Friday Links | Uncategorized

Weekend Links // 16.

August 7, 2016

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Happy Sunday! Here’s hoping yours has been restful and rejuvenating. While you’re keeping cool, here are some fun pieces to browse.

For a good laugh, this list of guys. (via The New Yorker)

The perfect dinner party playlist. (via Style Me Pretty)

If you (like me) are trying to improve your photography but don’t understand aperture, here’s a guide that might help. (via Expert Photography)

My favorite part of this list for visiting a new mom is the suggestion about bringing coffee. But there are lots of other gems in there as well. (via Mom.me)

I’m exploring ideas for sprucing up our backyard and love these vertical garden boxes.

If you’re working on the inside of your house instead, here some great suggestions for small spaces. (via The Kitchn)

Working on doing this more.

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Weekend Reading List // 13.

June 4, 2016

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Happy Weekend! It’s unofficially the second weekend of summer (which, for me, will always begin with Memorial Day weekend!). I hope you’re enjoying barbecues, pool-time, and the sunshine. I’m excited to soak up lots of beautiful northern weather and solitude this weekend.

Here’s a handy chart that can tell you whether or not to pitch that leftover condiment. (via TheKitchn)

A helpful color chart for design projects. (via Colourlovers)

Enough quinoa salad ideas to stock your fridge for a month. (via BuzzFeed)

A beautiful printable calendar and some other free printables. (via Azzari Jarrett)

The one piece of preparation to do before a dinner party to make cleanup less stressful and nine other entertaining tips. (via Cup of Jo)

And four ways you are undermining your own happiness. (via The Reluctant Entertainer)

How do we make our digital lives more human? (via The AmericanScholar)

From the archives

Why you should take more pictures

Currently loving

My simple glass (Neoprene sleeved) water bottle (similar) that I carry everywhere.

Reflecting on

“The rituals we share are small promises made and kept, every day.”

Simplicity Parenting

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Friday Links | Life | Uncategorized

Weekend Reading List // 6.

March 18, 2016

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What does your weekend hold? We have family in town for a wedding – lots of pour-over coffee and eating and talking happening over here! When my sisters come to town, Miles is in Heaven, acts like I don’t exist (“Oh hey, Mom. Too cool for you now.”) and conveniently forgets everything he knows (“Naptime? What’s that?”).

My grand photo backup plan is slowly happening. Every time one set is backed up, I feel such major relief. Why did I wait so long to do this? Have a massive photo catch-up project? Ronnie has some good tips. (via Life Captured)

My goodness, I love her style. (via Azzari Jarrett)

I used to work in a heavily male-dominated work environment. I never cried at work, at least not in the office. But here’s why one writers thinks more tears should happen at the office (via The Atlantic)

Reading this and gleaning so much.

Do you have work/life balance guilt? Read this breath of fresh air. (via Clementine Daily)

These makeup tips have changed my daily game. (via Cupcakes and Cashmere)

We are deep in the throes of picky eating. I think Miles will love these though! (via Smitten Kitchen)

Have you ever made your own yogurt?? (via Food52)

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Friday Links | Life | Uncategorized

Weekend Reading List // 3.

February 26, 2016

WEEKEND READING LIST_3

Are you a creator or consumer? (via Storyline Blog)

Great advice – don’t organize more. (via Psychology Today)

Do you use any of these blogging tools? (via Rising Tide Society)

Oh my goodness, I love reading about this challenge. Could you could every single meal from scratch for a month? (Confession: At this particular juncture in life…I’m not sure I could – unless the rotisserie from the deli country counts??) (via Epicurious)

I am working to organize our massive photo collection (s?). Tips, anyone? Eventually, I’ll try to write up a post detailing this torturous process, but until then, check this great list of tips out. (via Tested.com)

I am collecting gorgeous, whimsical wrapping paper so that I can do this to all of our drawers and shelves. Nesting overkill? Probably. (via In My Own Style)

Happy weekending!

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Life | Travel | Uncategorized

Adventures in Mexico (with a toddler): Cancun.

February 16, 2016

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During the last week of January, we finally made our family trip out of the country happen. Mark and I had both wanted to travel with Miles internationally while he was still in the “only child” category. We were also long overdue for a family vacation.

While we originally had more adventurous plans in store, we settled on Cancun and the Riviera Maya – the combination of reasonable costs, ease of planning, and the short plane flight was too tempting.

