favorite online shopping tricks. I don't buy anything online without first Googling "[store name] coupon code," and I'd say I find a usable code about 80% of the time. It takes a little trial and error, but definitely give it a shot if you're ever ordering online — you can find some great deals!

April 7, 2010

here's some free money — spend it already, would ya?

Once upon a time (okay, about a year ago), Nick and I were on a game show together. I won't go into detail because it was not actually a great experience for us (in short, we were robbed... ROBBED I tell you!), and we have vowed to never go on a game show again (unless, of course, Alex Trebek finally comes a-callin'), but we at least came away from the experience with a consolation prize of a $250 gift card to Cooking.com.

Awesome! you may be thinking. Well, actually, not that awesome. We went on aforementioned game show only a few months after getting married (have you guessed the name of the show, yet?), and when you get married, you register for wedding gifts. And, well, when you register for wedding gifts, you get a LOT of stuff. We were extremely fortunate to receive just about everything off of our registries, leaving us needing very few things in the kitchen.

We have all the shiny and sharp Cutco knives you could ever hope for. I'm not allowed to buy anymore cookbooks because we have a shelf full of them. We have a beautiful set of Calphalon pots and pans, all of the dishes and cutlery we registered for at Crate & Barrel, tons of Tupperware, a KitchenAid stand mixer AND hand mixer, a Cuisinart Griddler, a crock pot... you get the point. We have no backyard so no use for a grill, and no dining room, so no use for fancy table cloths or anything of the sort.

It usually doesn't take me very long to spend gift cards, but we can't make up our minds with this one. We just can't seem to find anything we really need, but we don't want to let the gift card just keep sitting here, either. (We don't think it expires, but you never know.) One item that I have my eye on is this beauty:

It's so, so pretty. We would never, ever in our lives spend $235 of "real" money on something like this, but perhaps this is our opportunity to splurge, since it's "fake" money? The only problem is that Nick asked me what I would cook in a Dutch oven (after making a predictable Dutch oven joke... men), and I haven't a clue. Zip. Zilch. Zero. I mean, I don't cook much as it is (but I'm starting to a leeeeetle more) — how am I supposed to know what you make in this thing? Yet I've heard raves galore on these babies, and I'm determined that I could find some use for one. And have I mentioned how gosh darn pretty it is?

Some other less exciting options:

Winsome Wood Hall Bench with Baskets
we could always use extra storage in our hallway

Stainless steel book/pot rack
this would cut down on the naughty language when one of us is trying to dig out the %$#*& pot we need from the depths of our cabinets

A conglomeration of small items that we'd like to have, including Jamie's Food Revolution (I know I said no more cookbooks allowed, but shhh), a Microplane Zester Grater, a spatula (I always feel like we need a few more), organic dish towels, and a Le Creuset batter bowl (hey, at least I'd get my Caribbean Le Creuset fix somewhere)

So please, tell me: do you have a Le Creuset Dutch oven? What size do you have? Is it really necessary and/or useful if we already have lots of pots and pans and a crock pot? Enlighten me!

If you would opt to spend the gift card on something else, what would you choose?

April 6, 2010

because NICE should always finish first

Have you heard of the Pepsi Refresh Project? Pepsi is giving away $1,300,000 each month to fund great ideas that will make a positive impact. My friend Melissa, who runs the spectacular website Operation NICE, is in the running to receive $25,000 to make Operation NICE a full-fledged non-profit organization that will spread kindness and educate youth on the importance of being nice. In today's world of school shootings, road rage and random acts of violence, I think we can all agree that a little NICE could make a big difference in our society.

I admired Melissa's work on Operation NICE before we even became friends (actually, her blog is what led us to be friends) and it would be amazing to see it grow into something even bigger! To make that happen, though, she needs your help. You can vote for Operation NICE every day in April by registering at the Pepsi Refresh Project (it's super simple) and going here to vote. Or, simply:

Please don't forget to vote every day! And tell all your friends! :)

April 5, 2010

Monday music, vol. 10: You and I

Every Monday, I'll be sharing a pick-me-up song with the hopes of helping you begin your week on a positive note. Happy Monday!

When I get rich, I want to be able to buy our parents homes in the south of France, give everybody nice sweaters, and teach them how to dance. Wouldn't that be nice?

