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I'm so pumped: my sister and I booked a trip to Chicago for the end of January. (Who goes to Chicago in January? Hardy New Englanders, that's who). We did this trip last year around this time when I was contemplating a move, and it turned into an incredible eating and drinking extravaganza.

We already have plans to revisit some of our favorites, but do you have any Chicago restaurants that are a must-see?

I'm all ears!


christmas card 2013.

I love getting Christmas cards. I also love sending my own, but this year I had a moment of  panic when I wondered if I was totally lame to send the clichéd "single girl with her dog" card. I expressed my misgivings to my professional photographer and confidant (my mom) and she asked what I was embarrassed about: this is my life right now, and I'm happy with it.

And she's right.

So, may I present my quite happily clichéd card for 2013:


winter weekend.

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I know I said this last week, but time is really flying--I can't believe Christmas is right around the corner. I'm meeting friends for dinner tonight, and then plan on hunkering down for the rest of the weekend. We're supposed to get upwards of 10" on snow Saturday-Sunday, and I'm pumped (although Olive is not). I can't wait to wrap presents, drink eggnog and watch my absolute favorite holiday flick "White Christmas."


butternut squash pizza.

Ever since I went to Maine and had an amazing meal here, I've been wanting to replicate their butternut squash pizza. So, when I made the Beef Wellington the other night, I cooked a big batch of butternut squash to eat alongside and planned to use the extra to make into a sauce. With the leftover puff pastry, I was in business.

What you need:

  • Puff pastry (or any kind of pizza base: dough, naan, etc.)
  • Butternut Squash sauce (I puréed squash, added salt and pepper, some milk and water to thin it out, and a bit of maple syrup for added sweetness)
  • Sage leaves
  • Mozzarella
  • Ricotta
  • Onion
What you do:

1.   If using puff pastry, preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2.   Slice your onion, throw it in a pan with some butter and cook until caramelized, stirring
3.   Spread the butternut squash sauce on the pastry, and add dollops of ricotta and slices of mozzarella.
4.   Add the caramelized onions to the top of the cheese.   
5.   Thinly slice the sage (less is more here) and sprinkle on top.
6.   Cook for 12-14 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed and slightly brown and the cheese is melted.

And ta-da! You're left with an easy and tasty vegetarian meal.


formula x.

I love getting manicures as much as the next girl, but spending $10-$20 a week adds up fast. I've been trying to be better about doing it myself, but I usually end up with nails that look like they were painted by a 4-year-old. To add insult to injury, they're usually chipped and looking gross(er) within 3 days. So when I heard rave reviews about Sephora's Formula X, I figured I'd give it a whirl.

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For $32, you get "The System" which includes a cleanser, a sticky base coat, the color of your choice and a shiny top coat. I went with "Obsessed" which is a dark merlot:

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I painted my nails last Tuesday, and this is what they looked like on Thursday:

And here's what they looked like one week after I painted them, last night:

Not too shabby! I would say this is the longest lasting manicure I've done myself (and I even trimmed my nails this weekend--I was sure that would mean chip city).

I'm definitely going to add some more colors to my collection--I'm a Formula X convert.


beef wellington for one.

I don't know if it's because every time I open a Williams-Sonoma catalog their Beef Wellington is staring me in the face or if I just need comfort food this time of year, but I've had a major hankering for it for the past couple of weeks. So, this weekend, I decided to make Beef Wellington for the first time. And it was delish.

(adapted from this recipe)

Ingredients (that are incredibly precise):

1/2 yellow onion
Handful of sliced mushrooms
Spoonful of minced garlic
Filet of beef
Salt and pepper
Puff pastry (I used 1/4 of a sheet)
Red wine
Balsamic vinegar
Egg (for wash)

To Do:

1.   Defrost puff pastry according to directions (usually takes 2 hours).
2.   Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
3.   Dice mushrooms and onions.

4.   Melt a tablespoon of butter in a saucepan, add garlic. Cook for one minute and then add onions and
      cook until translucent. Add mushrooms, a splash of red wine and a splash of balsamic vinegar.
      Cook until liquid is reduced.

(I omitted the liver pâté that usually accompanies Beef Wellington, and when I make this again, I will definitely add it. The final product was missing a little richness that the pâté would have provided--I just didn't want to have all that extra lying around because I would have stuffed my face with it. And nobody wants to see that.)

