Week in Words and Photos

How to demolish a blueberry pie after missing National Pie Day on January 23rd.

Steeple of a local church. Love how it looks lit up at night, been meaning to take this photo for some time now.

Standard breakfast this week. Plain yogurt, agave nectar, oats, cinnamon, almonds, blueberries,
bananas, and cranberries. Nutritious and delicious!

Bookshelves! Newly organized and prettied up! The snow day left me lots
of time for some early spring cleaning.

Autumn and I had a Valentine's craft party - making cards, sipping on wine, and watching An Affair to Remember.

Some of my creations... keep your eyes out for a full post on these soon!

Digby's latest antics - balancing atop the one-inch-wide railing at the top of our stairs. Dangerous kitty.

Finally some significant snow fall! Perfect for playing in with Mike!
I took this one at night while it was snowing. Not using the flash made for a kind of creepy effect - love it!

Snowy telephone pole.

Prior to adopting Digby, Mike and I would dote on a neighbor's outdoor cat whom
we deemed Mr. Biggelsworth. I found this set of tracks left by Mr. Biggels in the
snow in our backyard.

I also came across the delightful Matchbook magazine this past week, which I definitely recommend taking a virtual flip through. Their tagline is "Field Guide to a Charmed Life" which I'd say is a pretty apt description of what you'll find inside. Lots of content and inspiration in there, from interviews with stylish and talented individuals to beauty advice, fashion and home decor ideas, a cooking section, some travel pieces, and so much more! 

This issue of Matchbook also featured a piece on Warby Parker, an eyeglass company that my friend Sarah told me about a few weeks ago. They're kind of like the Toms of glasses - buy one pair for yourself and they'll send another pair to someone in need. The glasses are all vintage-inspired and very cute! I particularly enjoyed playing around with the "Virtual Try-On" feature - if you've got a webcam or a photo of yourself, you can see what you'd look like donning a pair of their glasses. Needless to say, it won't offer a very realistic image and I died laughing over the crazy look of myself in their Huxley style.

I also have one more thing to share: this Love Letter to the Blogosphere from Danielle at Sometimes Sweet. Danielle's blog is one of my favorites and definitely one of the ones that I turn to whenever I'm in need of some inspiration. This post was a particular favorite of mine because she perfectly described why the blogosphere is so wonderful! She speaks to the power of making connections via blogs, of having a place to document some of life's best memories both large and small, of having a space to convene with like-minded people. I couldn't have said it better myself and I'm so glad I caught this post - it's a great source of blogging inspiration!

How was your week? 


Reunion Cards

My soon-to-be-mother-in-law is having a reunion with some of her long lost high school friends today. She went to see the Beatles with these girls back in the day - aren't you jealous?

Since it has been years since these ladies have seen each other, she asked me to make some cards for the occasion to give to her friends. We wanted to create something with a 60's feel but, good recycler that I am, I didn't have many magazines left on hand with photos of the Beatles, record players, and the like.

Then, during my pre-spring cleaning the other day, I came across two vintage Look magazines I bought from an antique store a few years ago. These were from '70 and '71 and full of vintage cars, record players, color TVs, and cigarette ads galore. Goldmine!

As a young twenty-something, I worry that my notion of 1960's America is probably highly idealized and far from the reality of that time period. Nonetheless, I hoped to capture a bit of the essence of that time for these ladies who experienced it first hand. Bright colors and a select few vintage images hopefully did the trick.

I'll leave you with this: a video of the Fab Four themselves at Shea Stadium performing "Twist & Shout," my personal favorite. 


Pappa Al Pomodoro

I've recently became quite enamored of Jamie Oliver. I was watching Jamie at Home one night and his recipe for winter veg coleslaw inspired me to get not one, not two, but three of his extremely large cookbooks from the library. I also did some research on his website and came across this delicious soup. recipe

I've got to admit, Jamie's photo of this tomato and bread soup (the one featured at the top of this post) looks about a thousand times more appetizing than mine (which I included less conspicuously at the very bottom). Regardless of my soup's looks, it's taste was spot on - bursting with tomato flavor, the soup is finished off with a good dousing of olive oil to make for a silky smooth texture. I also love that the bread is mixed right in with the soup - it removes that whole step of dunking the bread for me! 

So here is Jamie's recipe for a one-of-a-kind Tuscan tomato and bread soup. I made no adaptations to the recipe whatsoever so all the cute little British phrases used throughout come right from the man himself. Though this meal is definitely a crowd pleaser, I will warn you that it might not be the prettiest thing to come from you kitchen. If you give this one a try and it more closely resembles Jamie's dish, please do share!

Pappa Al Pomodoro - Tuscan Tomato Bread Soup


• 500g ripe cherry tomatoes

• 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
• a large bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked, stalks finely chopped
• the best extra virgin olive oil you can find
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 2 x 400g tins of good-quality plum tomatoes
• 500g or 2 large handfuls of stale good-quality bread


1. Prick the cherry tomatoes and toss them with one sliced clove of garlic and a quarter of the basil leaves. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, put them in a roasting tray and cook in the oven at 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4 for about 20 minutes. The reason for doing this is so that their flavour becomes intense and concentrated.

