sister trip.

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Finally. My sister and I take off for our annual Chicago sister trip tomorrow. While I'm not super pumped about the temps we'll be facing (hello, wind chill), we have such fun eating and drinking adventures planned, including a 10-course tasting dinner. I'll be back next week 5 pounds heavier with recaps.


year of the horse.

January 31st marks the Chinese New Year, and this year is the year of the horse. What better time to showcase some of my most favorite equestrian-related items? These are all on my list of  favorites and wants (in addition to my basic equestrian-related needs, which include a new pair of half chaps and a dressage whip. But those aren't as fun.)

year of the horse.

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happy weekend.

I had my first photography class this week, and it was perhaps the cutest thing ever. In just two hours, I  learned so much about how to use my camera, but I also realized how much I love my little town with its little community center (they even offer cake decorating classes, which I think I'm going to have to sign up for next). Being there in that class on a random Wednesday night made me so inexplicably happy.

And two weeks ago, I was still on the fence about signing up (despite my New Year's resolution to get myself out there)--I'm so, SO glad I stuck with it. I remember playing sports in high school and hearing that old cliche "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take" and rolling my eyes and thinking how lame it was--that might be due to the fact that I was a terrible athlete, and managed to miss 100% of the shots I did take. I also hated motivational sports talk.But I've come to realize how true that silly saying is: the mere act of putting yourself out there and taking risks and doing things you wouldn't otherwise be comfortable with can have such an impact--my little photography class is really changing my perspective on things.

So get out there and do something you wouldn't otherwise do--it's so worth it.


never-ending-chicago-[and new england]-winter beef stew.

Ahhh, winter. I love you so much when you're surrounded by the magic of the holidays, but come January and February, your presence becomes a lot less enjoyable. I seriously start to hate you.

What better way to deal with the polar plunge than busting out the slow cooker and whipping up some comfort food? (You know, other than going on a tropical vacation.) This past weekend I made my most favorite slow cooker recipe--since getting my Cuisinart for Christmas, I tried this recipe and this one (via Pinterest), and I was not in love with either. But I had made Stephanie Izard's "Never-Ending-Chicago-Winter Beef Stew" before, so I knew it was a guaranteed winner.

Now, a couple of caveats: it takes a little while to prep. There is a lot of chopping involved, but you can cut corners by buying cored pineapple, etc. Which brings me to my second point: the ingredients are a little weird. Apple? Pear? Fish sauce? What? But trust me that while this is not a traditional beef stew, it is delicious. And the recipes makes a bunch--I have two tupperware containers in my freezer right now waiting for next (or continued?) deep freeze.

The recipe, courtesy of Stephanie Izard:

What you need:

3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
3 lbs. beef, cubed
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 pear, peeled, cored and diced
1 pineapple, peeled, cored and small dice
1 small onion, small dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine
2 tablespoons dijon
3/4 cup fish sauce
3/4 cup worcesteshire
1 tablespoons sambal
2 tablespoons balsamic
16 oz. can diced tomato *
1 quart chicken stock
2 cup apple cider

What you do:
In a large soup pot, heat 1 tablespoons oil over high heat. Season half of the beef with salt and pepper and add into pot. brown the beef and remove. repeat with other half of the meat, removing and setting aside. Add another tablespoon of oil to the soup pot and lower the heat to medium.  Add the in onion and garlic and sweat them by cooking until the onion is translucent, about three minutes. add in the pineapple, pear, apple and wine and simmer to reduce liquid by half. [At this point I transferred everything to my slow cooker]. Add back the beef along with the broth, cider, tomatoes, fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, mustard, and sambal and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer. taste liquid and adjust with salt and pepper. Cover, and simmer until the beef cubes fall apart easily when poked with a fork, a little over four hours. [I cooked on low for 5 hours]. Adjust the seasoning before serving.

The pineapple works to break down the beef, so what you're left with is incredibly tender, fall apart chunks that are beyond delicious. Serve with bread, mashed potatoes, or pasta and winter just might seem a little more doable.



I do declare, I love me some instagram:

If you like pictures of cocktails, food and small french bulldogs, follow along: @heatherandolive

(Also, if you used to follow me, and you're wondering why I changed my name for the 4th time, it's because of le blog. Apparently I have problems sticking to my decisions.)


weekend recap.

This weekend was somewhat uneventful, but I was okay with that--the next three weekends are jam-packed so I'll take my downtime when I can get it. Perhaps most exciting, I finally got my hair cut.

The before:

I seriously can't believe I've been walking around with ends like this.

