Happy Friday

Hope everyone had a fun St. Patrick‘s Day!  If you did, I’m sure you’re having a less than fun Friday morning.  My hangover pick-me-up is McDonald’s hash browns and a coke.  It always works. 

Finally!  The sun is shining and temperatures are warming up.  It feels like spring and I am more than ready for it.  Time to start thinking about my veggie garden again.  I’ve already got some seeds started indoors.  Heirloom tomatoes, red bell pepper, golden beets, and jalapenos.  I can’t wait to get out in the dirt this weekend and plant some more. 

On a serious note – The whole world is watching Japan, waiting to see whats going to happen to their leaking nuclear sites, and watching the images of all the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami.  Just one of these catastrophes on its own would be terrible, but the Japanese people are being subjected to all three simultaneously.  Designer Tory Burch has created a Japanese Relief T-Shirt which is selling for $29.00 and 100% of the proceeds of this shirt will go to the American Red Cross in their Pacific disaster relief efforts.  If you haven’t donated on behalf of this cause yet or if you have but would like to give more, I think that this is a great way to do so.

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Lovely LA

I’m back!  Back to the east coast after a week in LA with my buds.  I jam-packed a ton of stuff in that short time.  We went to Solvang and sampled some delish local wines.  And of course the famous brie from Los Olivos!  We even tried some new wineries that we’ve never been to before.  One in particular, Alma Rosa Vineyards in Buellton had a spectacular view of the rolling hills that surround this area. 

I shopped around the Grove, LA Farmer’s Market, and Melrose Ave.  I also took my first visit to the Griffith Observatory.  If you’ve seen Rebel Without A Cause, you’ve seen this dome before.

I spent a magical day at Disneyland and drank vanilla vodka spiked pineapple juice in the Tiki Tiki Room.  Lunched with friends and co-workers on the Sony lot.  Ate sushi in Little Tokyo and wandered the plaza at Olvera St. 

To cap it all off, I got to hang out and nosh with some of my favorite people in the world while assessing various Oscar fashion hits and misses.  All in all, I couldn’t have had a better time.

Now, back to reality – After a successful turn at the GRE, (yay me!), I’m filling out grad school applications and writing essays.  And of course, wishing I was back in LA, cozied up to a delightful glass of sav blanc and a slice of pizza with my friends.  Good times!

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Study break

Hi folks!  Sorry I’ve been M.I.A.  I’ve been studying hard for the GRE which I’ll be taking tomorrow.  Fingers crossed!  At this point, I’ve done as much prep as I possibly can, so I think it’s a good time to come up for air and blog.  It’s been a daunting task to try and relearn all the math that I was supposed to have memorized in 6th grade.  Math will just never be my thing.  But on top of that, apparently I don’t have such a spectacularly varied vocabulary as I thought I did.  Which is nuts because I read a lot.  I guess I need to up the ante and start reading some more sophisticated stuff.  Put the romance novel down girl, and just back away. 

Other than that, I’m leaving on a trip to L.A. this weekend to see my besties and roam around some of my old haunts.  On the itinerary is a trip to the Santa Ynez Valley wine country, which is the traditional yearly getaway for my little crew.  Seen Sideways?  That’s what I’m talking about, but for chicks.  And of course there’s the obligatory trip to Disneyland.  Yes, we are grown woman who love the magic of Disney.  Don’t judge.  You haven’t ridden Space Mountain until you’ve ridden it with us (aided by little vanilla vodka from a flask).  Expect to see related blog posts on all this and more forthcoming.

I have flashcards waiting for me to study them, but before I do I wanted to tell you about my latest jewelry acquisition.  I LOVE to travel.  I want to go everywhere at least once before I die.  So when I saw this compass necklace on Etsy, I had to have it. 

Image by Susan Urquhart

The Etsy shop is called Lulu Bug Jewelry after the artist’s adorable pet shar pei.  This original design is made with .999 silver precious metal clay, and is even more special because of the Walt Whitman quote stamped on the back.  It reads, “Now Voyager, sail thou forth to seek and find”.  I love the sentiment of this quote.  It speaks to me as a world traveler, an adventurer, and as someone who’s about to start a new journey in life.  Thanks Lulu Bug!