2. Heat a glug of olive oil in a large pot and add the remaining garlic and the basil stalks. Stir around and gently fry for a minute until softened. Add your tinned tomatoes, then fill the tin with water and add that. Break the tomatoes up with a spoon, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.

3. Tear the bread up into thumb-sized pieces and add them to the pan. Mix well and season to taste. Tear in the basil leaves and let the soup sit on a low heat for 10 minutes. By this time your roasted tomatoes will be done, with juice bursting out of their skins, so remove them from the tray, remembering to scrape all the lovely sticky bits from the bottom. Pour them into the soup with all the juices, basil and oil from the tray.

4. Give the soup a good stir – you're looking to achieve a thick, silky, porridgey texture, so feel free to adjust it with a little water. Then remove it from the heat and add 6 or 7 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Divide between your bowls and serve with a little extra basil torn over the top if you like. The most important thing with this soup is that you have a wonderfully intense sweet tomato basil flavour.


Spend Less, Enjoy More: A Rant of Sorts

Recent conversations with a number of my equally financially-strained friends have gotten me thinking about something I hate to dwell on or be swayed by - money. A short 40 years ago, the spending patterns and perceived "necessities" of the average family were drastically different from those of today's typical American family unit. When social security legislation and food stamps were originally introduced in the 1960s, food constituted about one-third of the average family's expenditures. Today our income goes toward a much wider array of services and products that we conceptualize as essential. Food is merely just one of the needs we have to spend money to satisfy, on top of shelter and clothing. However we now add to the mix cell phones, internet service, technology devices, high-cost transportation, insurance of all sorts, sanitary products, and a whole host of other items we can't imagine  living without.

I'm also a victim of this strange 21st century mindset that the things we want are actually the things we need. Though it is not essential to our survival to have an internet connection, most of our lives would be so drastically changed by the lack thereof that we classify this as a fundamental need. The same goes for cell phones. When it comes to clothing, no longer can we simply buy a few suits to meet the expectations of our employers. There are a variety of occasions for which we feel compelled to outfit ourselves differently. So I have clothes for bed, the gym, work, hiking, spending time with friends, business casual events, formal affairs, weddings, business meetings, and everything in between. Do we really need such varied and extensive wardrobes? No. But does having one make our life easier, even better? Maybe. The problem is that, once we start, it can become hard to stifle the urge to spend more, to consume endlessly. We have all these clothes for all these occasions, but also (ladies at least) need the appropriate undergarments, footwear, and accessories to go along, to make us look put-together, or to embody the image that we feel we need to personify. Sometimes our reasons are purely social or self-indulgent, though there are more fundamental ramifications when it comes to looking good for job interviews, career enhancement, and other functions that directly correlate to one's livelihood and source of income.

Then there's the myth that women need to pile on makeup. To spend thousands of dollars annually on creams, powders, lipsticks, eye shadows, polishes, perfumes, lotions, sprays, and who knows how many other products to get the right look. I'm not trying to knock my female friends who are partial to makeup. For some, it's truly a form of artistic expression and for others, as with certain styles of dress, it is important to achieve a polished look for the workplace. At the same time, we're fed the misinformation that we should be consuming these products the same way we need to consume groceries, clothes, and sanitary goods - that makeup is as essential for the modern woman as vitamins and minerals. If you've got the money and it makes you feel good, I don't want to stand in your way of indulging in makeup and the joy, confidence, and fun it can bring. At the same time, I don't want young girls to be brought up thinking of cosmetics as an essential need. I don't think that you need to own them to be successful or happy or employed. I'm living proof of this fact. No, I don't have an established career or even a full time job but I'm holding down two part time ones as well as attending school and I don't own a lick of makeup (unless you consider chapstick to be a cosmetic).

Some of my most liberal-thinking and beautiful friends still subscribe to the belief that they need to cover their faces with at least a little bit of makeup to face the world, and it pains me to witness this. For one thing, I consider it a waste of money. Makeup is more a nuisance and an annoyance than a source of happiness for me, so why would I spend my money on it? I firmly believe that I am a more confident person expressly because I don't hide behind a layer of powders and creams, and I wish that more women felt this way. Though I have never been an extremely confident person, I find myself taking strength from things other than my physical appearance to grow my confidence. But while my physical attributes are factoring less into my sense of self, my increased confidence causes me to feel more physically beautiful. I deeply hope that future women and girls can experience this sense of beauty and confidence that, cliche as it sounds, comes first and foremost from within.

But my rant on makeup is merely a tangential example of a consumer product we are fed to believe is an essential and a source of happiness. Cosmetics also serve as a pretty solid example of how we're throwing our money away on things that are unnecessary and sometimes even a crutch. In these tough economic times, people are trying to save, to spend less, and to prioritize their expenditures. I'm not here to say that doing so is easy. I feel as though I've grown skilled at managing my very limited income, but I also don't yet have a family to support or a mortgage to pay off (and for this I am very thankful).

