Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year! (almost)

I feel like 2011 has absolutely flown by! We still haven't finalized our New Year's plans, but I am looking forward to a nice long weekend spent around Boston (this will be our first weekend at home in many weeks, it's been such a busy month).

I came across this article on the bon appetit blog about 10 foods that will bring you luck in the new year. There are some really interesting customs related to food and the new year. The only one I had heard of before is eating black-eyed peas (which I do every year!), but I like the idea of the 12 grapes at midnight (which is Portuguese, like my husband) and a ring shaped food (I'll never turn down a donut).

I tend not to be a big resolution maker. But this past month I have fallen out of my exercise habit, so I'll use January 1st as an excuse to get back into my daily routine. I also like to set a reading goal for the year on my goodreads page. In 2011 my goal is 25 books (not including countless comics), and I'd like to try and up that a little for 2012.

my friend Maxine sent me this video yesterday of Zooey Deschanel and
Joseph Gordon-Levitt singing a song about New Year's Eve, it's so cute!

New Year's Nails: Zoya Crystal, the perfect icy blue with tiny silver and gold flecks

How are you ringing in 2012? Are you making resolutions? Pin It

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Camera Accessories

Since I got my Nikon DSLR this summer, I have been obsessed with it and rarely go anywhere without it in my bag. I currently keep it in this and just pop it into the purse I am carrying. It is kind of bulky, and when I want to tote around an extra lens, the set up can get clumsy (and will continue to get clumsier as I slowly acquire more lenses; I'm currently deciding between a telephoto or another prime) So I have started looking for new ideas...

There's the 'ONA' any bag camera bag insert, which is probably the most versatile, turning any (large) purse into a camera bag. It seems extremely useful, I like the exterior pockets to organize other non-camera accessories.

Kelly Moore also makes an entire line of really cute bags that look like purses but are made for cameras. I love this concept, but then am confined to carrying just that one bag when I want to bring along my camera (which is hard for me and my collection of purses). They have a sort of Marc Jacobs feel to the design.

this one especially reminds me of my MJ Stella

Then I started looking at other ways to accessorize my camera! I love the idea of having a fun strap:

Photojojo (I love that this strap has a pouch for your caps)

And last but not least, this bokeh kit is so awesome:

How do you carry your camera with you? Do you have any fun and unique accessories or items for your camera?
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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Liebster Blog Award

Kirsty at 365 Days of Pinterest Creations (amazing blog dedicated to actually making all the cool DIY things you see on Pinterest) has awarded me with the Liebster Blog Award, I'm so honored! Thank you so much Kirsty!

The conditions of this award are...
1) Post about this award on your blog 
2) Link back to the person who gave you the award and say if you accept
3) Link to 3-5 of your favorite blogs

(The aim of this award is to bring unknown good blogs to light, 
please don't tag someone with 3,000 followers)

Here are a few of my favorite blogs (it was really hard to choose!) that I would like to also give the Liebster award to:
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Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Happy Friday everyone! Christmas is this weekend! We will be doing lots of celebrating including a few family parties, seeing some old friends and eating chinese food on Christmas eve while watching the A Christmas Story marathon. And it's always nice to have a long weekend.

a Christmas-y self portrait

my holiday nails - Sephora by OPI's Sugar Plum Fairies Gone Wild layered over essie's Cocktail Bling

I'd love to hear about your favorite holiday traditions. What are you most looking forward to this weekend?

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Seven Layer Magic Cookie Bars

Today is my office's holiday party which includes a secret santa gift swap. As part of the gift that I'm giving to my secret santa, I decided to bake one of his favorite treats; Seven Layer Magic Cookie Bars. 

I had actually never made or even tasted them before. But now I know that they are ridiculously good! There are a lot of flavors going on in them, but they all work really well together, and they aren't as overwhelmingly sweet as I thought they might be. They're just delicious and so easy to make.