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Happy Year of the Rabbit!

Yesterday was the beginning of the Chinese New Year.  We’ve left behind the Year of the Tiger (characterized by unrest – anyone surprised?) and we’re entering the Year of the Rabbit which is supposedly the luckiest in the Chinese calendar.  Maybe because a rabbit’s foot is lucky?  Or maybe everyone thinks that rabbit feet are lucky because the Year of the Rabbit is lucky.  Something to ponder.  Either way, I think its a good time to start playing the lottery again.  The astrological forecast for a Rabbit year is calm, peace, and prosperity.  Sounds like just what the doctor ordered.

This weekend I’ll be cheering for the Steelers in the Super Bowl.  Hopefully it’s a lucky year for them too.  Usually I’m a Giants fan.  I have no ties to the city of Pittsburgh myself, but I have great friends who are Steelers fans and they’ve recruited me to their ranks.  Beers will be drunk, snacks will be scarfed up, and hopefully it will be a good game.  I’m excited!  Hope you have a great weekend too 🙂

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Noms: Butternut Squash & Chicken Pasta

I love butternut squash.  If you haven’t tried it you need to get on board.  This winter squash is great because its such a hearty veg, and when it cooks up it has a great natural sweetness to it.  A lot of cooks are wary of using butternut squash because it’s a chore to chop into manageable pieces.  Fear not friends!  Nowadays most large grocery store chains offer packaged pre-cubed squash in their produce section.  Take the shortcut and save yourself a lot of grief. 

I adapted this recipe from Everyday Italian with Giada Di Laurentiis (adore her!) which was originally made with prawns.  Most of my family aren’t seafood lovers so I substituted chicken.  This dish can also be easily made vegetarian by leaving out the meat entirely.  It’s a fairly heathy meal, especially if you use a multigrain pasta like I did, and its a great way to sneak important vitamins and antioxidants (vitamins A, C, B1, B3, B6, and omega 3’s) into a picky eater’s dinner. 


3 tbsp olive oil, plus 3 tbsp

1 lb butternut squash, trimmed and cut into 1″ cubes.

2 garlic cloves minced

1 tsp salt, plus 1 tsp

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/2 tsp

1 cup vegetable or low sodium chicken stock

1 lb dry short pasta (rigatoni, gemelli, ziti, penne etc.)

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed into 1″ pieces

3/4 to 1c milk (whole milk is best but if you’re watching calories 2% is fine)

1/2 c chopped fresh basil

1/4 c grated parmesan


Warm 3 tbsp of olive oil in a large 3″ deep skillet over med-high heat.  Add the butternut squash, garlic, 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Saute until the squash is tender (5 to 7 min).  Add the stock, bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the squash is very soft (another 5 to 7min).  Transfer the squash mixture to a blender or food processor and purée*. 

Tip: Once you’ve got the squash purée all done, you could put it in a plastic container at this point and save it for later, or for the next day when you want to throw a quick weeknight meal together.  Just sayin. 

Next, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until tender but firm to the bite (approx 8 to 10min).  Drain pasta well. 

While you’re pasta is cooking, warm the remaining 3 tbsp of oil in your skillet over med-high heat.  Sprinkle the chicken with the remaining 1 tsp salt and remaining 1/2 tsp of pepper (I also threw on some all-purpose italian seasoning but that’s just me).  Add the chicken to the pan and cook until no longer pink at all (approx 3min)

In a large pot over low heat combine the cooked pasta, squash purée, and 3/4 cup of milk.  Stir gently to combine.  Add another 1/4 cup of milk if the sauce needs to be moistened.  Fold in the cooked chicken and parmesan cheese.  Scatter top with chopped basil.  Mangia!

*NOTE – let the mixture cool for approx 5 min before you purée and make sure that if you’re using a blender, you remove the hatch in the lid and cover with a towel while blending.  Or if yours doesn’t have a hatch, keep the lid just loosely covering the top of the blender so air can get in.  This will prevent any build up of pressure created by the hot liquid as it blends.  You don’t want an exploding blender.  Trust me.