Still I don't spend on much beyond the true essentials, and I'm a happy person. The fact that I don't always buy new clothes, get every movie I want on DVD, or treat myself to expensive dinners despite my passion for good food has no negative impact on the quality of my life. In fact, when I deny myself some of the things I want, it ultimately can serve to make me even happier. Rather than buying new movies, I indulge in quality classic film on basic cable (which cost me nothing beyond the cable bill I'm already paying anyway). And shopping in thrift stores is an environmentally- and wallet-friendly alternative that also can prove a lot more fun than mall shopping. I find things in Goodwills, Salvation Armies, and boutique thrift shops that are affordable and diverse, from unbelievable, one-of-a-kind pieces to basics that originally came off the same shelves as products from the mall, but are now a bit cheaper and in need of a new home. Eating at home provides opportunities for experimenting with new foods and recipes, making for fun experiences both in the preparation and consumption of dinner. I try to think creatively to make the most of my low-cost life and to find the small joys that come with my money-saving ways. And I feel like I've been pretty successful at that.

Though I don't advocate hoarding all your money to better enjoy your life, I do encourage you to think about how you spend the money you work hard to bring home. Maybe it could be better spent on experiences and building memories than on consumer goods that prove to be limited sources of joy and entertainment. Maybe it could be better saved than spent on a new lipstick - and maybe your sense of confidence would even perk up a bit with that one too. Rather than drastically alter your lifestyle or your bank account, I simply hope that you think outside the box when it comes to what you consider essential expenditures, and do your best to find more fundamental sources of joy and entertainment. I am no expert on happiness but I can speak from personal experience when I say that deciding to spend less can actually bestow more joy in the end. I don't need fancy technology or advanced special effects to be entertained or hundreds of dollars worth of cosmetics to feel good about myself, but rather some good old-fashioned company and absolutely free conversation.


Freaks and Geeks

Mike and I go through phases where we'll get hooked on a TV series and watch it incessantly for a few weeks at a time. More often than not, we fall asleep watching it but we muddle our way through each episode as best we can. First it was Ed, the dramedy about lawyer-cum-bowling-alley-owner Ed Stevens who returns to his hometown on a whim and tries to capture the heart of his highschool crush Carol Vessey.

Then it was Pushing Daisies, another dramedy of sorts bolstered by stunning and beautiful special effects. Ned has a wonderful and mysterious power - he can bring someone back to life with the touch of his hand, but a second touch will kill said person forever more. When a private investigator discovers Ned's ability, he quickly enlists his help in solving murder cases - for it's much easier to solve a murder when you can talk to the deceased. When Ned's investigations involve his young childhood love Chuck, however, Ned decides to keep the girl alive and not give her the fatal second touch. The two try to carry on their love, but are hindered by their inability to touch and the necessity of keeping Chuck hidden so no one discovers Ned's secret. Though it sounds a bit silly, the show is unbelievably sweet and a true feast for the eyes.

Nowadays, we're hooked on Freaks and Geeks, a show that seems to have a cult following, despite it's short single season run. Until watching recently, I never realized how star-studded this show was - Judd Apatow was the show's executive producer and James Franco, Jason Segel, and Seth Rogen (among others) all had large roles.

But the show centers around Lindsay, played by Linda Cardelleni, and her brother Sam, portrayed by John Francis Daley. Lindsay is an ex-Mathlete now trying to make her way into a rebellious group of slacker "freaks." Franco, Segel, and Rogen are among the freaks, while Sam and his two best friends are the certified geeks. With parents who just don't understand a thing, bullies who make high school torturous, a misunderstood hippie guidance counselor trying to lend a helping hand, and all the pains of trying to fit in, puberty, crushes, and friendships in flux, this show offers a relatable look at adolescence.

The show is still a dramedy/sitcom in which wacky circumstances arise and melodrama occasionally ensue. But in contrast to the typical highly polished teen drama, Freaks and Geeks takes a more gritty, realistic approach in portraying the average high school experience which most TV shows gloss over. As the season progresses, the content of the show grows darker, covering issues such as parental infidelity and hospitalization as a result of bullying. Still entertaining and poignant, it is also apparent why this show may have become uncomfortable for some viewers. At times it becomes almost too realistic in its portrayal of those more grim events that come with the loss of innocence and the dawning of adulthood.

Nonetheless, there are still plenty of moments of levity and I have got to say that Jason Segel is absolutely lovable as Nick Andopolis in the show. Although he's in with the more rebellious crowd, Nick is as sweet as can be at heart and adorably naive at times. Segel's character has the perfect mix of boy-next-door appeal paired with youthful enthusiasm and blind innocence to make audiences root for him. His ill-fated ambitions of becoming a successful musician paired with his unrelenting adoration of Lindsay make for some great musical humor.

Though Mike and I are still working our way through the series, I've included a collection of some of my favorite clips that I've seen thus far.

Do you remember this show from it's short-lived heyday?


Photos From My Week

Tuesday I was lucky enough to get off of work for a snow day. But it wasn't so much a snow day as an ice
day. Each blade of grass was coated in a thin sheet of ice and made for some delightful fun taking pictures.

I created a Fabric Twist Tie Wreath. Tutorial coming soon!

Hung this message up over our bed.

Had a Cary Grant marathon, read my new Martha Stewart Living, and drank cup after cup of Lemon Mint Tea.

Despite a stressful week at work, the past few days have been delightful nonetheless. Mike and I went wedding ring shopping (we think we found the ones!), I brought home three huge  Jamie Oliver cookbooks from the library, made some delicious (and freezable!) soups that will last us the next few weeks, and started reading Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna. Unfortunately we failed to properly celebrate National Pie Day on Sunday but maybe we'll partake in pie-indulgence festivities tonight! 

