Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Spa Night in Tampa


I travel frequently for work, and when I'm on the road I love to squeeze in some weekend-worthy activities both to break up the work week and to free up my time when I get home. Mani/pedis are a great way to de-stress after a long work day, so that's one of my go-to on-the-road activities.

In Tampa, Crave Spa is one of my favorite spots. Crave uses natural products, and the upscale atmosphere is cozy and clean. I love the cushy sofa-like chairs that you can recline in and the selection of nail colors can't be beat. Plus, visit on Wednesdays and you can indulge in a glass of wine (or two) as you soak your soles. Check it out next time you're in town!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bedroom Redesign

When we moved in, redecorating the bedroom was not high on our list of priorities. Now that we've lived in this space for a couple years, it feels overdue. I've been pinning some of my favorite designs. Which one inspires you?

Fancy.com
Pinterest
Bassetfurniture.com
Pinterest

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Other Woman

The Other Woman
I'm no movie buff, but I saw The Other Woman this past weekend and it was good enough to recommend. I love silly comedies (and buttery movie theater popcorn), so this comedy featuring Leslie Mann, Cameron Diaz, and Kate Upton was just the ticket for a rainy afternoon.

Here's the plot: After Carly (Cameron Diaz) discovers that her boyfriend is cheating on her, she teams up with his wife (Leslie Mann) to take him down. Along the way they discover another girlfriend (Kate Upton), and by the end we're seeing some serious girl power prevail.

If you're looking for something lighthearted and fun, go see it. What other summer blockbusters are you looking forward to?

Friday, April 25, 2014

BOLLYX

Looking for something fun to do this weekend? Up your fitness quotient at a BOLLYX class. These high intensity cardio workouts are popping up around the Boston metro area. Check one out at the Dance Complex in Cambridge or at VIM Fitness.

You'll get your heart pumping to Bollywood beats and really feel the burn! Here's preview of what to expect:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tackle the Junk Drawer

My friend Jess has been doing some spring cleaning/organizing and sharing her progress on The Painted Spoon. Seeing her before and after pictures has inspired me to de-clutter my space too!
Before (Top) and After (Bottom) Picture from The Painted Spoon
I'm ready to clean out closets and reorganize my office space, but tackling the junk drawer is always the hardest part.

We all have one. It's that place full of scissors, matches, stray notes, chapstick, and other random objects that don't have a home. When you're ready to clean house, check out this video from Martha Stewart for a little bit of junk drawer organization inspiration:


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gluten Free Beer

Summer is quickly approaching, and there's nothing better than sipping a beer while grilling' outside. I'll admit that Neal is our resident grill master, but I like to watch my man at work!


Gluten free beers often leave a little something to be desired, but I've found a few favorites. From left to right:
  • Estrella Damm Daura. This is definitely my favorite, and even Neal said it tasted like regular beer. Made in Spain, Estrella makes this light and refreshing Pilsner-style beer gluten free by removing the gluten after brewing. 
  • St. Peter's Sorghum Beer. The flask-like bottle makes this beer even more awesome, but the beer itself is light and smooth with a hoppy bite at the end. Of the gluten free beers that I've tried, this one seems closest to a craft-style premium beer. 
  • Dogfish Head Tweason'ale. Dogfish Head doesn't specialize in GF beers, but this one, brewed with sorghum, strawberries, and honey, has a little bit of sweetness that's perfect on a hot summer day. The combo might seem weird (or maybe a little girly), but it's worth a try!
  • Bard's. Unlike Dogfish Head, Bard's Tale Beer only brews this sorghum-based drink. The craft brewery claims they made "America's first gluten free sorghum beer and the only beer brewed with 100% malted sorghum." It has medium body, low bitterness, and a beautiful color. 
Harpoon Brewery might be taking after Estrella sometime soon. I recently visited their taproom in Boston and tried an "un-glutened" beer that they're working to perfect. It wasn't bad, and I'm excited to see it on shelves soon. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Kitchen Tips