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The color of 2011

According to Benjamin Moore – the color for 2011 is a deep purple with brownish untertones called Vintage Wine.  I love it!  And of course the name is right up my alley.  It’s a bold neutral and totally gorgeous in a variety of applications.  Check out this super chic entryway:

Image by BenjaminMoore.com

I love the contrast with the asparagus green walls.  Color me inspired!

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Billy’s Do Over

I have a long-standing love/hate relationship with Ikea.  Love; because you can get some crazy awesome designs for any room of your house for less than a tank of gas.  Hate; because whether due to user error in the diy assembly, or the cheap quality of the construction, things tend not to last.  You get what you pay for.  What you can rely on Ikea for, are clean lines and neutral colors.  Generally speaking, this is the backbone of their most popular pieces that have persevered through various designer trends, and seasonal product line revamps.  Aside from the odd fire engine red candlestick shaped like a jungle gym.  Neutral is swell, but sometimes you want to spice it up.  Enter Mykea!

These are decals that you can buy from their website which are specially designed for an assortment of Ikea standards.  I have a Billy bookcase that is just crying out for a makeover.  How about a little Pollock-esque decal, Billy?

Design by Madfisch - Image by Mykea

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Pantone Paint Chip Cookies

This falls under the category of “How Clever Are You?!”.  Designer Kim Neill created these darling cookies in homage to Pantone paint chips.  Her inspiration was some Pantone storage tins that she bought at Blick‘s Art Supply store.  These would be an awesome housewarming gift for a friend who’s recently redecorated, or anyone who’s a big interior design buff.  Here is the link to her blog with the recipe.

Image by Kim Neill

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Snowed In

Yesterday I got all my Ebay-ing done, (is this an acceptable verb choice?).  Yay!  Now I get to watch the bids roll in.  I can see how people make a decent chunk of change doing this.  Now I need more crap to sell!

Today the whole family is snowed in together in the house. 9″ of evil white stuff on the ground, covering my car, and clogging the road.  Coming recently from SoCal, I find all of this freezing cold and fluffy type precipitation appalling.  So I’m steering clear of anything that may lead me out into it.  A good day for hot chocolate and Dexter on DVD.  Maybe I’ll make some yummy brownies for desert tonight!

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Happy 2011!

Ok, I know I’ve been gone for a while – my bad.  But holidays…etc.  Life happens.  However, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to post more often since I really do enjoy doing it. 

What have I been up to?

  • Friendsgiving – aka Thanksgiving Day 2 with 36 friends around the table.  Food coma time.
  • Great Aunt Vickie’s 90th Birthday party
  • Mom’s B-Day/Christmas Eve/Christmas = tons of cooking
  • Jewelry resuppling trip to Extradordinary Beads in Clinton, NJ.  A very cute little town and a well supplied shop with helpful ladies who also give classes in beading.  I recommend a visit.
  • our friend Lindsay’s baby shower – Lil’ Paulie Jr. is due 2/19
  • Making plans to apply to grad schools in the fall.  Very exciting!

Today it’s snowyucky outside (my new word creation of the day), so I’m spending alot of time indoors.  Watching too much TV as always.  Lately I’ve become obsessed with BBC sci-fi, ie: Doctor Who, Primeval, & Merlin.  I think I’m channeling some long dormant Anglophilia.  I’m even drinking more tea!  We just finished dismantling the Christmas tree.  I’m alittle sad to see it go because it was so pretty this year.  Here’s a pic:

Really simple but sometimes that’s better.  New projects on the horizon:

  1. Finishing my L.A. scrapbook – finally.
  2. Making some cool jewelry.
  3. Finding some temp work.  Momma needs to pay some bills! 
  4. Getting reaquainted with eBay (see item#3). 
  5. Studying for the GRE.  A result of some stupid rule where the scores expire after 5 years.  Fingers crossed that I’ll be able to remember any of the math I learned since 2nd grade.

Stay warm!

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