Hope life has been treating you well and that your weekend was lovely! 


The Dogs of Babel

The day I read this book is still fresh in my mind - it was around the holidays and I was on my favorite green love seat in my parent's basement voraciously consuming this novel, earmarking pages left and right amidst a few tearful moments. Carolyn Parkhurst's The Dogs of Babel became one of my very favorite books as soon as I finished the first chapter. I was still in high school at the time and going through a period where I was not so happy with my life. I think that, were I to read this novel for the first time today, I would relate to it a bit differently, maybe I wouldn't even like it half as much. But during my senior year I was particularly drawn to the tortured and tragically beautiful heroine, Lexy, in a way that makes this book ring true for me even today.

Regardless of your age or your level of satisfaction with your life, The Dogs of Babel is still a beautiful and moving love story. True, the premise is a bit unorthodox. After Lexy mysteriously died in her own backyard, her linguist husband Paul sets out to discover what happened in the moments before his wife's death. The only witness was Lorelei, Paul and Lexy's beloved Rhodesian Ridgeback, and as Paul learns more about the possibilities of canine speech, he becomes ever more obsessed with getting Lorelei to reveal the truth.

The major tenents of the plot may turn you off, but I really believe this novel is worth a shot. I fell in love with this book largely for the re-telling of Paul and Lexy's romance. From their first meeting when Paul made square hard-boiled eggs for Lexy to their first date that lasted an entire week, from their darkest times to their happiest and most intimate, we are privy to the beautiful intricacies and unrepeatable moments that make each and every relationship unique.

I don't want to give away too many of the notions that bolstered this romance, nor the episodes of darkness that ultimately give way to Paul's obsession with the cause of his wife's death. Instead, I'll simply suggest you give this book a try. I couldn't help being compelled by the love story, and Lexy's darkest of thoughts, and the prime role awarded to a canine character, among numerous other aspects that made this book such a delicious read. Though it may not be the most challenging book on your shelf, it will certainly be among the most enjoyable and emotional.

I still have yet to meet someone who was as much a fan of this book as myself. Have you (or someone you know) read it? Let me know what you think!


Chai Latte Brownies

Brownies and chai tea. Two of my very favorite indulgences. Why not blend them into one? Granted, it wasn't originally my idea (that honor belongs to Cooking Light magazine), but I was wise enough to give them a shot and I think you should try them out too.

This batch of brownies isn't overly brimming with chai flavor - it's more subtle than you might expect. Think of these as the Mexican hot chocolate of brownies. But they have a unique flavor profile that makes them a bit different from your everyday brownie. A hint of cinnamon, a touch of spice, and all the warmth and cardamom-y fullness you can expect from a steaming mug of chai.

These brownies are best served hot and sticky with a cold glass of milk... but they're delicious no matter how you chose to enjoy them!

Chai Latta Brownies 
recipe adapted from Cooking Light magazine


  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk
  • 3 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 3 whole allspice, crushed
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 /2 tsp salt
  • Cooking spray


1. Preheat oven to 350 degees. Prepare a 9 inch square baking pan with cooking spray.
2. Combine milk, crushed cardamom pods, crushed allspice, cloves, and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover and remove from heat. Let stand 15 minutes.
3. Strain milk into a microwave safe bowl being sure to discard any pieces of the aromatics that may find their way into the bowl. Add chocolate chips and butter, and microwave for 20 second intervals until chocolate and butter melt. Stir to combine.
4. Along mixture to slightly cool, then add eggs, stirring to combine.
5. In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to fully mix all dry ingredients. Add dry ingredient mixture to wet, stirring until just combined. (This makes a really sticky dough - I adapted the recipe to include more milk in order to decrease stickiness but it should still be a bit gooey.)
6. Spread batter evenly in prepared baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees fro 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack fro 10 minutes. Enjoy!


Mixed-Media Tree of Life

I'm really into paper-working and collage, but I love art of all sorts. I've always wished I had more talent in other areas, especially painting and drawing, but at least photography and collage allow me some semblance of an artistic outlet.

Recently I decided to use my limited creative skills to make a larger-scale art piece than my usual cards. I love the tree of life image, so I set out to create a mixed-media tree of life. I sought inspiration from images found online, but few of them really embodied what it was I hoped to create. I guess that was a good thing, though, because it forced me to reach to a more creative place than I had originally intended. My inspiration was purely of my own imagining.

This was the final product. With a bright turquoise background painted onto my canvas, the rest of the "media" used was pretty much Modge Podge, magazine cut-outs, and cardstock. I searched through the acrylic paints I had on hand and fell in love with the bright blue color. I thought of how well it would pop next to the brown of the tree and the bright fall colors of the leaves I decided upon - bright reds and oranges and yellows. Then I went through countless old magazines in search of wood tones and browns, and at first wasn't sure how I would ultimately layer my various browns to achieve a tree-like look. Since so many of my cut-outs were narrow strips, I thought about what it would look like to lay them one next to the other, and in my mind's eye it looked like bark. This was sort of just a serendipitous accident of sorts, and in the final product it achieved just the look I was going for.

