Friday, September 27, 2013

Not Just for Coffee Anymore

When Jon and I moved in together, we had a coffee table way before we bought a couch. There would be nights we would sit on next to the table, and eat dinner while watching our favorite shows.  Once we got a couch, we decided to forego the coffee table and got two small ottomans with trays for entertaining, storage, and/or sitting. A few months ago, Jon and I were doing some weekend shopping at West Elm when we came across this coffee table. Jon looked at me and said, "This is an AMAZING coffee table!"  Now for anyone that knows Jon, he's a pretty easy going fella, and does not have a strong opinion about home decorating or furniture for that matter. He was so into this coffee table, I was totally shocked.  He said, "We have to get this!"  Since it was a little bit of a financial investment for us (our previous coffee table was from Ikea), we decided to think about it for a little bit. Weeks later, Jon was still talking about the coffee table.  So when West Elm had a sale, we ordered the coffee table.  Now we come to the reason for this post; I had to figure out how to decorate our table.  After browsing through countless images on Pinterest and seeing some really helpful how-to videos, here are the main elements to decorate or update the look of your coffee table.

  1. Books - Coffee table books can show your personal style and interests.  The only rule I tend to follow is stick to a book that has mostly images instead of text. We have a ton of art and art history books lying around that I rotate throughout the year.  I also love books about fashion, travel, or interior decorating

  2. Trays - I think trays can be so versatile on a table. It allows me to put decor and other objects on the table, and then take them all off in one swoop if needed. They make the table look styled and organized.  I chose this tray since I like that you can still see the beautiful wood on our table. However, I also like these options and may update over time.  When winter comes, I will probably lay a placemat inside the tray like this one to add some holiday decor. 

  3. Candles - I think that white candles look the best since they are so neutral. I also usually ignore the scentless candle rule if I'm not serving dinner.  This candle is my favorite during the fall.  My mother in law also gave me the best candle advise I've ever heard; only choose scents that are natural to the earth.  Stay away from the ones that smell like baked goods since they usually have saccharine in them (and make me want to eat an entire batch of cookies). 

  4. Plants or Flowers - I always try to have fresh flowers in the house.  They bring simple beauty to any space, and the coffee table seems pulled together with some type of natural element on it. I try to stick to plants or flowers that are not very tall since we watch TV over our coffee table. Succulents and pothos are also a good coffee table plants. 

  5. Decor -  Try to add some personal style to your table. I have a small glass bottle that currently holds conversation questions. Poker cards, interesting sculptures, or seasonal elements can add an whimsical touch and make your table feel less like a picture from a catalog. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Angelina Zuppa Zuppa

I'm usually pretty good about following recipes.  However when it comes to soup, I feel like all the rules can go out the window.  Soup is so versatile and easy to make, it's a great addition to your weekly menu. Since I can never cook for two people (I think that's one reason Jon married me), there are plenty of leftovers for lunches or even to put in the freezer for a busy week ahead.  For this soup, I made up the recipe since I couldn't find one that I wanted to make. So I'll do my best to get all of the details written out for you, so you can try it at home.  Have fun and feel free to add or omit things to your liking!  Buon Appetito!

Angelina Zuppa Zuppa
Makes: 6-8 servings

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion diced
3 garlic cloves small diced
2 lbs sweet Italian sausage casings removed
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
2 tsp dried oregano
3 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp red pepper chili flakes
2 bay leaves
1 Zucchini diced
1 russet potato peeled and diced
2 carrots peeled and diced
1 28 oz can of stewed tomatoes
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 14oz can of cannelloni beans
32 oz Beef Broth
1 bunch of swiss chard leaves removed and roughly chopped

In a large dutch oven, add olive oil on medium heat.  Once the oil is warm, add the onion and cook until translucent, about 7 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.  Squeeze the sausage out of the casing into the pot and break up meat with a wooden spoon. When the meat is fully cooked, drain off some of the fat. I did this the fancy way by tipping the pan and soaking up the fat with paper towels and tongs.  Once you've got most of the fat, add in all the spices (salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, basil, paprika, chili flakes, and bay leaves).  Stir so the meat gets fully coated in the spices and then add remaining ingredients except the swiss chard.  Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, and then lower heat to a simmer and cover the pot.  Cook the soup for 45 minutes so flavors blend.  Add the swiss chard and cook for another 5 minutes.  Turn off heat and let cool slightly before serving into soup bowls.  Enjoy!

Didn't use all the ingredients I planned because it didn't fit into the pot. #italianproblems

Rachel Ray taught me to use a garbage bowl. Very helpful!

Tomato paste is better in a tube so you can save it in the refrigerator. 

Ladle up!

I served it with crusty bread, yum!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Monday Memories

It's official; fall has arrived! The nights are cool and pumpkin spice is the new black.  It's my favorite season and I am excited to change my style, home interior and eating habits!  We had a lovely weekend filled with visiting friends, late brunches, and a bonfire at my sister's house. Hope you had a great weekend too!