We picked our dates and booked flights. (Note for next time: Although we were constrained by our dates and needed to book when we did, we realized later into the trip that prices fall in the Riviera Maya fall pretty dramatically around the 1st week and 2nd weeks of February.)

We aren’t really “resort” people and get antsy after a few days in one place, so we wanted to stay in a few places and explore a bit rather than committing to one location for our entire trip. After a lot of “research” (Hi, Trip-Advisor), I was able to find quite a few family-friendly small hotels or bed-and-breakfasts available, even during such a busy travel time. We booked all of our lodging through Airbnb and voila! Trip planned.

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Our stay in Cancun sandwiched the rest of the trip – we knew that we didn’t want to spend a lot of time in such a big tourist destination, but we also didn’t want to push ourselves to travel a lot in one day with a toddler. So we booked our first and last nights close to the airport and had about a day on each end to explore Cancun itself.

On the first afternoon, we drove our rental to our first stop – Bed and Breakfast Cancun. I was a little nervous because it was the most inexpensive of our lodging choices (and I felt responsible since I had picked allllll of our lodging!), but our time there was phenomenal. From the second we walked in the door, we felt right at home. The owners, a Canadian/Mexican couple, were warm, informative, and fun. They also were terribly sweet to Miles (even though I found out they didn’t normally allow children, whoops!).   Veronica, the hostess, cooked us delicious omelets both mornings of our stay and even kindly let me use her washer and dryer.

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Our room was immensely comfortable and impeccably clean. Once we settled our things, we drove out to the hotel strip (about 25 minutes away), to find the beach. We bought Miles some toys for the sand, relaxed on a little strip of sand that we discovered, and then headed to Mocambo’s for dinner. Our first dinner in Mexico was so memorable and delicious. Miles couldn’t get enough of the ocean and hung over the balcony railing staring at the water for the entirety of the meal. (One of the perks of toddler schedules, we’ve found, is that we tend to arrive at restaurants early enough to get prime seats ahead of any crowds.)

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The next morning, we headed to the Puerto Juarez pier for our ferry to Isla Mujeres.

I’m jumping ahead a bit, but I wanted to note one other great thing about the Cancun portion of our trip. When we came back through Cancun, we had a little more time to kill. We ate lunch outside at El Fish Fritanga and escaped the heat by visiting the stores inside Plaza Kukulcan for a bit, but after a little of Googling, I was so excited to find this list of public access beaches (here’s another helpful one that I found later as well). We only had time to explore Delfines Beach and we weren’t really prepared to swim that day but the thrill of finding some unhindered access was exciting, nonetheless.

Miles was getting a little tired of the vacation routine and loved just playing on a regular playground – but while he did that, we got to soak up such an amazing view! I wish we had discovered the fantastic public access earlier. If we ever return, we’ll definitely make it a point to visit Delfines Beach with our bathing suits.

Next stop, Isla Mujeres!

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A Tale of Smelly Plants and Delicious Wraps

July 24, 2013

Once upon a time, an unemployed English major discovered flat bread. And her life (and the life of the happy-go-lucky engineer she was married to) changed forever. Because you can do anything with flat bread. A.N.Y.T.H.I.N.G.

You can put veggies on it. Meat. Rice. Beans. Salsa. Hummus. Mayo. It’s an endless blank slate of colorful possibilities. I have no idea why I’m discovering flat bread at 25. But, readers, don’t be like me. Don’t live without flat bread for one more second.

Let me start at the beginning. The stinky plant was blooming at the Botantical Gardens. In D.C., this is a big deal. Apparently. The Washington Post even ran an article on it. This plant only blooms every couple of years and only is in bloom for 34 hours. Then it dies.

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To top this off, it was advertised as smelling like a dead corpse. (It smelled more like decomposing leaves, but I speak from ignorance, since I’m not around a lot of corpses.)

Obviously, Mark and I had to go see this phenomenon. And I believe every early evening expedition in the summer must be paired with a picnic.

So we went to see the smelly flower and then ate this lucious meal while lounging at the tables on the patio of the Botanical Garden.

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Although the smelly plant is gone for another couple of years, you too can enjoy the picnic part of our expedition.

Here’s how your day should go if you want to end it with a glorious picnic:

1. Buy some flat bread. Costco sells it in big packages of Roll-Up Bread. It’s probably called something else at your local grocery store. It looks like this:

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2. Arrange two pieces of flat-bread on two pieces of foil that are only slightly larger.