Though there are plenty of small details I would change about this (ie. the fact that my Modge Podge failed and caused many of my papers to wrinkle and curl), I feel like this is probably the first time I set out to create something one a slightly bigger scale than usual and followed it through to the end. It's not that I'm a quitter so much as I have trouble achieving my visions and bringing them to fruition as they appear in my head. I have very limited training in more traditional art processes and thus, when I get an idea in my head of what I want to create, I am often unsure of how to actually achieve that on a canvas. And though I give it a shot nonetheless, I usually end up not quite satisfied with my progress, and abandon my work for the final vision in my mind has become essentially irretrievable. But for once, things feel into place and I found that the work taking shape before my very eyes was resembling more and more what I had in mind as I progressed. In this way it was the ultimate artistic success for me!


Norwegian Wood

No, not another Beatles post. This is, instead, a little review of a fantastic novel inspired by my four favorite musical men John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

We all know Haruki Murakami is an extremely skilled literary figure (see here for evidence). With Norwegian Wood we get more of the stunning storytelling and idyllic imagery that this Japanese author is so skilled in and beloved for delivering.

Toru Watanabe is a student based in Tokyo whose complicated relationships with women constitute the stuff of this book. Toru idealizes Naoko as his true love, a girl who dated his best friend Kizuki until the latter committed suicide at the age of 17. Underpinning their bond are feelings of loss over Kizuki, a darkness that only grows as Naoko grows increasingly unsettled in the world. Though Toru shares similar feelings of discomfort and isolation in the world, he proves better at handling his loneliness and sadness than Naoko who eventually leaves school to seek psychological help. Meanwhile Toru meets dynamic Midori who he finds himself drawn to despite the strength of his commitment to faraway Naoko.

This love-triangle of sorts is set amidst the backdrop of 1970's Tokyo. Complete with the music and revolutionary zeal of that time, Norwegian Wood chronicles one man's solitary attempt to gain his footing in a time when society is trying to do the same. With all the pull, romanticism, and beauty of the song which is it's namesake, this novel gracefully tells a trademark Murakami coming-of-age story, replete with remarkably graphic characters, both big and small, that you can't help but feel for (in particular, Naoko's brilliantly drawn friend Reiko).

And here are a few bits and pieces from the novel to (hopefully) inspire you to run out and get your hands on this one. Now.

"Death is not the opposite of life but an innate part of life."

"Life doesn't require ideals. It requires standards of action."

"How come you like people like that - people like us, I mean? We're all kinda weird and twisted and drowning... Why can't you like more normal people?"

"As time went by and that little world receded into the distance, I grew increasingly unsure that the events of that night had actually happened. If I told myself they were real, I believed they were real, and if I told myself they were a fantasy, they seemed like a fantasy. They were too clear and detailed to have been a fantasy, and too whole and beautiful to have been real."

"It might go well or it might not. But love is like that. When you fall in love, the natural thing to do is give yourself over to it... It's just one form of sincerity."


Three Day Weekend

I love three day weekends. This past one was great - I was busy enough to feel like I wasn't wasting my days away but not so overwhelmed with things to do that my three days of freedom flew right by. Here are just a few highlights.

Saturday night I headed down to the suburbs of DC for a girls' night with my older sister Katie. The night consisted of football watching, high school reminiscences, YouTube videos and wine. I made decadent chocolate peanut butter brownies with bits of Reese's cups and peanut butter swirled throughout (my own secret recipe). Delicious! 

I was introduced to the amazingly talented PS 22 Chorus that night. This fifth grade chorus based in Staten Island covers popular songs and the adorable kids sing with attitude, style, and talent beyond their years. They cover everything from Coldplay to Lady Gaga to Phoenix to Jay Z. Here they do "Kids" by MGMT.


Mike and I had a date day on Sunday. We went to see Blue Valentine starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. It is definitely not a mainstream love story, or even really a love story for that matter. A bit dark, I actually would compare it to Revolutionary Road (though I liked Revolutionary Road a bit more). The performances were great, but the content and feel of the movie felt as bleak and depressing as the cloudy winter weather. 

Then we had some fun poking around at Ikea before dinner at The Fair Hill Inn in Elkton, MD. During my time as an undergraduate in a hospitality program, the chef and owner of the restaurant came to speak at one of my classes. I immediately fell in love with his philosophy about life and food, and was particularly marked by his unwillingness to settle for anything less than the pursuit of his wildest and most passionate of dreams. Even though his restaurant is a bit pricey, I was able to convince my parents to take me out there during one of their visits back in the day when I was still in school. And I've been dreaming about that meal ever since. 

Mike was thoughtful enough to treat me to dinner at Fair Hill as a Christmas present, but the threat of snow pushed our reservations back to this weekend. It was definitely worth the wait! We had delicious soups (mine was Creamy Leek, his was Roasted Squash, both topped with fresh seafood), succulent meat (moist Apple Butter Pork Medallions for me, unbelievably tender London Broil for Mike) and tasty vegetables (Cauliflower Risotto and Roasted Brussels Sprouts anyone?). Great Christmas gift!

Other than that, my weekend consisted of a little redecorating around the house, watching lots of Freaks and Geeks, and indulging myself in general laziness. Hope your weekend was just as splendidly slow!