Soup season! Recipe coming Wednesday

Shopping at Jonathan Adler

My new autumn tea from Teavana

My brother-in-law showing us his farm. Organically beautiful.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Applesauce Spice Cake

A few weeks ago, I made zucchini bread using applesauce as a healthier alternative to oil. However, I was left with quite a bit of applesauce and wasn't sure what to do with it (plain applesauce straight out of the container didn't sound appealing).  I stumbled upon this recipe from a favorite blogger of mine, and the results were perfection! The only alteration I made was to add raisins instead of walnuts since that is what I had in the pantry. It was an easy and delicious cake to make on a rainy night.

prep time


special cake tools

cream cheese frosting


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mid-Week Social

Years ago, my close friends and I started a weekly get together we affectionally call Wine Wednesday.  Initially we used to gather around the TV and tune into one of our favorite shows like Project Runway or Top Chef.  Then we realized that we were not watching much of the show, and ended up just talking and catching up for a few hours (husbands included). With such busy schedules, it was a great way to stay connected and enjoy a mid-week mini-party. As we continue the tradition (it's my turn to have everyone over tonight) I have learned a few tips and tricks along the way to make the night easy, fun and stress-free!  Hopefully this will inspire you to host your own Wine Wednesday to get you through the work week!

  1. Clean the day before.  It's so much better to have your house clean so you can just prep the food before your guests arrive.  Since it's a mid-week party, you only have a few hours before people show up.  If you are pressed for time, at least clean your bathroom and the living area where people will hang out.  Shove everything else in drawers and under the bed so it looks like you power-cleaned. Yep, I've done this.
  2. Make the food and drinks simple.  Since it's wine night, everyone usually brings a bottle of wine and the host provides the food. I try to do at least one sweet and one savory appetizer. It also helps to get some appetizers that can just be assembled.  Some of my favorites: cheese stuffed dates, smoked Salmon on pumpernickel bread, or a mixture of olives. It's also nice to have a carafe of plain or flavored water on hand for those who don't want to have an alcoholic beverage. 
  3. Background sounds. Since we used to watch a TV show, sometimes we keep the TV on and tune in. Other times, I choose my favorite playlist or Pandora station and keep that playing softly in the background. One of my friends even have their grandparent's record player and we play some old favorites. 
  4. Flip the switch.  Light some candles (especially a nice smelling one for the bathroom), and make sure your lighting is complementary to the space.  It sounds kind of strange, but lighting can really help the mood of a party. I like to have lights on that are from the ground up (floor lamps, sconces, etc.) as they are less harsh on the eyes. 
  5. Try to incorporate some seasonal elements.  This can be anything from serving a sangria during the summer, or apple cider in the fall. If it's nice out, sit on the patio and enjoy the weather or a bonfire if it's chilly. If it's during the holidays, serve some holiday cookies or hot chocolate.  It's fun to come up with new ways to keep the party fun, simple and enjoy some time with each other. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

One Last Hoorah

Clearly... age is just a number.

Today is my 29th birthday.  Technically, it's also my twin sister's birthday which is a bonus since we usually get double the birthday desserts.  It's my last birthday before my hit a major milestone. I took a stroll down memory lane and tried to find pictures from my 20th birthday.  I definitely found some pictures of Annie and I that could easily be used as blackmail at a later date.  Looking back, I see a young college girl with eyebrows that are too thin wearing a "I sold my soul to rock and roll" T-shirt (trust me, it was a good look at the time).  I also see someone who has so much to learn about this world and how she fits into it. I truly enjoyed my twenties.  I went to college, graduated, traveled to Europe a few times, met Jon, got married, and began my professional career.  I've come to realize that most of my learning has been the later part of my twenties. After 25, I begun to feel more comfortable with who I am, and truly value what is important in my life. My priorities have changed over the years, and I'm sure they will continue to change as I enter my 30's.  However, I have one more year left of my 20's, so I am going to enjoy it and try to accomplish these 10 goals before I turn the big three-oh!

1.  Learn how to make a fancy dessert.  I'm thinking this Chocolate Souffle would be sufficient.
2.  Take a spontaneous weekend trip out of town.  Perhaps could help me with this one...
3.  Learn Spanish. Jon's family speak Spanish when they are together and I truly want to join the conversation so our kids someday will grow up in a bilingual household.
4.  Two Words: Fitness routine. Working out has always been part of my life.  As I get older, it's really important for me to stay active and healthy.  I want to find a fitness regime that I can stick with and make it part of my lifestyle.
5.  Take dance or ballet classes.  When I was younger, I was in ballet and I still have such fond memories of those years.
6.  Invest in a designer handbag or shoes (or both!).  If I get my dream job before I'm 30, then I'm buying myself a nice treat!
7.  Learn the Ukulele.  This is a stretch, but I would really love to learn the ukulele. It's such a sweet instrument and it fits so much better in my hands than a regular guitar.
8. Read some of the classics: Catcher in the Rye, Wuthering Heights, Nineteen Eighty-four, etc. I think they are all free on my kindle too. Bonus!
9.  Buy personalized stationary and become really good at sending cards.  Birthdays, Anniversaries, Thinking of You...I think it's such a personal connection in this digital world we live in.
10.  Begin a holiday tradition with Jon. If you have any suggestions, send them my way!

Happy Birthday to me!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Life Lately...

Appetizers for a night with my gal pals

After pulling together photos for this post, I began to realize that my life has a lot to do with food.  Haha, what a wonderful life! Hope everyone had a great labor day weekend!  Ours was filled with lots of memories, laughs, and a few glasses of rosé.  Now that summer is winding down and the mornings are cooler, I look am really looking forward to the changing of the seasons and the upcoming holiday season. Tomorrow is my last birthday before I enter my 30's. I think it's time for me to make  a list of all the things I want to do before I hit that milestone; stay tuned for that.  Here's to a short week everyone; hope you get to do something special today!

Jon's painting at the MN State Fair. So.Proud.

Pearls that my sister found in her mussels at Burch.

Bowl of French Onion Soup at Salut.

Homemade arugula pesto for an easy weeknight meal

Bowling at Elsie's. Secretly wanted to keep the shoes.