Bonappetit.com
I love to cook, and I'm planning to do a lot more of it this summer as I work to compile my favorite recipes in to a cookbook. So, I was excited to read this article from Bon Appetit, highlighting the tricks their staff members have picked up over the years. Some of my favorite tips include:
  • Finish pasta in the pan. Instead of pouring the sauce over the pasta, add the pasta to the pan of sauce and let it finish cooking. It will absorb the flavor of the sauce, and adding a bit of the leftover pasta water will give the dish a creamy, perfect finish. 
  • Use scissors in the kitchen. I do this all the time, and Neal teases me, but scissors are great! Instead of cutting up chicken, veggies, or anything else with a knife, make it easy on yourself and use some good shears. 
  • Give your veggies space. When roasting veggies, give them a little space. Overcrowding them may lead to more food, but giving those veggies space will lead to tastier results. 
  • Use an immersion blender. We live in a small space, so the immersion blender is my best friend. I use it to make creamy soups, blend my own homemade salsa, and I've even whipped up a milkshake or two. It can do almost as much as a giant food processor, but it takes up a fraction of the space. Bon Appetit agrees- it's a handy tool!
  • Clean your greens. Matt Gross, editor at BonAppetit.com writes, "I remember one time, I was about to wash off some lettuce and my dad told me to wash it from the leaf side down the stem side. If there's dirt on the stems- where the dirt usually is, of course- you're spreading the dirt to the leaf if you're doing it the other way around. I think of it every time I wash greens." 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Run Run Run

Photo from Indiana Public Media
Happy Patriot's Day! In Boston, Patriot's Day is a holiday commemorating the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. These days, Patriot's Day is also referred to as Marathon Monday.

I'm impressed by all of the runners who will be making the 26.2 mile trek from Hopkington to Boston in the Boston Marathon today. It's inspiring to watch people cross the finish line, but even cooler to hear what motivates each runner to get there. Last year, Lululemon asked runners about their "Run Mantras" before the race- check out the video:


My favorite mantra in the video is "I run because I can." The events at last year's marathon were devastating, and several families are still recovering. If you're feeling Boston Strong today, donate to the One Fund, which continues to help and support those injured in last year's Boston Marathon bombings.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Happy Easter!

Easter Basket from Emily @ Cupcakes and Cashmere
I've been travelling for work, so I still haven't put my Easter Baskets together (I'll be scrambling tomorrow!). In lieu of showing you some of my own creations, I'm sharing the absolutely adorable Easter Basket created by Emily at Cupcakes and Cashmere.

Emily's Easter Basket Ingredients, Cupcakes and Cashmere
Emily's grown up version of a classic Easter Basket is small. The reusable berry basket holds just enough! She included a pretty set of note cards (check out these options from Paper Source), some pastel nail polish from Essie, a spring-inspired pink lip gloss, and a few sweet treats. Pack it all in with some paper grass and you've got one adorable Easter Basket!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Etiquette: Meeting the Parents

Meeting the parents can be nerve-wracking, but it doesn't have to be! I met Neal's parents on Easter a couple years ago, and it was a wonderful way to celebrate the holiday and get to know a little bit more about my sweetie from the very people who made him who he is. 
  1. Get some intel before you go. Your significant other should be able to give you the details on his parents/family so you know what you're walking into. Are they uber conservative? Do they like crude jokes? Whatever the situation, it's nice to know ahead of time. Plus, asking about your boyfriend/girlfriend's family shows that you care!
  2. Dress appropriately. You'll want to be comfortable, so don't go overboard and overdress. Pick some classic pieces like a sundress, a sweater, or even jeans if it's a casual get-together and tone down the makeup. You want to look natural, not like you're going out for a wild night with your girlfriends. 
  3. Take flowers. Taking a small gift is a nice gesture, especially if your sweetie's parents have invited you to their home. If flowers don't feel appropriate, try bringing a dessert or a dish to share. 
  4. Ask questions. Show a little interest and get to know them! Dazzle them with your beautiful smile and keep the conversation going!
  5. After you leave, send a note. This is my advice for any occasion, but a nice note is a wonderful gesture, showing how much you enjoyed meeting everyone. You'll get bonus points if you reference something personal about the day, like thanking his mom for cooking dinner and asking for her roasted chicken recipe. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Easter Egg Hunt

It's almost Easter weekend, and I couldn't resist sharing this cute idea for glitter Easter Eggs from Girl. Inspired. If you're looking for an alternative to the messy egg dying tradition, try these! You'll need white glue or Mod Podge glue and a little bit of glitter. Apply the glue to the egg in the pattern you desire (dip it, paint it, blot it on with your finger... get creative!) and then sprinkle it with glitter and give it time to dry. 
Glitter Easter Eggs from Girl.Inspired.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mix and Match Cookies


I had a major cookie craving the other day, but after I decided to whip up a batch I realized that my stock of chocolate chips and other goodies was way too low for a complete recipe. Rather than run to the store, I decided to take a risk and just combine everything I had on hand. The result: an amazingly delicious mix and match cookie. 

