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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.


sweet potato casserole.

I'm known in my family for three things:

  1. General outrageousness.
  2. A self-deprecrating sense of humor.
  3. Sweet potato casserole.

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This is not a photo of my sweet potato casserole, but this is probably what it will look like when I make it tomorrow.

I've been making this for the past several years for Thanksgiving, and it's the

4 1/2 cups cooked and mashed sweet potato
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup milk
1 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/ cup butter
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 9" x 13" baking dish [I usually make it in a french oven--any sort of baking apparatus will do.] In a large bowl, mix together mashed sweet potatoes, 1/2 cup butter, milk, white sugar, vanilla extract and eggs. Spread sweet potato mixture into the prepared baking dish. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar and flour. Cut in 1/3 cup butter until the mixture is crumbly, then stir in the pecans. Sprinkle the pecan mixture over the sweet potatoes. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

It's not low-fat, but that's not what the holidays are about. Happy gluttony!


sweater weather.

As all of you New Englanders are well aware, it has been sooooo cold out. Olive refuses to go out without some sort of  jacket, and even then she's shooting me nasty looks as she does her business. It's not fun.

But I found something that's making my excursions outside a little more bearable:

I scooped up this cardigan at Old Navy for a steal (today, it's an extra 30% with code EARLYGIFT), and it's perfect for the bitter cold weather we've been having as of late--super cozy and heavy and great for lounging.


weekend in pics.

Lychee Martini // Edamame with Lime // Sushi Extravaganza // Giant Mimosa // Greasy Breakfast // Fancy Wine

I had such a fun weekend: Friday my sister came to my place and we went out for cocktails and sushi (so delicious) and then we watched Parenthood and tormented Olive. We were very productive  Saturday morning and went out to eat at what I thought was an International House of Pancakes, but turned out to be an entirely different restaurant that did not disappoint with their super-sized (and cheap) mimosas. We ran errands and went back to my parent's house and drank my most favorite pinot noir ever, because that's what Saturdays are for.

Sleepy Jetes // Turkey Hats // Dad and the Hud
Sunday was supposed to be the first of two Turkey Trots, but with the wind chill creating a temperature  of around 4 degrees and my two running partners being asthma sufferers, we decided running was for the birds (bwahaha). We went to my sister's house instead where we stuffed our faces with french onion soup, grilled cheese and a fabulous spread of apps.

How was your weekend?


happy, happy weekend.

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I'm trying so hard not to wish my weeks away, but this one was a doozy. Why does all of the shit hit the fan right before you're taking time off of work?

Anyway, I made it and the weekend is finally here. So pumped for a sister sleepover tonight and then a week of family bonding and stuffing galore. And no work.

Wishing you the happiest of weekends!


holiday thoughts.

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I recently read Kelly's post What About Thanksgiving?, and I couldn't agree more. (Read it.)

I don't know what it is about this year in particular--maybe it's the plethora of Peppermint Mochas I've been seeing in my instagram feed coupled with the abundance of Christmas lights blinding me during my commute home, but I feel like Thanksgiving is totally being bypassed by it's more sparkly holiday sister.

(Lest I give you the wrong impression, I'm not a scrooge. I am the first person to wax poetic about the magic that surrounds December).

But I think there's something strange about sitting around the Thanksgiving table with the scent of pine and twinkling lights from a Christmas tree in the background. And while I'm excited to decorate and listen to carols and stuff my face with all things peppermint, I'm holding off until after I celebrate the fabulousness that is Thanksgiving.

Because she deserves her place in the spotlight, too.


books lately.

There's really nothing better than curling up with a good book. I love to read for an hour or so before I go to bed (which usually means I'm in bed super early. Olive doesn't mind. She loves to snooze). 