Mike thought it'd be a good idea to try and stretch out his shirt by stuffing a pillow inside it. Digby thought it'd
be a good idea to use said pillow while inside of Mike's shirt as a bed.

I was quite impressed with my attempts at dressing like a girl on Sunday night. Unfortunately I hate
taking photos of myself so all I have to show for it is this shot of my tights and shoes.

All that remains of the chocolate peanut butter brownies... Sweets never last very long in my house, but at least I
used whole wheat flour in this one to increase the healthiness quotient.

Awesome mosaic-style candle holder I scored for a few bucks at Homegoods.

Finally found a place to display the awesome Beatles pint glasses my parents got us for Christmas. Mike and I are kind of notorious for breaking glasses, so we thought it'd be safest to use these as decoration rather than what they were originally intended for.

Gorgeous table runner I received as a Christmas present. Love the detail!

Love the details on this paper that I got from an import store at Rehoboth Beach last summer.


A Few Blogs of Note

I've been taking the time to do some work on my own blog recently, and in the process I can't help but find more and more blogs that I love. Whether for inspirational or networking purposes, I spend lots of time looking at what's out there and am constantly falling in love with new bloggers.

Some old, some new, these are just a sampling of the many blogs I have come to know and love. Some of these are blogger pros that I'm sure you've come across in your travels, but I think they're worthy of a little bit of recognition just in case you haven't checked their sites out yet. Others are yet-to-be-discovered by the masses, original and delightful blogs that you may not have yet heard of. What are some of your favorite blogs to visit?

Currently, my absolute favorite blog. Olivia is still a college student but an accomplished Etsy seller, an editor of online magazine Southern Flourish, and a talented photographer. Her posts are pretty photo-heavy and will have you envying her in no time. From snapshots taken of delicious meals enjoyed at Charleston restaurants to posts about her delightful circle of family and friends, Everyday Musings is a lifestyle blog that I wish I could emulate!

I came across this blog just a few days ago and the first post I saw was all about reader's quirks. She has a Quirk Project during which she has readers write about some of their most interesting and quirky of quirks. I immediately fell in love. She's got some great photos and is absolutely adorable - another great lifestyle blog!

If it wasn't for this girl, I probably wouldn't be blogging today. Sarah and I met in college and since then she's been a great source of inspiration and encouragement with both my blog and my Etsy shop. She's got a great heart, a delightfully one-of-a-kind aesthetic, and a whole lot of crafting talent. Expect to find a whole host of topics on TeacupAdventure, from accounts of her world travels to outfit posts, craft updates, and a whole lot more, Sarah's blog is completely original and totally true to this wonderful girl's lifestyle!

I came across the Red Velvet Girls early in my life as a blogger and was particularly drawn to Emma's mostly recipe blog. Although she peppers her endeavors in the kitchen with a few lifestyle posts and book reviews, the majority of her content is food-centric. She recently started her own catering company and has quite the sweet tooth! Expect to find beautiful photos of indulgent treats accompanied by the recipes so you can test them out for yourself!

Though I'm still exploring Seasoned With Youth, I can't help but love this blog. Samantha writes all about her explorations of the world. Currently traveling internationally, her posts abound with images, experiences, and more all about her travels from Italy to Morocco, Spain, Germany, and all around the U.S. too. Definitely a great read for those of you who are fettered down by certain restraints (ie. a job, money, kids, etc.) - if you can't travel, at least you can explore vicariously through Samantha!

Kelly Ann is the lady behind The Flowerchild Dwelling and I absolutely adore her posts! From Music Mondays to Favorite Things Tuesday and Film Fridays, she covers a wide range of cultural topics and takes beautiful pictures to boot. Her blog has a very vintage- and DIY-feel to it that I love, and is truly a feast for the eyes and ears.


Barbecue Venison Meatballs

I don't eat too much meat, partially due to the fact that I'm poor and partially because I think minimizing our meat intake is a healthy trend for humans and the environment. Our diet has come to be nearly taken over by animal proteins and we don't need quite as much of it as most people think. And then when you consider the cruelty with which many animals raised for food are killed, the dismal and inhumane conditions in which they live, the waste they generate, the miles and miles their meat is then transported to reach your plate, the packaging that goes into preparing meat - it's just, to my eyes, a simpler and much healthier decision to minimize your meat intake.

I'll eat chicken from time to time and the occasional steak but the times when I really do go all out in an uncharacteristic carnivorous frenzy is when I've got fresh venison. For one thing, it's a much more eco-friendly option if you know a local hunter that will get you fresh meat. In my region of Maryland, we've pretty much killed any and all predators of deer (other than ourselves and our cars), so deer overpopulation is rampant. With so many of this species living is such close proximity to one another, and humans, they are all suffering from malnourishment - there simply isn't enough food to feed all of the deer we've got and there isn't another species preying upon the deer to naturally keep their population in check. So I think that it is perfectly acceptable for licensed hunters to enjoy their hobby in a managed hunting area during the specified times of year when such activity is allowed. It's really a relatively small effort to keep the deer population in check, it produces hormone-free meat, it produces local sources of protein, and it allows humans to practice a favorite pastime in a safe and controlled environment - everyone wins.