Buy this song here.

how rude!

Have you ever had one of those experiences where someone is so unbelievably rude that it sticks with you for years? I was asked a question on Formspring recently that reminded me of an encounter like this, (by the way, I'm thinking of quitting Formspring... I won't go into detail since Coasting Anon pretty much summed it up perfectly already, so check out her post) and thought I'd share my response with you all. The original question:

I think many of us have had the experience of feeling wronged by an individual, only to think of the perfect comeback... 2 hours later. Tell me about one of those times and what you wish you had said.

About 7 years ago, my mom and I were out to dinner at a local Chili's near where I was living at the time. It was my first time living on my own after college, so it was still kind of an adjustment for me, and I am really close with my mom so we tried to have weekly dinners to catch up. Anyway, we were sitting at Chili's, having finished our meal, but we were just chatting and laughing and relaxing, not in any rush to get out of there (it wasn't crowded or anything, so we didn't feel like we were holding anything up). Some little no-good pimple-faced wearing-too-much-eyeliner brat of a teenager came over and asked us if we were going to be leaving soon because, ya know, they were waiting to sit there. We were just so caught off-guard and responded, "um, yeah, in a few minutes," and we just sat there stunned as she walked away to bitch about us to her equally annoying and pimple-faced friends. Apparently we were sitting right in the middle of a larger area of tables that were empty, but, unbeknownst to us, they were waiting for us to leave before they could put all the tables together and seat this group of annoying teenagers.

My mom and I were so annoyed, but at the same time embarrassed, because two of the employees who were standing nearby, putting the other tables together, saw the whole thing and just kind of stood there without doing anything. We started to get a complex that maybe we were being jerks sitting at this table after we were done our meal, and we should go.

As we walked out, pimple-face's friends apologized like "ohmygod I'm sooooo sorry, she didn't mean that you had to leave, we were just waiting for our table yada yada yada" and my mom told them she was just trying to enjoy dinner with her daughter who she only gets to see once a month (okay, we stretched that truth a bit, hehe) and generally (deservedly) made it known that they were clearly in the wrong as we walked out.

I went home and an hour later I was still fuming, so I called the restaurant just to tell the manager what had happened. I told him how disappointed I was that the employees standing nearby didn't do anything to make us feel more welcome after they saw our encounter with brat-tastic, and we felt like we were being forced out of there; he apologized and promised me a free dessert the next time we went in (which of course never happened). I felt a little better after that, but I REALLY wish I had asked for the manager while we were sitting there being confronted by the brat, and I wish I had given her a piece of my mind for real. I wish they had gotten kicked out of the restaurant so they realized that is not acceptable human behavior, and when you treat people poorly, you receive that same treatment in return.

When put on-the-spot during encounters like this, I always come up with my response or comeback too late; it's SO frustrating! Are you good at reacting quickly when dealing with an inconsiderate individual, or do you always come up with your best comeback two hours later, too?

April 4, 2010

hop, hop.

Our Easter weekend was filled with making the apartment pretty for my in-laws, a family party in Lancaster, an egg-hunt for the kiddies, too much food, egg dyeing, church, lounging in the sunshine with a good book, and even more good food.

photos by me

The eggs are a bit imperfect, but I still love how colorful they are. The dye doesn't cover them as evenly when they're cold because there is still condensation creeping through; next year I have to remember to let them get to room temperature before we break out the PAAS.

How was your weekend?

April 2, 2010


Why did it take me three years to see this movie? What kind of musical-lover am I to let this one go unseen for so long?? And why didn't anyone warn me that it would make me sob? (If you haven't seen it yet, it's not "sad," per se... just touching.)

Once. See it.

April 1, 2010

animals are pretty

We took a little trip to the Philadelphia Zoo last weekend with some friends — Nick got a year-long membership for his birthday last August, which includes entry for the two of us, along with entry for two guests, AND free parking! It's a great deal, and we have already gotten our money's worth (or, rather, my mom's money's worth, since she's the one who gave the membership to him!).

all photos by me

The Philadelphia Zoo is America's oldest zoo, and if you're ever in the area, you should check it out. Going while the weather is still cool is a plus if you have the option, since it's never quite as crowded as it is in the summertime.