Here are some books I've read as of late, accompanied by my deep thoughts:

  • Wild, Cheryl Strayed: I didn't love it. While her story is certainly amazing and inspiring, it just didn't jazz me the way I thought it would based on the reviews. Still, I would recommend it, especially if you'd rather live vicariously through someone outdoorsy and not experience the blisters firsthand.
  • What Remains, Carole Radziwill: This one really surprised me--I had remembered Carole the writer from her Glamour magazine days, and of course I knew Carole the television star from Real Housewives of NY, but this book gave a whole new perspective of her life as a journalist and wife, and I really, really liked it.
  • The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, Anton Disclafani: Hmmmm. I would recommend this, but as I'm thinking about what my real opinion is of the book on a whole, there are certain aspects of the storyline I didn't enjoy. If you read it, you might know what I'm referring to...but I still think it's a worthwhile read.
  • Where'd You Go, Bernadette, Maria Semple: Loved it. I didn't want it to end.
  • The Fault in Our Stars, John Green: Looking for a book that makes you ugly cry? This is it. I spent a solid 1/2 hour sobbing--even though it's marketed as YA, this quasi-adult thoroughly enjoyed the story.
  • The Light Between Oceans, M.L. Stedman: I wasn't totally wowed by this one--I liked the general concept, but I found that it dragged in certain places. It definitely makes you think, though--heartbreaking.
  • The Tragedy Paper, Elizabeth Laban: I don't know if it's prep school kid in me, but I really liked this book--it keeps you sucked in, and I thought the ending did it justice.
  • The Other Typist, Suzanne Rindell: I'm only three chapters in, but so far so good.

Do you have any book recommendations? What should I add to my list?



You know how Brussels sprouts have that reputation as a hated vegetable? Especially for kids? I never had that...and I think it's because I have absolutely no recollection of ever eating them. (That's not because my parents thought it was a lost cause--I have a sneaking suspicion that my dad didn't want to eat them, so they were never part of the dinner repertoire).

My parents were so good about making us eat food we might otherwise say no to--we were required to take a "no thank you helping" of anything we didn't really want to eat which instilled good manners if we were eating at someone else's house, and also expanded our little palates. [Note to future children: you will be carrying on the "no thank you helping" tradition. You can thank me later].

Anyway, I have found that I really, really love the sprouts. And here is a super easy recipe to enjoy them (adapted from this):

Preheat over to 400 degrees. Take a 1 to 1-1/2 pound bag of Brussels sprouts and cut them in half. Cut up some prosciutto into 1" squares (around 4-5 ounces). Put everything on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss with your hands.

Cook for 15 minutes, toss, and then cook for another 15. Drizzle some balsamic vinegar on top (I did around 2 tablespoons) and voila!

Sprouty goodness.

(If you want a more pronounced balsamic flavor, I would recommend this recipe, although it is a bit more labor intensive).



I had a total hermit weekend, and it was awesome. The goal was to have as little contact as possible with the outside world. I think I succeeded.

My mom came over for pizza and champagne on Saturday: it was a winning combo // I'm loving Trader Joe's mini pumpkin pies // I made molasses cookies using this mix and they were super easy and delicious // Olive likes to help with cleanup in the kitchen, but her overzealous methods tend to  leave her in an awkward position. 

I otherwise spent hours (and I mean hours) watching Parenthood--I am so late to the game with this show, but I thoroughly enjoyed my mini marathon. I need to catch up.

How was your weekend?


happy weekend.

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Kate Spade has the best wallpaper for your phone/tablet/computer. Such a fun way to spruce things up, and it's free!
Download here.
I'm super pumped the weekend is finally here. I'm not too pleased, however, that I am coming down with a bit of a cold.

I have a feeling it's nothing a little champagne can't fix...


deep thoughts.

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For as long as I can remember, I've been a person of if onlys. I would put a huge focus on what I didn't have and I'd get it in my head that "if only I had/did/was x", then my life would be complete.

"X" could be anything: losing ten pounds, getting engaged, finding a new job... even when I seemingly had it all, I still found myself with a nagging feeling of discontent. There was always something else that could be better...a missing piece that would make my happiness puzzle complete.

The past couple of years have been a bit of a roller coaster of emotion (to say the least). They've been filled with highs and lows, but in my old age I've come to a sort of revelation: there will always be something I want to change, and that's perfectly fine. But I need to spend a lot less time focusing on the have nots and put a much higher value on the haves.

And slowly but surely, I think I'm getting there.


apartment tour.

I moved into my apartment in February after a year of post-breakup soul searching. It's an old mill building that was converted into lofts, and I absolutely love it.

Hallway when you first walk in.

Living Room/Desk Area.

Living Room

Tree stump coffee table courtesy of my dad.


Living room (back to the desk).

Dining Area.


Kitchen (back facing desk).

Booze city. Population: me.
Stairs to bedroom (bathroom on left).

We're pretty happy here.