Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 in Review

This time last year, Neal and I were discussing plans for the year ahead and decided that we'd take it easy- no major life milestones. Those plans went out the window on New Year's Eve when we found out that we were expecting Henry, and what a year it has been!  I've been reflecting on some of my favorite moments of 2016, and along those lines, here are some of my favorite blog posts:

Travel Calendar

Original Post HERE
We made it to all of the cities that we planned to visit, and then some. Although big trips weren't in the cards for this past year, the long weekend getaways were the perfect respite from long work hours and baby anticipation.

Make Every Minute Count

Original Post HERE
This has really been the theme of my year. Pre-Henry, I was traveling every week for work and it took a lot of planning to cross off all of my to-dos each week. Post-Henry, life is even more hectic since we're at the mercy of an infant's schedule.  Time management has never been more critical!

Fit Pregnancy

Original Post HERE
I was fortunate to have an easy pregnancy, but I definitely made the most of it. Yoga and Bar Method were parts of my daily routine, helping to keep me awake (it's exhausting to make a tiny human) and healthy.

Take-Out In

Original Post HERE
One of my maternity leave projects was to cook my way through some new grain-free cookbooks, so I've tried a lot of new recipes this year. They haven't all been good, but this recipe was an improved variation of one that I tried and it's now part of our regular rotation. It's SO yummy!

Visiting a New Baby

Original Post HERE
We had so many visitors after Henry it was born, and although it was amazing and we felt so loved,  I also came up with a list of things that I wish some of our visitors had considered.

Accepting Gifts Graciously

Original Post HERE
I wish I had written this post long ago. I am a terrible gift recipient, and as the holidays approached it was a good exercise to remind myself how to be gracious.

Weekend in Boston

Original Post HERE
So many friends have visited Boston and have asked me what they should see/do. I've finally written it down, and I have to say this itinerary would make for an AWESOME weekend. We just got back from a trip to Boston and I'm already itching to go back...


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Poppin' Bottles

2016 is coming to an end, and I'm looking forward to a sparkly sendoff. I love champagne, and with  bubbly in mind, I've rounded up some links I love:

  1. 14 Champagne Cocktails to Serve at Your Next Party; Town & Country
  2. Sugarfina Champagne Candies, Sugarfina.com
  3. 10 Top Affordable Champagnes, Food & Wine
  4. DIY Gold Glitter Champagne Glasses, YouTube.com
I hope that you're ready to don your most sequined dress and pop a bottle or two (or at least indulge in those yummy champagne dummies). Cheers!

Monday, December 26, 2016

All Dressed Up

Christmas is behind us, but now we're moving full speed towards 2017. I love the start of a new year- it feels fresh and full of possibilities. Plus, New Year's Eve is a great excuse to get dressed up and do something fun. With a baby in tow, we're not planning anything too wild, but I am hoping to get out for a celebratory dinner and a glass (or two or three) of champagne.

If you're heading out for a memorable NYE, this is great time to try Rent the Runway. It's a great option for special occasion outfits because let's be honest, you probably won't wear a sequined dress every weekend. Here are my top picks:


(From left to right)
  • Slate & Willow, Copper Fleur Shift
  • Laundry by Shelli Segal, Trio Gown
  • ML Monique Lhuillier, Back Down Dress
  • Badgley Mischka, Tina Jumpsuit

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Morning: Breakfast

Breakfast Table Inspiration from Pier 1 Imports, Image via Pinterest
We'll be staying with family this weekend, and I'm planning to make breakfast on Christmas morning. As a houseguest, it's a nice gesture to make a meal, but I also have dietary restrictions that make me the hardest to please. In addition to some gluten free gingerbread pancakes, some fruit salad, and a big pot of coffee, I plan to make a hearty breakfast casserole. Here's the recipe:

What You'll Need
10 slices white bread, crusts off, cubed (I use Udi's white bread and it works well)
6 eggs
3 cups whole milk
3/4 tsp dry mustard
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp onion salt
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 cup cooked ham, diced
1/4 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup green bell peppers, diced

Directions
  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, milk, mustard, onion salt, garlic salt and pepper together. 
  2. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the bread cubes, cheddar, ham, onion, and bell pepper. 
  3. Pour the mixture into a greased 9x13 in baking dish and refrigerate overnight. 
  4. Bake at 325 degrees uncovered for 1 hour. The dish should be puffy and golden on top, not overly brown. 
Note: There is no way to screw this dish up, and you can sub the ham/onion/bell pepper for whatever fillings you prefer. Try it with bacon or broccoli & mushrooms!