I thought I was really fortunate to get 2 pounds of ground venison last winter, so I guess this year I've been extremely spoiled. Mike's parents' neighbor essentially got us a whole deer's worth of meat - enough to fill our freezer. We've got shoulders, loins, ground meat, steaks, and a whole other host of venison. I'm in heaven.

Last year was actually my first time experimenting in the kitchen with venison and I was pretty proud of how well my first attempt turned out. I found a recipe for Barbecue Venison Meatballs that was absolutely delicious - moist, flavorful, and tomatoey, Mike and I dreamed of those meatballs for months after all our venison ran out. So, understandably, I was most excited not about the venison steaks or the shoulders with which I could make a wonderful stew, but the ground venison. I recreated those meatballs of so long ago and was pleasantly rewarded for my patience and my efforts.

This recipe originally hails from Deerfarmer.com which has a huge catalogue of venison recipes for all different cuts, flavors, and dishes. I'll likely be sharing more recipes off this website as I make my way through the rest of the venison this winter. But for now, I want to share this absolutely delightful meatball dish. Perfect served by itself (I know, I was just complaining about how meat takes up too large a portion of the American diet, but really no side could compare to these meatballs), over rice or barley, with some roasted vegetables, potatoes, or a side salad. Just be prepared for the meatballs to be the star in this dinner. And if you can't get your hands on any venison this winter, I suggest trying the recipe out with some free-range ground meat of another kind, just alter the meatball mixture to be more or less moist as you see fit! I also recommend giving them a try pan-fried in a shallow pan (first brown the meatballs on all sides while the sauce simmers in a separate pan, then combine the two) or substituting 1/2 cup of the ketchup with hoisin sauce.

Barbecue Venison Meatballs
adapted from Deerfarmer.com


  • 1 pound elk burger
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats, uncooked
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp. vinegar
  • 5 Tbsp. brown sugar


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Combine elk burger, milk, salt, rolled oats, and 1/2 cup minced onion in a large bowl. Form into 1-inch balls.
3. Place meatballs in 9 by 13 inch pan.
4. Combine the remaining 1/2 cup onion, ketchup, water, vinegar, and brown sugar to make the sauce.
5. Pour sauce over raw meatballs.
6. Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour. Enjoy!


This Time Three Years Past...

Hard to believe it's been three years. But it was January 2008 when I headed abroad for the first time ever to Pune, India on a study abroad trip. It was a small Women's Studies trip that would last three weeks and include 11 female students. It was one of the best experiences of my life, hard to put into words three years later. But I did not have a blog last January or the one before that, so I felt like now was as good a time as ever to relish the memories and share my trip.


First of all, this was one trip that I could never hope to recreate. Ever. We didn't have the home stay situation and we weren't housed on the campus of a foreign university like most study abroad students are likely to do. Rather we had a duplex of sorts to ourselves, complete with housekeepers, kitchen staff, and the like. It was strange and I almost felt guilty to be treated so well - we were just young Americans, nothing worth getting excited over, but we were shown the royal treatment. 

Anyway it was this great place called Varsha Park, which they called a bungalow but was actually a two-storey duplex with rooftop access where we did yoga in the mornings. I shared a beautiful first floor room with one of my best friends, Lindsay (though we didn't know one another prior to the trip), and woke to sunshine streaming through the wrought-iron detail on the windows and cheerful singing from the next bed over. Needless to say, we had a lot of fun together.

The trip, as I said, was sponsored by the Women's Studies program, and it was basically a 
study on women and feminism in India. The set up was basically that lecturers came to us, or we went to them, and taught us on subjects as varied as film and photography to the dangers inherent for village women who cook indoors and women's scholarship in India. Having such a unique course set-up made for an unrepeatable trip - there is no way the average American traveling to India could possibly have met some of the renowned and talented women we met, nor could they hope to see all that we saw, from the poorest of the slums to the most disgustingly wealthy of the rich. One of my favorite speakers was actually a friend of one of our guides and more of an entertaining guy than someone we were expected to learn a lot from. Anil Awachat showed us how to do origami, spoke on Thoreau, and shared with us a wealth of artwork he'd created over the years. His vivacity and zest for life were infectious and remain with me to this day.

Anil Awachat, the entertaining and eccentric man who welcomed us into his home with jokes, art, and games, shows us a few of his tricks with the Cat's Cradle string

But the other great thing about our trip - it was all about new media. Our assignments were not written but rather in video format. We were to select topics and creating short podcasts about them. So we took videos of everything we saw everywhere we went. The whole trip is on tape. And I was lucky enough to get paid to archive, and thus revisit, it all, which was a huge perk.

I also could never again hope to come across such wonderful people in my travels as the ones who hosted us during our time. We were welcomed with open arms into a warm family, the Wagles, whose members served as both tour guides and sources of insight to those aspects of India culture we couldn't quite access from our vantage point. There was Prasanna Wagle, a middle aged man who worked for the non-governmental organization that sort of sponsored us during our stay. Along with Prasanna, we had Vandanna, our mama, who took care of us and served as Prasanna's counterpart, though her role was more at home while Prasanna took over when we were out and about. 