The after:
I'm a whole new lady.
I had originally planned to go shorter, but I decided cleaning up the ends was good for now. Perhaps once the warmer temps hit, I'll chop. I'm just glad the straw is gone and I'll finally be able to wear it down without looking so crunchy.

I had a delicious lunch with my sis and I busted out the slow cooker and made my favorite winter comfort food--recipe to come this week.

Happy Monday.


hello, weekend.

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Yay for the weekend--I thought this week went by pretty fast, but I'm still happy I have two days of relaxation ahead of me (no Monday holiday for me). I plan on making my favorite crockpot recipe, meeting my sister for lunch and chopping off my hair because it's taken on the texture of dried straw.

(P.S. I ordered these shoes, and I'm in love. I want them in every color).


on exercise.

What better way to follow up a post on buttery treats than with one on working out? Ah, metabolism. I must admit, all through my teens/twenties I was a very lucky lady (except for my freshman year of college, where I overindulged considerably and packed on some serious part due to stupid but delicious late-night D.P. Dough). I pretty much was able to eat whatever I wanted, and as long as I ran 3 times a week or so, my pants fit. If I ever felt myself getting a little soft, I'd amp up the cardio and be svelte in no time.

And then, I got old. Ever since I turned 30, my ability to bounce back from an eating and drinking extravaganza has become almost nonexistent. It's very depressing. I was working out consistently this fall and then fell off the wagon around Thanksgiving/Christmas--that coupled with excessive holiday merriment has had a very squishy result. So, I'm back on the workout wagon.

What do I do? I think what works best for me is a combo of running and Pure Barre. I've realized that I get burned out if I only do one thing (I used to only run, and this fall I was just going to barre classes): both of these activities are a great workout, but doing only one drives me crazy. I'm hoping that by mixing it up a bit, I'll get results and won't lose my mind.

I'm never going to be the girl that says "oh, no fries for me, thanks", so I just need to be better about burning off what I eat.

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a rice krispies treat upgrade.

I've never been a huge Rice Krispies treat person--I remember my mom always making them growing up, but they were never my first choice when it came time for dessert. They were always just kind of "meh". But my feelings towards these treats have done a total 180 thanks to Smitten Kitchen (and Kate, who instagrammed the deliciousness before Christmas).

These things are amazing: who would have thought that browning butter and adding a little sea salt would completely transform this treat as we know it? Make them!

Recipe here.


weekend recap.

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I had the best time this weekend. On Friday, my aunt, mom, sister and cousins all came to my place for a sleepover. We used to do this all the time growing up, but as we've gotten older and people have started families of their own our get togethers have been sporadic at best. My aunt and my mom were best friends in college, and they ended up marrying two brothers. They had children around the same time, so my sister and I were so lucky to have automatic BFFs.

We got together for dinner this fall, and I declared everyone needed to come over to my place for dinner: 4 months later, it finally came to fruition. We drank wine, ate Chinese food, and set up a bunch of air mattresses and spent the night talking and catching up. And it was so much fun.

I'm so lucky to have such great and inspiring women in my life: we're all so incredibly different, but I think that what makes things great. I can't wait for the next one.


this or that.

Manolo Blahnik's BB pumps play a starring role on my shoe dream team. I think they are so chic and so timeless, but they are so expensive. Enter J.Crew's Everly pump: with the current "TAKENOTE" promotion they clock in at a much more wallet-friendy $147. I've been living in the cap toe version as of late, so I'm really hoping the suede version follows suit in comfort and versatility.


crafty Christmas.

Don't worry, this is my last Christmas post. And no, there will be no photos of my familial celebrations because I took zero pictures (hence, the need for me to take a photography class and learn how to use my camera in order to capture memories and share them with the world wide web).

Months and months ago, my mom's side of the family decided that 2013 would be the year of the crafty Christmas. I have zero skills when it comes to traditional crafting: the only think I know how to do is cook, so I put my pots and pans to use.

I decided that I would make English toffee, using this Ghirardelli recipe:

What you need:

8 ounces Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar
3/4 cup pecans, finely chopped1 cup butter1 cup sugar2 tablespoons water1/8 teaspoon salt (optional)1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

What to do:
Preheat oven to 350. Toast the chopped pecans on a baking sheet in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes, or until fragrant.
With heavy-duty aluminum foil, form a 10-inch square shell with 1-inch high sides. Place the foil shell on a baking sheet, and set aside.
In a heavy saucepan, cook the butter, sugar, water, and salt over medium heat until the temperature reaches 305F (hard-crack stage), stirring occasionally (watch closely after it reaches 290F because the temperature will increase rapidly). When the mixture becomes dark golden brown, immediately remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the vanilla extract. Pour the mixture into the foil shell. It will spread but may not reach the edges of the square. Cool at room temperature for 45 minutes, or until hard.
Melt the chocolate according to instructions on the side of package. Spread melted chocolate over the cooled toffee, and sprinkle with the pecans, pressing lightly to set pecans into chocolate. Let set at room temperature 1 hour, or until the chocolate is set. Break toffee into pieces.