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Modern Manners: Accepting Gifts Graciously


I love giving gifts- It's fun to shop for friends and family and I find joy in hunting for that perfect thing. That being said, I'm less comfortable being on the receiving end.  It's often a challenge for me to express my true gratitude, particularly if the item is something that I really don't want.  My individual aesthetics and preferences get in the way of appreciating a heartfelt gesture.

Accepting gifts graciously is especially important during the holiday season (and don't forget to write a thank you note!). With Christmas only days away, here are a few tips:
  • DO say thanks in a genuine way. Even if you don't like the item, you surely can appreciate the effort that went into choosing it. You don't have to lie and say that you love it, but do try a phrase like "This was incredibly thoughtful of you."
  • DON'T lament over the fact that you didn't buy a gift as well. Resist the urge to reciprocate and simply say something like "Thank you so much for thinking of me. What a nice surprise!" 
  • DO open presents in front of the gift giver. It's gracious to open presents while they're in the room so that you can thank them in person. I'm definitely guilty of not following this rule, especially when friends bring hostess gifts to a party. But it take seconds to unwrap the present, so just go for it!
  • DON'T follow up your elegant thank you with "but". I've heard this before- "Thank you, but I already have this." Or "Thank you, but I won't get much use out of this." In fact, I've probably said something like this before. Let's eradicate it from our gift-receiving vocabulary this year and just say "thank you."
  • DO look for the good in a gift. If it's something you truly dislike or won't use, you can always donate it or exchange it later. But there's probably SOMETHING good or at least neutral that you can say in the moment. For example, if you receive a sweater that you  never intend on wearing, you could still say something like "Thank you! I love feeling cozy and warm in the winter- you know me so well." 
Try to get into the spirit of the season and enjoy all the gifting that comes along with it. Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Get Cozy

I used to have a big, slouchy black sweater that I loved. I wore it out, but I'm definitely in need of some cozy pieces to pack for our upcoming trip to Boston. Here are a few sweaters that I've been coveting:
Cuyana Oversized Turtleneck Sweater
MM LaFleur Morandi 2.0 Sweater
Vince Cashmere Elbow Sleeve Sweater
I know what you're thinking- black and grey?! How boring. But like many women I know, my winter wardrobe tends to favor these staple colors- you can always upgrade the look with accessories!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Weekend in Boston

We'll be celebrating Christmas in Boston this year, and I'm excited to revisit some of our favorite spots in between catching up with friends and family.  Neal has North End pizza and cannoli on his list, and I plan to swing into a few boutiques in our old South End neighborhood.

I frequently get asked about "must-see" sights around the city, so if you're traveling to Boston and are unencumbered by family/holiday events, I've created a three day itinerary that will allow you to hit the highlights.