And then we had peer guides, women in their teens and early 20s who helped us out with lectures at home and on site, but also proved to be great sources of information about what life is like for the young Indian woman. Anujna was the product of a love marriage, studied architecture, and was from a fairly liberal-minded Indian family. Her best friend Amruta had a vastly different life - her parents were set on an arranged marriage and, though a gorgeous girl who could easily have been a model or a dancer, was going to school to become an engineer. Paroma was a member of the Wagle family and such a cheery person to encounter - she was the one with whom I became closest and most connected. Plenty of other people played huge roles in our stay, from Sumnath who ran the household staff and would hold conversations with us in partial English, after which we wouldn't know what was really said, and Sheetal who was another young guide that we saw more occasionally than the other three. Under the watchful eye of these wonderful people, we were able to see many of the sides of India that most outsiders would completely miss.

The whole group, students, guides and all.

Cliche as it sounds, I hope that we were able to teach these wonderful people something as well. Though I worry that sometimes as a group we weren't successful in doing so, I hope that I was able to portray myself as the courteous and curious American I am, to dispel negative stereotypes as much as possible and be as respectful of this new and foreign culture as humanly possible.

As I think I've made patently obvious, there was so much more to this trip than I could ever hope to recount in a single blog post, let alone a series of 20. And though I look back on my month in India with nostalgia and joy, we definitely had our share of worries, troubles, and conflicts. From the fact that we were working so hard we could hardly enjoy being in a foreign country, to the way we were cloistered in our house at nights, to the drama that is likely to erupt when you get a group of 11 different personalities together in a duplex for 3 weeks, we found plenty to complain about at the time. But I'm glad that I can look back and recall the memories that are foremost in my mind with fondness, that I can consider my time and money well worth it, despite whatever struggles I may have had to endure. 

I intended for this post to be primarily about the photos but, once I got to writing, it was hard to stop going on about India and all that I did, all the people I met, and the things I learned while there. But since there's no way I can cover it all, I guess it's about time I got to my original intent with this post. Here are some of my favorite photos from India. There are so many more that I've accumulated, from my own camera and those of the other girls on the trip, but these best encapsulate the trip for me, or at least showcase the highlights. I've tried to explain each of them as much as possible, without being too loquacious (something I obviously still need to work on quite a bit). Enjoy! Hopefully these images will give you a new perspective on India and third-world nations, or at least open your eyes to how drastically different the lives of some people on this earth are from our own.

Pranayama Yoga on the rooftop. Surely doing yoga outside is better for you than indoors... unless the air is so smog-racked that every time you blow your nose, you get a black tissue.

My roommate Lindsay with the girls at an orphanage we visited.

Rangoli is a sort of sand art that lots of Indians use outside their doors to welcome guests. 

On the road to Agha Khan Palace, where Gandhi and his wife were interned in 1942.

All the girls and guides dancing in our saris.

Beautiful paper-like flowers along the road to Varsha Park.

Henna. This is shortly after the artists finished applying the henna. The dark crust falls away leaving behind an auburn stain of the design.

Sumnath, our trusty housekeeper, creating an indoor rangoli design for our last dinner in India.

The girls at the orphanage playing what soon become our favorite game - Coco.

Fun with the girls at the orphanage.

Some stray dogs we saw on our travels to a temple. This was such a typical sight - stray puppies so skinny you could see their ribs. And since they are all likely ridden with disease, you have to fight the urge to pet them.

An abandoned temple we visited.

The Gateway to India in Bombay/Mumbai. We sailed off to the Elephanta Caves from this port.

Known as the Queen's Necklace, the harbor at Mumbai is lit up like a strand of pearls at night.

I can't remember the name of this temple but a boat ride was required to reach it which made for a pretty interesting experience.

A typical Indian meal complete with chapati (my favorite whole wheat Indian flatbread), daal and rice, and galub jamun, a doughnut-like dessert soaked in sugar syrup.

We met with a bunch of teachers to interview them about whatever we pleased. They returned the favor by putting on a dance performance to us and teaching us some traditional Indian moves.

A colorful roadside produce market.

One of our first trips was to a school for girls. We were received like celebrities because of the lightness of our skin. These girls were swarming to greet us and learn where we came from.

Pottery and sculpture for sale on the side of the road.

The doors leading from one of our houses to the next.

We visited a farm where we learned how to make this sweetener used in many traditional Indian dishes.

One of our more unusual excursions was to a train museum. It reminded me more of a Christmas train display than a full-on museum but the place was charming and quirky. It even had a soundtrack and dialogue to tell out a story about the village, with flashing lights and train activity to go along.

Women at work in a papad factory. Papad is similar to a hard corn tortilla but a little less salty and flavorful. We saw the whole process from start to finish and Lindsay actually saw these very papad on a shelf in an international food store in the states.

Some of the women from the papad factory were kind enough to allow us to tape interviews with them after our tour.

More of the beautiful rangoli designs we were greeted with nearly everywhere we went.

Some of the borders at the school for girls, curious about us light-skinned visitors.

Dancing and singing along with the children at the orphanage.

The streets of Mumbai. Not a place I would ever want to drive in.

We visited an after-school program for children living in the slums. As grew fairly typical, they put on a music and dance show for us and were delighted to have interested visitors.

The lovely Amruta demonstrating how to properly wear a sari.

Decision-making in the sari shop.

This store was three-levels and nearly ever storey's walls looked like this - completely packed with sari fabrics. Needless to say, it was nearly impossible to decide upon just one.

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