3. Make this rice.

4. Spread a thin layer of hummus over the bread, leaving about a 1/2 inch on each side.

5. Chop up some baby kale or spinach. Spread a thin layer of that on the hummus. (Keep every layer thin. Trust me.)

6. Spread a thing layer of the rice over the greens.

7. Chop up some colorful bell peppers. Spread them thinly over the rice. (You’re getting the idea.)

8. Carefully roll the wrap, starting with the end close to you. Push gently on the bread as it can tear easily. (Remember that time I told you to make each layer thin? If you didn’t follow my directions, this whole rolling process will be messy and your wrap won’t be as pretty.)

9. Wrap the pieces in the squares of foil, sealing the ends.

10. Grab some wine (or sparkling water if, like us, you live in a heavily populated area with open-container laws).

11. Have a picnic.

The End.

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Life | Table | Uncategorized

Camping Adventures and Open-Fire Chili

July 22, 2013

We escaped the brutal heat this weekend and went camping in the Shenadoah Mountains. It was perfect. Cool weather, wonderful food, fun company. Mark and I were excited to use every sigle camping related wedding-present.

I am a firm believer in the philosophy that fun camping is comfy camping. None of this dried food nonsense. Our group hauled enough food up to the mountains to feed an army. Our car was stuffed with bags of cooking equipment, bottles of wine, our ginormous French press, and a bucket of spices.

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Also, no trek into the woods is complete without an air mattress. Backpackers, stop reading now. This post is about Complicated Camping.

On Friday night, Mark and I got to the site ahead of the rest of the group. It had rained shortly before and a fire was basically impossible so we had a cozy dinner featuring hummus and guacomole while Mark gathered large dead trees from the woods and we watched the threatening rain clouds.

The meals were split up into shifts and the McCords were in charge of Saturday-night dinner. Determined to avoid the typical campfire dinners, I planned to make chili and pasta salad. I’m not sure what equipment I thought would suddenly appear on the mountain but it wasn’t until 4:00 Saturday afternoon that I realized I was toe-to-toe with a cold, empty fire-pad. No grill, no stove-top, just one lonely grate, 16 cans of bean and tomato sauce, and some boxes of uncooked pasta.

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Did I mention that, although I managed to bring large quantities of kitchen goods, I also happened to forget a lighter and a can opener?

Fortunately, Mark can build a fire. Even without lighter. Also, campers are generally happy, good-willed people and a cheery mother at a neighboring site who was more prepared than I shared her can-opener.

So dinner was saved and we managed boil the pasta and cook the chili. We even threw in a skillet of tasty potatoes for the hungry, patient audiences.

Readers, dinner may have been a looming crisis and it may have taken two hours but it was so yummy. The tasty hot chili was just the ticket. Someone brought pies and s’mores and someone else brought riveting stories and our evening in the woods was complete.

Here’s a quick list of five tips for Complicated Camping that we garnered from this adventure. Next time, we’ll be experts.

1. Plan each meal down to the details. Don’t just generally envision it; actually make sure you have each ingredient, each spoon, and every dish necessary. Elaborate meals can be made over a campire if one just plans.

2. Bring as much gear as you can fit into your vehicle, but pack the basic essentials in an obvious location together. A camping trip won’t get far without a lighter, matches, and a flashlight.

3. Prep as much as possible before the trip. Cutting potatoes and vegatables, marinating meat, and mixing dry ingredients beforehand will save you from camping angst and cut down on cooking time and cleanup while on the trip. Additionally, preparation opens up the culinary possibilities for the expedition. It’s amazing what you can cook on a mountain over an open fire if it’s prepared ahead of time.

4. Bring more trash bags, Ziplocks, and paper towels than you think you need. You can store more than trash in a garbage bag. They can hold extra food, store dirty dishes, and heat-proof ice.

5. Enjoy the unexpected. All sorts of crises, surprises, and unplanned hurdles will occur. That’s why camping is fun. Make due with the supplies that you remembered, laugh, and make memories.

Open-Fire Chili

3 cans of Light Red Kidney beans

3 cans of Northern White beans

3 lbs. of ground beef

1 28 oz can of tomato sauce

2 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes

2 6 oz. cans of tomato paste

2 tbl. garlic

2 tbl. pepper

1 tbl. chili powder

1 tbl. basil

2 cups of red wine

Cook the beef thoroughly in a skillet or shallow pan with half of the garlic and the pepper. Once the beef is cooked, combine it in a large pot with the tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, and remaining garlic, pepper, chili powder, and basil. Allow it to come to a boil, stirring constanty. Simmer for an hour.