Seven Layer Magic Cookie Bars (adapted from Eagle Brand)
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup flaked coconut
1 14-ounce can of Sweetened Condensed Milk

Heat oven to 350°. Line a 13 x 9 pan with foil that extends over the sides of the pan and spray with non stick cooking spray.

Combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter, then press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Layer (in order) the chocolate, butterscotch, pecans and coconut on top of the crumb mixture. Then drizzle the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the whole thing.

Bake for 25-35 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool and then use the overhanging foil as handles to remove the whole thing from the pan (this makes for easy and perfectly cut bars), cut into squares or desired shapes and enjoy!

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Chanukah!

Chanukah (the festival of lights) began last night at sundown. It is traditional to eat foods cooked/fried in oil to remind us of the miracle of the holiday (that the oil lasted for eight nights), such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (very similar to jelly donuts).

Here is my mom's recipe for latkes, they are absolutely amazing on their own, but are also great when served with homemade applesauce (my recipe is below), sour cream or both (which is how I eat them)

Potato Latkes
6 large Idaho potatoes
3 large eggs
1 large onion
1/3 c. flour (if making for Passover you can use matzoh meal instead)
2 t. salt
vegetable oil, for frying

Peel and grate potatoes; soak in cold water. Drain in collander and rinse with cold, running water. Squeeze excess water firmly from grated potatoes; they should be as dry as possible. 

Beat eggs in large bowl until frothy. Add flour and salt. Add onions and finally potato. Mix well.
Heat 1/4 " oil in a heavy skillet. Drop potato mixture 1/4 cup at a time into hot oil; flatten with back of fork or spatula. Brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. (You can keep the latkes warm in the oven until ready to serve. To retain crispness, keep latkes in single layer on cookie sheet.

Homemade Applesauce
4 apples (Macintosh are my favorite)

Peel, core and slice the apples and put them into a heavy pot/saucepan, and pour in about an inch of water. Bring this to a boil over medium heat until the apples are fork tender. Remove from heat and mash with a fork or a potato masher. Add cinnamon and sugar to taste.

Happy Chanukah!

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Stocking Stuffers

Christmas is less than a week away! I am basically done with my shopping (just need to pick up a few little things for a yankee swap) and I need to finish wrapping gifts and baking goodies. Have you all finished your holiday shopping already?

In case you're not done yet, I've put together some last little goodies perfect for topping off a stocking

My Lip Stuff is handmade, vegan and smells amazing. She has created a ton of limited edition holiday scents (candy cane is my favorite) that would be perfect to throw into a stocking. $3 each

Kate Spade Prize Ball. "Crepe paper wrapped ball filled with surpises including: tic tac toe game, barrel of monkeys, pop ballon, custom spade tattoo, custom mini book, mini deck of cards, beaded necklace and a whistle." $45

Snow in a Can. In Boston it has been in the 40s and 50s all month (except for this past weekend when it dipped into the 30s) and will decidedly not be a white Christmas. I think getting some 'just add water' snow would be a fun alternative when there are no flakes in sight. $3.89

Pancake Molds. I have a bunch of pancake mold sets from Williams-Sonoma and just love them. These holiday themed ones would be a perfect stocking stuffer. $14.99

Cashmere Hand Warmers. My in laws got me these last year at Christmas, and they are seriously awesome. They're soft and cozy, and perfect to tuck into your pockets on a cold day. $10

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Weekend Redux

I spent this weekend visiting my parents for an early Chanukah celebration (the holiday actually begins tomorrow night) it was a wonderfully relaxing weekend, we exchanged gifts, ate a lot, watched movies and went for nighttime walks to look at all the holidays lights up in the neighborhood.

One of my gifts was a new camera lens that I am somewhat obsessed with, so I thought I'd share some pictures (they're mostly of the dog and food because everyone protests having their photo taken)

Pouring Popovers
mom pouring popover batter

Spinning Dreidl
spinning dreidel

tearose centerpiece

spinach gratin

Peppermint Bark
peppermint bark

Hobbes peering out

Hobbes running (this is my favorite pic from the weekend)

What did you all do this weekend?