If you're in a similar position and you want to whip up something sweet, start with a generic cookie dough. From there, you can add whatever sounds good to you (or whatever is available!). 

What You'll Need:
1 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 stick Crisco Butter Flavor All-Vegetable Shortening
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups GF Flour
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
Stuff to throw in- your choice!

Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 and line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the brown sugar, shortening, milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. 
  3. Add the egg to the shortening mixture and beat well.
  4. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt to the bowl and mix until just blended.
  5. Mix in your favorite things or whatever you have on hand. I used a tiny handful of mini chocolate chips, a cup of shredded coconut, a handful of butterscotch chips, and a small sprinkling of sliced almonds. 
  6. Drop rounded tablespoons of the dough onto your prepared baking sheets.
  7. Bake for 8 min or until golden brown. 
  8. Cool for 2 min before moving the cookies from a baking sheet to a cooling rack (or to your mouth!). 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Minted

Paper lovers, if you haven't checked out Minted yet, today's the day! I'm a sucker for beautiful cards, stationery, and invitations, and Minted offers an incredible selection all created by indie designers. You'll find everything from wedding invitations, to birthday cards, to address labels, to personalized party decor!

I've been perusing their site and I love the inspiration boards:

Lucky In Love Invitation, Minted.com
Aquarelle Invitation, Minted.com
Willow Tree Invitation, Minted, com
If you're not planning an upcoming event, check out Minted's blog: Julep. Julep offers design & DIY inspiration for party planning and home decorating. Here's some Easter Egg Hunt inspiration for this coming weekend, straight from the source:
Easter Egg Hunt Inspiration, Julep

Friday, April 11, 2014

April Showers

Pinterest
April showers bring May flowers...and wet hair! Make sure you're prepared with a cute umbrella. Here are some of my favorites:
Floral umbrella, Pinterest
J.Crew Pocket Umbrella, Jcrew.com
3t Tory Umbrella, ToryBurch.com
Kate Spade 'Literary Glasses' Umbrella, Nordstrom.com

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Drybar Tutorials


I have fine, straight hair, and I'm certainly no styling expert, so my hair tends to look the same from day-to-day. When I saw these online tutorials from Drybar, I couldn't resist giving the styles a try. It's amazing what a great blowout can do for your locks!



If you want to leave the blow-drying to the professionals, check out Drybar in Boston. You'll find it at 234 Clarendon Street in Back Bay, and for $40 you can get anything from the Southern Comfort (in the tutorial above) to the Cosmo to an Up-Tini. Cheers!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Spring is in the Air

Spring is in the air, and I'm ready to bring out the bright colors and floral prints. Need to brighten up your closet now that the season is finally changing? Scroll down for a little outfit inspiration...

Pinterest
Pinterest
Pinterest
Pinterest

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Portland, Maine Off-Season Redux

My friend recently took a weekend trip to Portland, and her trip was so awesome that we just had to share it with all of you! Take it away, Becky....


After living in New England for 6 years and never visiting Portland, ME, my husband and I decided we’d better check it out. Our 3-day weekend in March made us both wonder why we’d waited so long! November through April is Portland’s off season, but there’s still a lot to do. Despite temperatures in the 30s, and a few snowflakes, we found a lot to keep us busy, happy, and – let’s face it – full during Portland’s “down time.” Here are some of the highlights:

Lunch and brews at Gritty’s: Sit at a gnarly pub table with a water view, enjoy excellent house-brewed beer on tap, and munch on a turkey club that rivaled Grandma’s Thanksgiving dinner – with bacon and cranberry mayo to boot! Enough said.

Sweetgrass Farm Winery and Distillery for gin and wine tasting: This Union, ME, winery and distillery has a tasting room on Fore Street in Portland, where you choose 4 of their signature  wine, gin, and bitters samples for $5. Plus you get to keep the cute little tasting glass. Buy a bottle to enjoy on your next stop, the…

Casco Bay Lines Sunset Cruise: Take the 2.5-hour “cruise” – really the last ferry loop of the day to the most inhabited Casco Bay Islands – to get a sense of Maine island life. It's cold, but beautiful, and you can always step inside the ferry when you get chilly.