4.   Generally season the filet with salt and pepper.
5.   Heat 1-2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan on medium-high heat, and sear both sides until brown
      and crisp.
6.   Put the filet in the pastry, and spoon the mushroom/onion mixture on top.

7.   Wrap the pastry tightly around the beef/mushrooms and seal the edges. Brush with egg wash.

8.   Place the pastry wrapped beef on a rack on a baking sheet. (I did this because I wasn't sure how
      juicy this was going to get, and I didn't want the bottom too soggy. You should be okay putting this
      directly on the pan.)
9.   Cook for 25-30 minutes for medium. Here, a meat thermometer is your friend. I didn't have one, 
      and I cooked it for 35 minutes and it was well-done, which was fine with me. I don't like my meat
      too rare, anyway. But I would recommend checking periodically with a thermometer.

And, voilà! Beef Wellington for one. I served mine (to myself) with butternut squash and I made a quick red wine reduction. I would totally make this again. 

Maybe even for someone else, if they're lucky.


feeling festive.

I added a couple of festive updates around the apartment this weekend and was perfectly lazy. I watched a ton of Christmas movies, addressed all of my cards and made a divine Beef Wellington for dinner Sunday night (recipe to follow). It was heaven.


happy weekend.

I seriously can't believe there are only 2 1/2 weeks until Christmas. I'm all set with my shopping thanks to the internet, but I'm planning on getting my spirit on this weekend with some movies, some baking (for real this time) and some naps.

It's always the season for naps.



a girl can never have too many ski-related items of clothing.

apres ski

I don't even ski, but I enjoy taking part in any and all après ski activities...if you catch my drift.*

*Pun intended.


my halls are decked.

This year marks my very first solo grownup Christmas tree.

Can you sense my excitement and utter pride?

I'm keeping things simple with just lights and garland. All of my ornaments adorn my parents' tree, and that's where I want them to stay (for now). I got the garland from West Elm (on sale here--I bought three strands), and the star from Target (on sale here).

I'm also pretty pleased with my boxwood wreaths:

I bought the wreaths and ribbon at my favorite local farm and boom: festive.

Olive says "Bah Humbug".


spinach cups.

In addition to sweet potato casserole, I contributed a tasty little appetizer that doesn't sit in your stomach like a ton of delicious bricks: spinach cups!

The recipe came from the Cooking Light November issue (can be found here), and I would definitely make these again, but with a couple of tweaks.

What you need:

  • 30 mini phyllo shells (I used two packages of Athens)
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 2 (6-ounce) bags baby spinach
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 3 ounces 1/3 less-fat cream cheese
  • Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano

What you do:
1.   Preheat oven to 425.
2.   Bake the phyllo shells on a baking sheet at 425 for 4 minutes, or until lightly browned and very
3.   Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add garlic and cook for one minuted
      until fragrant but not browned. Coarsely chop one bag of spinach.

4.   Add chopped spinach to the pan and cook until it wilts (around two minutes) stirring frequently.
      Chop remaining spinach and add to the wilted spinach that's in the pan. Cook until it wilts, stirring
      frequently. Sprinkle the mixture with salt; and toss well. 

5.   Stir in the cream and cream cheese, cook 1 minute or until the cheese melts and sauce is thoroughly
      heated. Remove pan from heat.

6.   Spoon about one tablespoon spinach mixture into each shell and top evenly with Parmigiano
      Reggiano cheese. Enjoy.

These were super easy to make, and according to the recipe, only 110 calories for 3! Not too shabby.

Next time, I might add a little grated Parmesan cheese to the spinach mixture when I add the cream cheese (since I came from the land of "there is no such thing as too much cheese"), and I also might add a little bit of nutmeg to kick things up a notch. 

All in all, this recipe does not disappoint: make them!


thanksgiving and weekend.

I had the best time over Thanksgiving week and this past weekend. Even though everything was jam-packed with family and too much food, not having to think about work was gloooooorious.

Grownup table // Spinach appetizer (recipe coming this week)  // Thankful for champagne
Walks on the beach in Maine // Oysters, of course
Dogs getting warm by the fire // Stonewall Kitchen ready for Christmas // INSANELY delicious pizza

I didn't take nearly enough pictures, which is super disappointing but sadly, quite typical. But I really couldn't ask for a better week--and heading up to the Maine digs was icing on the cake. My mom took my Christmas card pics, I got my Christmas tree and I was able to just take it easy before the craziness that will be the next couple of weeks.

I'm so thankful for everything and everyone in my little life. I am a very, very lucky lady.