April 25, 2013

First Birthday, Strawberries & a Little Peach

Meet Norah - she's a sweet, happy, beautiful little peach who's full of laughter & smiles.  Her big blue eyes & funny little expressions melt your heart the minute you see her.  She lives in Des Moines with her parents, Abby & Justin, who are also quite sweet.  I grew up around Abby, as she is one of my sister Abbey's best friends.  I got to know Abby even better when we lived and played together in college at the University of Iowa.  She is kind, thoughtful & sweet and she is a wonderful mother to little Miss Norah.

April 23, 2013

Coconut Curry & a Cozy Night In

A couple weekends ago, for the first time in a very long time, I found myself with an unplanned, completely free Saturday night.  It had literally been months since I’d had a Saturday night in my own apartment, all to myself, no commitments in sight.  The first thing that popped into my head knowing I was going to have a relaxing night at home: what kind of wine shall I treat myself to - and second - what am I going to cook?! Considering I’d been craving curry for weeks I thought I’d take the opportunity to attempt this seemingly complex dish for my very first time.  Turns out - not so complicated after all...

Whenever I order Thai food I almost always go with panang curry - a slightly spicy, coconut curry served over rice with peppers (I also add extra chili sauce for a real kick).  For my first curry undertaking I knew I wanted something similar to panang, but I also wanted to increase the nutritional benefits by adding more veggies & making it as healthy as I could.  In an effort to eat less meat when possible (attempting to find balance) I decided I would also use tofu in the dish instead of chicken - something I had never purchased or cooked with before in my life.  Yes, I’d eaten tofu before, but few enough times that I could count on one hand.  This ingredient was somewhat of a mystery to me, but I took the plunge & decided I’d learn as I go

A little bowl of heaven

April 17, 2013

Happy Hump Day - Here's a Hippo...

....and a Rhino, an Elephant and even a T-Rex.  I stumbled across these bright & quirky little planters on Etsy last night and I just had to share.  I can't even handle how adorable & totally awesome these are.  What a fun & beautiful addition to a home or office - and quite the conversational piece!

photo courtesy of CoastalMoss 

April 16, 2013


Our hearts are saddened & our souls are heavy.  Please keep the people of Boston and anyone affected by this terrible tragedy in your thoughts, your prayers & your hearts.

To find out how YOU CAN HELP visit Take Part's website.

photo source

April 12, 2013

| New Life |

I'm hooked on what has got to be one of the best, most beautiful songs of all time - a little track titled "New Life" by the one and only Jim James. This song completely rocked my soul the first time I heard it, and I am in love with the simple, beautiful & quirky video that accompanies it.  I've listened to this song about a hundred times since I first discovered it a couple weeks back, risking burnout I know, but it's just that good.  

As James's hauntingly beautiful voice sings of stardust & new beginnings, you can't help but catch his happiness bug.  New life, in this context it seems, relates to love and the optimism that comes with it. Whether you interpret this love as partnership or friendship, James's words do nothing but inspire & assure you that if any type of love, meaningful relationships & new experiences are in the mix, you're onto something great.

Happy Friday, all!

open a door | take a journey | take a chance | take a chance on someone | reach out | get inspired | be open to new experiences let someone in | explore a spark | form connections | keep connections | be sincere | love | be grateful | be genuine | seek the good in others | be romantic | trust | be a good friend | be honest | be humble | be optimistic


April 11, 2013

Lula Charm

Last night I had the chance to dine at a quaint, smart & cozy little joint nestled in Logan Square by the name of Lula Cafe.  Lula has been open for over a decade now - not an easy fete in Chicago, but after tasting their seasonal, thoughtful dishes it's no surprise.  I was tickled pink as the rhubarb compote on my coconut sorbet to see the likes of that tangy & tart plant included on the menu, which changes seasonally.  Other ingredients that made a strong seasonal showing included beets with fresh dill, black trumpets & white asparagus, just to name a few.  The talented crew at Lula also make it a point to work with local producers, farmers & artisans to create their menus - focusing on seasonal, organic and locally-sourced produce.  The best kind there is.

| Lula |

I don't have photos of most of the dishes I ate last night, so I apologize, but it gives you more reason to head over to Lula for brunch, lunch or dinner to check it out for yourself!  This post goes out to my girl Alex - my foodie partner in crime whose birthday we celebrated last night at Lula - cheers to another great year full of laughter, great food & tasty cocktails! xo

Almond cake | Rhubarb | Coconut sorbet

April 9, 2013

Saving Grounds for Baby-Smooth Skin

Lately I've been reading a lot about using natural or raw food products to create your own at-home treatments - an idea that I love.  An idea that is also less wasteful, money-saving, and one that has me feeling more connected to Mother Earth - a damn good feeling if you ask me.  A few examples of treatments: Olive oil as hair moisturizer?  Yep.  Lemon juice as skin toner/brightener?  Oh yeah.  And don't even get me started on this article I pinned from Delicious Obsessions on 52 Uses for Coconut Oil....

Being the body scrub lover that I am I was super excited when I came across the idea to use coffee grounds as a natural exfoliant.  I love to make coffee at home on the weekends (especially since I got my French Press for Christmas this year), but with each & every dump of grounds into the trash I felt more & more guilty.  Shame on me for waiting so long to change my ways, but now I use all my post-Press grounds to create a fabulous, natural body scrub that leaves my skin feeling oh-so-smooth & baby soft.