Dinner at Fore Street: Fore Street is the top-ranked restaurant in Portland for good reason. (Make. A. Reservation. Now.) The brick and wood interior, copper tabletops, and open kitchen and hearth give it a warm, homey atmosphere, and the food is amazing. Try the wood-fired mussels appetizer. You can watch as they roast in the hearth first, and scrape up the garlic and almond butter at the end. Order a hand-crafted cocktail or non-alcoholic concoction to get the full experience.


Coffee in Bed at the Portland Regency
Work it out and relax at the Portland Regency: Our AAA discount made the stay a bit more reasonable, and we soon discovered that it was worth every penny! Take advantage of the deck rooms with water views, complimentary coffee and tea service delivered to your door, and access to the fitness center. The on-site spa’s posh locker rooms, steam room, sauna, and Jacuzzi are all included in your stay.

Creative brunch at Ri Ra Irish Pub: Okay, it’s a chain, but the brunch was so good we ate there twice! We couldn’t resist specials with local flare, like the chicken and sweet potato biscuits with maple gravy and the fresh crab and veggie egg skillet.

Walk and window shop (then repeat): Follow Portland’s Old Port streets through a cobbled zig-zag of shops, galleries, cafes and restaurants, all leading toward the port wharfs. We spent hours just strolling and browsing. A few of our favorite stops: Edgecomb Potters, Sea Bags love their stylish totes from repurposed sails, and the lobster traps.

Grab an afternoon “mocktail” at Vena’s FizzHouse: The highlight of Vena’s is the back soda counter, where their mixologist serves up old fashioned sodas with a modern Maine twist (think maple syrup and Thai ghost pepper) and “mocktails” in fancy glasses.

Popcorn tasting at Coastal Maine Popcorn Co.I love popcorn, so I stepped up to the counter for samples of their top savories. My favorite: rosemary & sea salt. (I was so excited to find a snack that fits my new dairy-free diet that I bought two large bags!).

Stroll the Eastern Promenade: The paved “Eastern Prom” runs along the water and the Narrow Gauge Railroad, with beaches and great views along the way. Yes, it was a cold walk, but we seemed to be the only ones bundled up!

Twin Lobsters at DeMillo’s: Board this former car ferry to take in the sea-faring kitsch and fill up on seafood. I took the twin lobster special on as a challenge, and finished both!


Enjoying "Death in the Afternoon"
 Late-night dessert and drinks at The Bar of ChocolateTheir enormous dessert drinks were intimidating, but the flourless dark chocolate torte with bourbon was just right with a generous pour of red wine. Beware: If you dare to try Hemingway’s fave, "Death in the Afternoon", it may be near-death in the evening (and the next day) for you, as it was for my husband!

There are still a few more weeks to take advantage of Portland’s off-season rates. If you’re an urbanite, you may be surprised how far your dollar stretches on food and entertainment in this beautiful small city. And don’t worry about your diet – with all the walking you’ll do, those chocolate torte calories don’t stand a chance! 


*************************

Becky, thanks for sharing your trip. I can't wait to get up to Portland with Neal... maybe next weekend!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Broccoli Quinoa "Mac and Cheese"

Recipe adapted from DamnDelicious.com
Swimsuit season is right around the corner, and although I'm not dieting to look bikini-ready, I am trying to lighten up some of our go-to dishes. Homemade macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite comfort foods, but this version made with quinoa and broccoli is equally delicious. Read on for the recipe!

What You'll Need:
5 cups cooked quinoa (about 1.5 cups dry)
2-3 cups broccoli florets, cooked (not mushy!)
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 1/2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
2 1/4 cup skim milk
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup Gluten Free Panko breadcrumbs

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x13 in. baking dish with nonstick spray. 
  2. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and cook until they're brown and toasted. Don't forget to stir them a few times. Once they're ready (Note: this step takes about 3 min), set them aside. 
  3. Head the remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil in the skillet. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper and then place them in the skillet. Cook, flipping once, until they're done. 
  4. Remove the chicken from the pan and allow it to cool while you melt butter in the skillet over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour until lightly browned.
  5. Add the milk to the skillet and continue whisking constantly until the mixture becomes slightly thickened. When the milk/flour mixture is ready, whisk in 1 1/2 cups of cheddar cheese and the Greek yogurt. This is your cheese sauce!
  6. Dice up the chicken breasts and then add the chicken, quinoa, and broccoli (cut up into small pieces) to the cheese sauce. Mix well. 
  7. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and sprinkle the remaining 1 1/2 cups of cheddar on top. Bake for about 5 min or until the cheese is melt-y. 
  8. Take the dish out of the oven (carefully) and top with the toasted breadcrumbs. Voila!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Spring Break Essentials: A Fruity Drink

Pinterest
Picture this: You're laying on a bright beach towel, enjoying the views of mile-long white sand beaches and listening to the sound of clear blue waves crashing in while you read a great book. What's missing? A fruity drink of course! 