The first batch I made was a total disaster--I relied on my candy thermometer, and holding that in the mixture plus stirring vigorously didn't work for me. I burned the crap out of my toffee and the pan, and it went into the trash. For the 2nd and 3rd batch, I relied solely on the color of the toffee and when I thought it looked ready, I removed it from the heat and poured it into the pan to set. It worked perfectly. I then packaged it in mason jars with these labels.
And my tasty, crafty Christmas was complete! I would make this again, but I must admit that stirring the toffee and watching it so closely is a total pain. 


christmas 2013: what I received.

Christmas 2013: what I received.

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  1. My sister and brother-in-law gave me a slow cooker, which has been a game changer already--recipes coming soon.
  2. Speaking of game changers, the Nespresso machine from my parents is amazing. So easy, so good and the perfect way to get an afternoon pick me up without spending serious dollars at Starbucks. My love for this machine knows no bounds.
  3. A faux fur infinity scarf from Restoration Hardware: this has been keeping me so warm with the recent sub zero temps we've been experiencing in New England. [And it could be yours right now on super sale for $17!]
  4. Beautiful linen napkins from my brother and sister-in-law.
  5. A deer with gold antlers for my wall from my parents. He lives above my TV.


christmas 2013: what I gave.

I love reading all of the gift guides bloggers do before the holidays, but I never do them myself because I would want to include what I'm giving, and that just ruins the surprise. So, you get the aftermath of my holiday gifts.

Christmas 2013: what I gave.

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  1. For my dad, a faux fur throw from Restoration Hardware for cozy football afternoons.
  2. For my sister and her husband, a Gray Malin Italy print to inspire a trip.
  3. For my sister-in-law, an anchor cloche from Anthro to keep her rings displayed.
  4. For my sister (for her birthday, which was on the 22nd), a book on Wes Anderson.
  5. Another birthday present for my sister: because she is one, in the best possible way.
  6. A man satchel for my brother.
  7. Monogrammed wine glasses for my mom.


the comfort zone.

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So, I know I mentioned in my New Year's post that 2014 was going to be all about living with intention and getting out of my comfort zone. Ever the overachiever, (ahem, not) I started this resolution in December when we had our first significant Massachusetts snowstorm. Because I'm super hardcore, I don't pay the extra $$$ that secures an underground parking spot in my apartment complex's garage: instead, I roll the dice with the outside parking spaces and am therefore subjected to the musical cars game once the plowing begins.

After a storm ends, each lot is required to be cleared out and cars need to be moved and if they aren't moved they're towed and blah blah blah it's a total pain. I was so fed up with looking out the window to see when I needed to move my car, that I decided to just leave. I drove to my favorite local restaurant, grabbed a seat at the bar and proceeded to eat a meal by myself.

[Now, I know for many people, this is not a big deal. At all. But for me, it was. I (used to) never go to places and eat by myself. I don't know if it was a safety in numbers mentality, but I always felt like I needed to be with other people to go out to eat.]

I ordered a glass of wine and an extremely messy burger, and ate it while reading my iPad. And it was gloooooorious. I was kicking myself, because I couldn't believe that for so many years I was so scared to belly up to the bar solo and enjoy a delicious meal. I was missing out!

I got back to my place with my lot cleared and my stomach full, and a new resolve to just get out there. So, I'm going to be signing up for photography classes at my local community center (yes, community center). And there's a new restaurant that just opened in the town over, and I might be getting my grub on this weekend.

Solo...and kind of loving it.


oh, january.

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I must admit, the way Christmas/New Year's fell makes getting back into the swing of things at work rather difficult. I have to work today and tomorrow, and I'm really not feeling it. Maybe when Monday comes I'll be more ready to start fresh? On top of that, we're getting hit with a bit of a snowstorm: 8-15 inches of snow by Friday combined with a windy, bitter cold. Blah.



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Jeez louise. 2013, where'd you go? I know I say this weekly, but time is flying. I have all sorts of mini-resolutions for this year, which include flossing daily and dressing up a little more for work, but the biggie is living my life with more intention. If I say I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it. And if that means getting out of my comfort zone a little more, then so be it. I feel like I have all the tools I need to make this year a great one.