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Life | Table | Uncategorized

Heat Wave

July 17, 2013

This week in D.C., it. is. hot. Let me say that again. It’s that time of year when I just avoid going outside. I briefly scamper out to water the crepe myrtle in the afternoon, looking around suspiciously as if I was in enemy terrritory.

I am such a wimp. Mark still bikes to and from work in this weather and just drinks some extra water. I refuse to even acknowledge that these temperatures exist. They don’t, in fact, in northern Michigan, and weather everywhere should imitate the example set forth by that place.

So I keep myself busy in air-conditioned places like my living room and car and pretend that it’s a balmy 72 outside. Which it is not.

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Yesterday, for instance, I kept myself cool in the local Social Security Administration office. Not normally my locale of choice, but a mistake on my new (married) Social Security card forced me to spend two hours there in line. Not my happiest morning. Not my worst, either, since I freely acknowledge my addiction to people-watching and the people-watching material abounded between the elderly woman concerned with the child-bearing habits of her younger neighbors and the fight that broke out in line, for which there seemed to be no particular cause besides general boredom.

Did I mention that I also try to cook cooler foods when the heat is raging? Something about standing over a hot stove for hours when heat warnings are being issued doesn’t fit. Sometimes I just want a dinner tha is quick and light and happy. A picnic when picnicing is impossible, one might say.

I’d eat gelato every night for dinner if I were single, probably. But being married puts a damper on behavior like this. Last night was an exmple:

(9:04 p.m.) Emily: “I want one of those peanut-butter cookies.”

Mark: “Did you eat enough dinner?”

Emily: “Dinner was hours ago. I’m starving.”

Mark: “I biked 12 miles today and I’m not starving.”

Emily: “You don’t want a soft warm peanut-butter cookie?” (Notice my attempt to gain a partner in crime.)

Mark: “Not really.”

Silence ensued for about 30 minutes.

(9:34 pm) Emily: “I’m seriously famished. I think I’m dying. I need to go eat some of those cookies.”

Mark: “You’re going to turn us into one of those fat married couples.”

Emily: “Do you want me to die? I’m hungry!”

Mark: “Go eat. I’m not hungry.”

*More silence*

(10:04 pm) Emily: “You sure you don’t want to come eat cookies with me? You said it was important for us to do things together.” (Notice my subtle attempts to guilt him into joining me in my late-night search for food.)

Mark: “You are ridiculous. Go eat something if you’re hungry. I don’t like to eat this late. It’s bad for you.” (He’s so irritatingly reponsible sometimes.)

Emily: “It’s also bad for me to starve.”

Mark: “Then go eat. Just please don’t expect me to follow you in this fat-finding adventure.”

Don’t worry, dear readers. I promptly consumed enough peanut-butter cookies for both of us. No regrets.

But gelato and cookies aside, my favorite go-to this time of year is pasta salad. It works well because it’s a salad, a main course, and a side all in one. The recipe can be modified depending on the contents of the fridge. It takes about 15 minutes and the clean-up is minimal.

Pasta Salad

Pasta – 1 box, any shape.

Black large pitted olives – 1 can

Musrooms – 1/2 lb

Bell Pepper – 1 red

Nuts – 1/2 cup Pistacios or chopped walnuts or pecans

Celery – 3 stalks

Cherry tomatoes  – 1 handful

Fresh oregano  – 1/8 cup

Olive oil – 1/2 cup + 1 tbl.

White Wine vinegar – 1/4 cup

Balsamic vinegar – 1 tbl.

Garlic – 1/4 tsp.

Pepper – 1/4 tsp.

Sugar – 1/4 tsp

In a small pot, bring water and a 1 tbl. of olive oil to a rolling boil. Pour in pasta and boil for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, chop black olives, oregano, bell pepper, nuts, celery, and mushrooms. Combine with cherry tomatoes. 

Drain pasta and rinse in cold water until cool. Combine the pasta with the chopped vegetables in a large bowl and chill in the fridge. Meanwhile, whisk 1/2 cup olive oil, white wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, garlic, pepper, and sugar together in a measuring cup. Blend thoroughly and chill for 15 minutes.