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday fun: Bearded Dragon Playing Ant Crusher

This video is currently making the rounds so I thought I would share it here as well. It is a bearded dragon playing Ant Crusher on a tablet, and he's really good at it! I'm slightly obsessed:

Click here to enter my giveaway for a Philosophy gift set!

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gift idea: Adopted Olive Tree

Nudo is a collective of olive grows. And you can own/give a part of the groves by adopting one of Nudo's olive trees. You will receive the produce from the chosen tree in the form of delicious olive oil. You can even choose a specific grove that you want the tree to be from.  Here's what you get:

1. Personalised adoption certificate and booklet about your tree
2. Spring package (all the extra virgin olive oil from your tree)
3. Autumn package (three flavoured extra virgin olive oils)

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

December Giveaway: Philosophy Gift Set

Time for a festive, holiday giveaway!

This month I am giving away a More the Merrier gift set from Philosophy

What it is:
A set of four festive shower gels and a cheerful lip shine in one very merry gift. 

What it does:
The More The Merrier features Philosophy's luscious, multitasking, shampoo, shower gel and bubble baths in travel-friendly sizes and holiday-inspired scents. Marshmallows for Toasting high-gloss, high-flavor lip shine delivers a delicious taste and cheer to your loved ones with every sweet little kiss. 

This set contains:
- 4 x 2 oz Shampoo, Shower Gel & Bubble Bath in Marshmallows For Toasting, Have A Cherry Christmas, Twinkle Berry, Candy Cane
- 0.5 oz Marshmallows For Toasting Lip Shine

To enter, just use the Rafflecopter widget below, if you are already following my blog or Twitter account, be sure to create a new entry, as you will not be automatically entered. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway Pin It

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011

I loved participating in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap this holiday season! I had so much fun picking out a recipe and festive wrapping for the cookies that I sent to Forkful, My Year of Food, and Snapshots of Happiness. I also loved getting packages of delicious cookies in the mail (more on that later)! I am definitely going to sign up again next year.

The hardest part of the swap was picking the perfect cookie to bake; a sturdy cookie that would survive the mail and taste great even a few days after baking. I decided on biscotti. After poring through many recipes for it, a lot of testing and tweaking the flavors, I think this final chocolate and orange 
one is pretty great.

Orange Chocolate Biscotti
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2  teaspoons baking powder
1/4  teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup vanilla sugar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
white and semisweet chocolate for drizzling over finished cookies

Preheat the oven to 325°

In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

Cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, juice, and zest. Add in the flour mixture until fully incorporated. Fold in chocolate chips. Divide dough in half and form into two long (about 14 inches)  flat loaves on silpat (or parchment paper) lined baking or cookie sheets

Bake for 25 minutes (until golden brown). Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes, or until cool enough to handle without burning yourself.

With a long serrated knife, cut the loaves diagonally (cutting on the bias will give you longer pieces of biscotti) into slices approximately 1/2 inch thick. Lay the slices flat on the baking sheet and return to the oven. Bake for 5 minutes, flip the biscotti and then bake for another 5 minutes. Allow to cool and then drizzle with melted chocolate.

cookie 'loaf' after first bake

sliced for next round in the oven

all done!

Want to be a part of future cookie swaps? Sign up here to receive notifications.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Etsy love: Comfort Food

B Fiber and Craft Emporium puts a new meaning to the phrase 'comfort food' with cozy food shaped scarves, bean bag chairs, sheets and sleeping bags. 

baked potato bean bag chair w/ butter pat pillow

bacon scarf

pizza sleeping bag  w/ topping pillows

and my personal favorite - waffle and syrup sheets w/ fruit pillows
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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Apple Strudel Bread

This is my friend Jake's recipe for Apple Strudel Bread. It is fantastic for breakfast (I claim that the fruit makes it healthy) or dessert. It's impossible to only eat one piece.