Even if you can't get away to a beach-y destination this time of year, you can sip one of these tropical concoctions in the comfort of your own home and dream of warm weather. Bonus points if you hollow out your own pineapple or coconut!

What You'll Need:
3/4 cup boiling water 
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 cups ripe pineapple, cut into 1 inch squares
1 1/2 cups rum
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 6-8 lemons)
1 1/2 cups chilled sparkling water or seltzer
6 lemon wedges

Directions:
  1. Mix the hot water and sugar until all of the sugar is dissolved. Add the pineapple chunks, stirring and mashing the pineapple slightly.  Let sit for 2 hours at room temperature or refrigerate overnight.
  2. Transfer the pineapple/sugar mixture to a giant pitcher. Add the rum and lemon juice and stir well. 
  3. If you're serving immediately, add the sparkling water to the pitcher and divide the mixture amongst ice-filled serving glasses. Garnish each glass with a lemon wedge.
Tip: The sparkling water will go flat eventually, so if you want to make this cocktail last a little longer, don't add the water to the pitcher. Instead, pour a little bit of the pineapple mixture into a glass filled with ice and top with a bit of sparkling water. Cheers!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Spring Break Essentials: The Perfect Getaway


The term "spring break" may conjure images of jello shots and non-stop pool parties, but it doesn't have to. I've scoped out four warm, affordable destinations that won't be filled with raging co-eds. Clockwise from the top left:
  • Panama: If water the color of melted blue popsicles isn't enough, this destination has cheap airfare from the US and the drive from the airport to the Caribbean Sea is quick so you can get your vacation started right away.  Looking for a cool place to stay? Check out the American Trade Hotel by Ace or wait for the new Waldorf-Astoria to open its doors. 
  • Anguilla: This island doesn't offer a ton of cultural sites or activities, but it is home to incredible sugar-white beaches and is the perfect place to soak up the sun on the beach all day. Don't forget to pack plenty of sunscreen!
  • Hilton Head: Located 20 miles north of Savannah, Georgia, Hilton Head, South Carolina is a laid-back coastal town with plenty of golf courses, bike trails, and lighthouses to keep you busy. Plus, it's on the Atlantic Ocean, so you'll be able to squeeze in a little beach time once the water warms up.
  • Tulum: Although it's getting more and more popular, this place is still a Mexican paradise. Indulge in iced fruit popsicles after taking a dip in the clear blue water, then explore ancient Mayan ruins for the rest of the afternoon.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Spring Break Essentials: A Maxi Dress

There's something so effortless about slipping on a maxi dress and a great pair of sandals after a long day of bronzing pool-side. I have a classic black maxi, but I'm on the lookout for something with a little bit more pizazz. If you're shopping around too, here's some inspiration:

Pinterest
Fab Fashion Fix via Pinterest
Victoria's Secret via Pinterest
Pinterest
Tip: When you find the perfect dress, check the length! If you plan on wearing it with flat sandals instead of wedges, you may need to get it hemmed. Frayed edges are a faux-pas unless it's part of the style!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Spring Break Essentials: Sunscreen


Although bronzed skin can be beautiful, sun does serious damage. A great sunscreen can protect you from skin cancer, but more immediately it helps to prevent skin discoloration, reduces the appearance of facial veins and blotchiness, and combats premature aging (wrinkles!).

I love this natural sunscreen from Josie Maran's line. The lightweight sunscreen contains argan oil, which makes your skin glow without looking greasy, and the formula absorbs beautifully. This is a huge improvement over the white goop that you buy for $5 at the local drugstore (although I'll be the first to admit that I love Banana Boat's coconut-y scent), and it's a simple addition to your daily beauty routine.

Remember: If you're going to spend the day lounging in the sun, apply even more sunscreen than you would on a regular day (and reapply every few hours). Don't skip the sunglasses either- your eyes need protection too!