Boston Public Library Image from Travel + Leisure
Friday
  • Check In: The Liberty Hotel is one of my favorite hotels in the city. It's in a great location, plus it has a bit of history- the building housed some of Boston's most notorious criminals for 120 years and you can still see bits and pieces of the old prison throughout. 
  • Visit the Public Library: The library might seem like a lame place to start, but when you arrive you'll realize the building is stunning and worth a visit. Take an Art & Architecture tour to get the highlights. On Fridays, they're offered at 11am. 
  • Walk & Shop: After the library, wind down Newbury Street to the Public Gardens. A left turn will take you down Charles Street where you can shop some of the most charming boutiques in town and stop for lunch if the mood strikes. Once you reach the end of the street, you'll be back at your hotel!
  • Party at the ICA: On the first Friday of every month, the Institute for Contemporary Art hosts a fun themed event with cocktails and hors d'oevres. You can grab a heartier bite to eat in the Seaport District before heading to the party, and once you get there you'll enjoy beautiful views of the Harbor while you get your modern art fix. 
Image from citesightsny.com
Saturday
  • Brunch at CLINK: Put on your comfiest walking shoes (you'll need them later) and head down to CLINK, one of the restaurants in the Liberty Hotel, for a delicious brunch. Pick something hearty to fuel you for lots of activity!
  • Walk the Freedom Trail: This is the best way to see the historic parts of Boston. A 2.5 mile trail will take you to 16 historic sites.  Skip the organized tours and just grab a map- you can explore at your own pace and stop for food/drinks along the way. I highly recommend walking all the way to the end in Charlestown- the USS Constitution is pretty cool and the free museum attached is excellent. 
  • Dinner in the North End: This is Boston's Italian district, and almost any restaurant that you walk into is sure to please. Pizzeria Regina is a Boston favorite (note: the North End location is the best and not to be confused with satellite versions), or you can wait for a spot at Neptune Oyster and enjoy some of the best lobster rolls in the city (not Italian, just freaking amazing). Don't forget to cap off your dinner with a cannoli. My favorites come from Maria's. 
  • Take a Ghost Tour: Ok, you're probably rolling your eyes. Hear me out- The Ghosts and Gravestones tour in Boston is one of the most fun ways to see Boston and Cambridge, plus you get to hear the darker side of the city's history. It's educational, not hokey. 
Image from BallparksofBaseball.com
Sunday
  • Dim Sum in Chinatown: Boston's North End is pretty famous, but the city has a great little Chinatown and the Dim Sum is worth a visit. It's not a far walk from the Liberty, but you can also take the T. 
  • Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: If you're really into art, then you can check out the Museum of Fine Arts, but I think the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is a better pick for a Sunday afternoon. This is the site of one of the most famous (and unsolved) art heists, so, like many other places in Boston, there's some cool history here. 
  • Fenway Park: Even if it's not baseball season, you can take a tour of Fenway Park and then stop for a beer at one of the many bars nearby. Boston sports fans are crazy about the Red Sox, and the park is the oldest ballpark in MLB.
  • Walk along the Charles. On your way back from Fenway, take a stroll along the Charles river. It's a scenic way to take in the skyline as you wrap up your trip. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

White Christmas


I love wine, but for a long time I favored bold reds over whites.  I carried over an assumption from my college days (when I was not drinking very good wine) that whites were cloying and lacked the complexity of flavors that you'd find in a darker variety. Fast forward a few years to a business dinner with my boss at The Slanted Door in San Francisco- he ordered a German Riesling to pair with our spicy meal and it was AMAZING! Since then, I've expanded my wine-drinking horizons and have found several white wines that have become regulars in my wine fridge.

With Christmas quickly approaching, I wanted to share some of my favorite white wines with pairing suggestions:

Kung Fu Girl Riesling (2013): The name of this wine might catch your eye because it's playful and fun, but the contents inside the bottle are yummy too. The wine has a mineral flavor with just a hint of sweetness, making this a good option to pair with appetizers at your holiday party.

Ponzi Vineyards 'Aurora' Chardonnay (2013): Although "un-oaked" chardonnay has become trendy recently, I'm a huge fan of the buttery, caramel flavors imparted by aging wine in oak barrels. This particular bottle has a lot of complex flavors that would pair well with a pork roast or salmon.

Groth Sauvignon Blanc (2005): This wine is one of my absolute favorites. It's citrusy and clean,which makes it easy to sip all summer long, but it will also pair well with a variety of holiday foods. Pair it with your salad course, serve it up with fish, creamy pasta dishes, or even an herb-seasoned chicken or turkey with stuffing.


White wine is also a delicious accompaniment to Christmas cookies, which is one of the BEST parts of the season if you ask me. I had some girlfriends over to decorate cookies this weekend (Note: I made this recipe with GF flour and it was awesome), and we sipped champagne while we worked because bubbles pair perfectly with buttery sugar cookies. Here are a few other match ups with trying:
  • Snowball cookies and Pinot Grigio
  • Gingerbread cookies and Riesling
  • Snickerdoodles and Sauvignon Blanc
  • Butter cookies (or spritz) and Chardonnay
Cheers!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Dinner Party Done Right

Image from Pinterest, via Town and Country Magazine
I love playing hostess, and with a baby at home, inviting friends over for dinner is a great way for us to maintain an active social life. We recently had a small group over on a Sunday night, and the informal get-together was a great way to cap off the weekend.