3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup butter, softened and cut into tablespoon sized chunks
1 egg
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 tsp salt
3 1/4 cups bread flour
1 tsp active dry yeast or bread machine yeast

3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 cups apples, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon

3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons  vanilla extract
Place dough ingredients in bread machine according to manufacturer's directions. Select dough cycle. When done, remove dough and punch down. Cover and let rest 10 minutes.

Roll dough into a large rectangle (about 24" x 12"). Smooth butter down the middle third of the dough. Cut sides of dough into strips to make the braid.

Combine filling ingredients in a bowl. Spoon the filling over the buttered section of the dough. Then start to 'braid' the bread by taking strips from alternate sides and pulling them across the filling so that they overlap. Transfer to a silpat (or foil or parchment paper) lined baking sheet.

Cover and let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes or until nearly double. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.

Once cool, make the glaze by combining the powdered sugar, vanilla extract and add enough milk (add just a tiny bit at a time) so that it reaches a drizzling consistency. 

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Gift idea: Fun and Unique Gloves & Mittens

1. The perfect cold weather accessory for your favorite texter is a pair of Carolina Amato's cashmere Holed It gloves, which have little slits to poke the tips of your thumbs and forefingers through for texting, typing and dialing access while keeping warm. They are available for men and women and come in different colors to match your winter look. $78

2. Kate Spade eternally makes adorable things I feel like I cannot live without. This year the Air Quote Mittens are calling to me! $65

3. Glittens. Gloves and mittens combined in harmony. J. Crew makes them in lots of wonderful colors every year, I love this emerald pair. $28

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday fun: Flow Chart to Determine What Holiday to Celebrate

Happy Friday everyone! What I am most looking forward to this weekend is a cupcake crawl for my friend Niki's birthday, it feels like we planned it so long ago, and now it's finally here! She made a list of bakeries around Boston to visit, so a group of us will go around and sample cupcakes at each of them. It will be a sugary and awesome Saturday.

And now, a flow chart to help you figure out what holiday to celebrate this season :-)

What are you all up to this weekend?
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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tiffany Ornaments

While Tiffany & Co. is the mecca of beautiful jewelry, they also make lots of lovely home goods that aren't too expensive. A few years ago I found that they make crystal, porcelain and silver ornaments that start at $30 (of course there are some pricey ones over $200, but I have found that I like the small crystal ones (and have been adding one each year to our tree) best and they look great with the tree lights shining behind them) and make a lovely addition to your tree. And what is better than getting one of those blue boxes tied with the signature red holiday ribbon?

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Turkey Chili

This chili recipe is adapted from my friend Melanie's recipe for chili. This makes a huge batch but keeps well in the fridge for leftovers, and freezes perfectly. I generally freeze half of it.

2 28 ounce cans of crushed peeled tomatoes
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 4 oz cans chopped green chiles
2 lbs ground turkey (can also use veggie crumbles or any combination of meat that you like)
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 jalepeno, seeded and finely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 tablespoon olive oil
16 oz frozen corn (or canned or fresh)
1/2 teasoon cumin
4 tablespoons chili powder (or to your taste)
2 teaspoons oregano
black pepper & salt to taste

Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat, saute onion with oregano and cumin until tender. Add celery, bell pepper, jalepeno, garlic and green chiles. Stir to combine and then add in ground turkey. Cook until no longer pink.

Add tomatoes to the pot with chili powder and beans, bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer for about 45 minutes, add corn and cover until heated through. Serve with your favorite bread.

Topping ideas: cheddar cheese (my favorite), avocado, sour cream or plain greek yogurt

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Etsy love: Holiday Cards

I love the old timey feeling of sending holiday cards, and I love receiving them in the mail too. Etsy is a great place to find unique and fun cards to send at the holidays. There are so many lovely and different cards available, why not get something a little different to send out this year?

Do you send out holiday cards?
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