Immediately before eating, blend the oil and vinegar mixture again and pour generously over the salad. Toss lightly.

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Steamed Lobster

July 9, 2013

Steamed Lobster

Remember that time that we joined the ranks of happy Costco members? That day Mark and I bought Really Important Things like headlamps and pistacios? Well, we also bought lobster tails. On a whim. They looked so fat and lucious. And Mark loves lobster. They basically serenaded their way into our cart.

I spent a significant portion of Monday trying to figure out how normal people cook lobster tails. You can apparently grill, broil, boil, steam, poach, bake, or even fry lobster. Maybe you can even eat it raw if you’re brave. I am not brave, however, and I do not own a charcoal grille, so I settled on the steaming method.

Dear readers, I was terrified. Petrified. Totally intimidated. This was not Your Average Chicken Breast. But armed with a combination of recipes, my trusty colandar, butter, and cayenne pepper, I went to work. And folks, the lobster tails were delicious. Tasty. Flavorful. So perfectly white. Everything that lobster should be. They were a little dry and probably should have been cooked for 16 or 17 minutes instead of 20, but otherwise….heavenly. As were these Gingered Brussel Sprouts.

Steamed Lobster

Steamed Lobster with Garlic Butter Sauce

Lobster Tails – Two 8 oz.

Butter – 12 tsp.

Minced Garlic – 3 tsp

Green Onions – a few stalks

Lime juice – 1 tsp

Cayenne pepper 

White pepper

Lemon slices

Mince the green onions. Melt the butter into a small saucepan with 2 tsp of minced garlic, the minced green onions, and lime juice. Cut the top shell of the lobster carefully by inserting sharp kitchen shears into the head-end and slowly cutting through the shell (but not the meat) along the lobster until you reach the tail area.

Place the lobste tails into a colander. Spread the two pieces of the shell apart gently and sprinkle white pepper and cayenne pepeper into the gap. Pour two teaspoons of the melted butter garlic sauce into the gap as well. 

Fill a large pot with two inches of water. Add a 1/2 cup of wine, 1 tsp. of garlic, a generous sprinkle of cayenne pepper, and a generous sprinkle of white pepper. Allow the water to come to a rolling boil. Place the lobster into a large colander and place the colander into the large pot. Cover the pot with a lid. Set a time for 17 minutes. 

Slice some lemons and pour the melted butter into a jar.

When the timer rings, turn off the heat and move the lobsters from the colander to the plates with tongs. Pour additional butter over them and sprinkle lime juic on top. Enjoy, dousing the lobster with butter and lime juice throughout the meal.

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Life | Table | Uncategorized

Corn Chowder

July 8, 2013

It's raining and sticky outside, a dreary Monday following a fun, energizing weekend.

Mark and I took the plunge into authentic American domesticity and joined Costco yesterday. We spent most of the afternoon wandering around buying really important basics like a 50 lb bag of sguar, giant bags of shelled pistacios, enormous baskets of blueberries, and headlamps. Not everyone can be as exciting as we are, though, so if your weekend involved something less earth-shattering, don't fret. 

As Mark astutely observed, "We should have jumped on this train a long time ago."

Lazy rainy days that follow exciting weekends call for easy, cozy, yummy recipes. So try this chowder tonight with some soft French bread.

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Corn Chowder

Frozen corn – 2 lbs.
Yukon Gold potatoes – 1 lb. 
Celery – 4 stalks
Spinach – 8 oz. frozen or 12 oz. fresh
Onion – 1
Butter – 6 tbls. 
Milk – 2 cups
Flour – 2 tbls
Chicken boullion cubes – 4
Water – 1 cup
White wine- 1 cup
Bacon bits – 1/2 cup
Thyme
Pepper
Garlic
Wash and quarter potatoes. Dissolve bouillion in 1 cups water by microwaving for about 4 minutes. Saute corn, bacon bits, celery, garlic, spinach and onion in 2 tbl butter until onion is transparent and spinach is wilted. Meanwhile, make a roux with 4 tbsl butter and 4 tbls flour (equal parts). Make the roux by melting the butter and flour together over very low heat and whisking until smooth. Add potatoes to sauteed veggies. Add roux. Add water/bouillion mixture. Add milk and wine. Generously mix in pepper and thyme.
Boil over medium heat for 20 minutes. Simmer for 2 hours or longer. Add additional milk and wine in 1/4 cup increments if the mixture gets too thick. Serve with diced green onions.

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