There are many different concoctions you could create, but you can also use the grounds as a scrub on their own with just a bit of water added.  My personal favorite is using a drop or two of coconut extract & 1/2 tsp olive oil with the grounds, creating a scrub that leaves your skin unbelievably soft with a subtle coconut scent that is simply divine.

Here are a few other uses for (used) coffee grounds while we're on the subject...

  • Use on pots & pans to scrub off grease and grime
  • Use in place of baking soda in your refrigerator to neutralize odor
  • Sprinkling grounds in your garden can help keep insects & other pests at bay
  • Grounds can be used as a natural fertilizer for acid-loving plants in your home or garden
  • Pour damp coffee grounds over ashes in your fireplace just before cleaning them out to prevent airborne ashes/dust
  • Create a sepia-toned dye by steeping grounds in hot water; use the water (or coffee) to dye paper or fabric
  • Add them to your compost

And check out some ideas for at-home body scrubs below these photos...

Remove excess coffee liquid by placing grounds in a sieve

April 5, 2013

Beets, Arugula & Goat Cheese - Oh My!

Beets.  Red beets, golden beets, cold beets, roasted beets.  All beets.  How are you feeling about them lately?  If you haven't hopped on the beet bandwagon just yet, have I got a recipe for you!  This salad combines red and golden beets with some of the most flavorful, fresh ingredients - it will turn even the biggest beet skeptics into dirty little beet lovers :)

As I mentioned in my previous post, Feel the Beet, I made a similar version of this salad last year for Easter brunch.  I played it a little safe the first time around, choosing more familiar ingredients like baby spinach & feta cheese.  This year, however, I stepped up the ingredients game and did something I wanted to do - what I knew would send every one's taste buds spiraling into a harmonious flavor trip.  I used spicy, peppery baby arugula & chèvre (no conservative eaters needed to know it was goat's milk cheese unless they asked, right?).  It also didn't hurt that I served this salad in a layered fashion on a beautiful glass platter, allowing its bold & beautiful colors to tantalize the eyes of everyone in attendance.

The beet salad was the first thing to go that morning.  Needless to say, all 20 people at brunch that day requested I make a double batch for our next get-together.  Done & done.  Recipe & more photos below!

April 3, 2013

Need New Glasses? Meet Warby Parker...

How many of you out there are still rocking old frames with which you're none too pleased - maybe from college, the 90's or even your adolescence? I waited years to swap out my outdated specs (purchased my Junior year of college) due to the outrageously priced options I was faced with at various eye doctors.  $400+ for new frames & lenses?!  Not an expense I cared to take on when I was one of those people who only wore their glasses in the comfort of their own home.

Then a bad thing happened - out of no where I woke up one morning to find my right eye extremely irritated, swollen & bright red - not to mention it felt like it was on fire. I hadn't slept in my contacts the night before, I knew that to be a no no in general.  So, was it pink eye? (yuck!)  Thankfully, no - but I had no idea what was happening, especially considering I'd never had problems with my eyes before (no allergies, no sensitivity, no infections).  After getting in for an emergency appointment my eye doctor told me I had a somewhat rare, but fairly serious ulcer on my cornea. My reaction: "Huh? What?? How did that even happen?!"

She went on to explain that it could have been caused by a number of things, down to a little dust making its way into my eye as I slept.  Thankfully she gave me some drops that provided a fair amount of immediate relief - but then she dropped a bombshell: I had to wear my glasses - absolutely NO contacts - for the next six weeks. "But I despise my glasses!" I thought to myself, "and now you're telling me they must be on my face in public for the next how many weeks?!"  Ouch.  Clearly I made it through that period of my life, ugly glasses and all, but in case something like that ever happened again I was determined to get myself into some stylish & enjoyable new frames.  Enter Warby Parker.

Warby Parker is the brainchild of four friends who set out to offer high-quality eyewear by engaging with customers directly. They are able to sell boutique-level prescription eyewear starting at $95 through their website, avoiding conventional channels that artificially hike-up costs.  The best part?  Warby Parker donates a pair of glasses to someone in need for every pair sold.  Pretty damn cool if you ask me.

I did the home try-on and found myself some fabulous new frames and it only cost me $95 - prescription lenses & all.  No longer ashamed of my glasses, I now wear them much as I wear contacts - maybe even a little more.  I Warby Parker - and here's a few more reasons why you should too:

  • Warby Parker offers free home try-on - visit their site & select up to five pairs of frames.  They will send them to you, free of cost, and you get to try them out for five days.  They also include a pre-paid shipping label for you to send them back.  All FREE!  Amazing.
  • If you didn't find your frame soul mate in the first batch of home try-ons, select five more & do it again - FREE!
  • When you're ready to order simply fill out the form on their website with your prescription information.  If you don't know it, they also offer to get in touch with your eye doc for you.
  • "Almost one billion people worldwide lack access to glasses. This means that 15% of the global population cannot effectively learn or work - a problem that Warby Parker is determined to address. We've partnered with non-profits like VisionSpring to ensure that for every pair of glasses sold, a pair is distributed to someone in need." source: WarbyParker.com

My home try-on box | I was excited!