Here's what we served
  • Charcuterie tray, served while we sipped cocktails and let the food finish cooking
  • Mixed greens with spicy pecans, tart dried cherries, onion, tomato, and balsamic vinaigrette
  • Grilled mustard-rubbed pork chops
  • Baked potatoes with garlic-chive butter, bacon crumbles, and sour cream
  • Grilled asparagus
We kept the menu simple so that we could focus on socializing, and our guests brought the wine and the dessert.  I think everyone left full, happy, and ready for the week ahead. If you're ready to host a dinner party of your own, here are a few tips for pulling it off:
  1. Make it easy. You don't want to be finishing dishes as your guests are arriving- it's stressful and you'll be tied up in the kitchen. Keeping the menu simple and including items that you can make ahead of time will free you up for more fun. 
  2. Let guests contribute. Your guests will ask if they can bring something, so let them! Appetizers, drinks, and dessert are all easy things to delegate. 
  3. Add special touches. Whipping up a compound butter and caramelizing my own spicy pecans were super easy ways to elevate our simple menu. Think about how you can add simple special touches to the meal, or even to your table setting (place cards, napkin rings, etc.). 
  4. Set the table. Dinner feels more formal when it's a sit-down affair rather than a buffet. Set the table before your guests arrive. You don't have to go overboard or use fine china, but make it pretty!
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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Best Baby Gifts

We received so many wonderful gifts for Henry, but after a few months there are definitely a few that I'd consider "must haves." Baby gear can quickly overtake your house, but in reality, you only need a few multi-tasking items. These are the things that we use on a daily basis (in addition to essentials like bottles and diapers):


  1. Wubbanubs. Any new mom will tell you- these things are awesome. The little animal keeps the pacifier from flying across the room when baby spits it out, but it's also super cute to see your little one "holding" his first little toy!
  2. Bouncy Seat. You don't have to get the Baby Bjorn (although it's awesome) but I do definitely recommend a bouncy seat. You can't hold your baby all day, so this seat is a savior when you need to do normal things like take a shower or make dinner. 
  3. Stroller System. I have the UppaBaby Vista and I love it, mostly because it's multi-purpose. When Henry was teeny tiny, we used the stroller/bassinet combo indoors so that he could sleep and be wheeled from room to room with us. Carseats clip in easily so it's great on the go, and I especially like that I can steer it with one hand (helpful in places like the grocery store). 
  4. Rompers. Everyone loves to buy cute baby clothes, but I'm particularly partial to rompers. They're one piece, but they look like a complete outfit, so your baby will be stylin' in all those photos you're taking. 
  5. Little Giraffe Blanket. We received SO SO many blankets, but Henry's favorite is the Little Giraffe Luxe blanket. It's super soft and one that I know he'll tote around as he grows. If you're going to gift a blanket, this is the one to get. 
  6. NoseFrida. I was so skeptical about this "tool", but it is a lifesaver! It's not as gross as it looks, and it will definitely be put to use. 
  7. Multi-purpose toy. We got the Skip Hop Activity Puppy as a gift and it was an instant hit with Henry. It's got rattles, squeakers, makes crinkly noises, and has a teething bar. Of all the baby toys that we have, this one definitely gets the most use. I especially like that we can clip it to his playmat, carseat, etc.- very portable!
  8. Portable changing pad. Some diaper bags may come with changing pads, but I like the portability of this small clutch. It makes it easy to turn any tote bag into a "diaper bag," or you can just carry it as-is. 

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Monday, December 5, 2016

#FreezerGoals


I am a sucker for convenient services that promise to bring food, clothes, anything-you-can-find-online, etc. right to your door. I've tried StitchFix, Trunk Club, MMLaFleur, Blue Apron, Freshly... you name it, I've probably tried it or have at least explored it as an option.

This week I'm trying Daily Harvest, and it's awesome. Perfectly packaged cups full of healthy ingredients come straight to your door, ready to blend into delicious smoothies or heat up as a soup. Here's what came in our delivery:

  • 2 Strawberry + Peach Smoothies
  • 2 Mango + Papaya Smoothies
  • 2 Cacao + Avocado Smoothies
  • 2 Pineapple + Matcha Smoothies
  • 2 Carrot + Chia Smoothies
  • 2 Carrot + Coconut Soups
The soup was delicious, although it did overflow and create a tiny bit of a microwave mess. Of the smoothies, Carrot + Chia has been my favorite so far. Smoothies are not usually my morning go-to, simply because you have to buy the ingredients in large quantities and then end up eating the same thing every day (boring!). This is a nice way to get a bit of variety while still starting the day with fruits and veggies. 

Image from Daily Harvest

Click here to try Daily Harvest and get two free smoothies or soups! If you're not interested in having smoothies delivered to you, you can recreate some of Daily Harvest's creations on your own. Click here to view some of the recipes- they're delicious!


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Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday Favorites

Image from Pinterest
Gift guides are everywhere I look right now. Rather than share my own, I've rounded up some of the links that I'm loving this week: