Monday, March 24, 2014

The Quickly Browning Artichokes In Our Refrigerator Are Mocking Both My Silly Attempt At Meal Planning And My Inability To Prepare Them Without A Good Amount Of Online Research. I Felt Like Ina Garten When I Bought Them. I Don't Feel Like Her Now.

Grocery shopping mid-week makes me feel good inside.  In an effort to exert some control over my schedule, and to keep our food budget from skyrocketing, I try to plan out our meals and procure almost all the ingredients on Wednesday that are needed to take our family of four through the entire weekend.  I regularly believe that with a little forethought I can ride a wave of preparedness clear through to Sunday with only a possible quick trip to the store for anything I missed or couldn't buy fresh that far out.

Typically, by Friday afternoon I realize I must be delusional.

I'll joyfully whip up my first planned entree on Wednesday night - in my mind, kicking off a series of nutritious and delicious family dinners, to be enjoyed and savored by all.  Typically though, the kids come home in the early evening from practice so hungry they blow through a brick of cheese and an entire box of crackers while my pasta water is starting to boil.  By the time dinner is ready, they're still full and we end up eating about 1/4 of what I'd prepared.

That means leftovers are abundant the next day and in an effort to 'waste not want not', I serve up Wednesday's dinner (again) on Thursday - disappointed I haven't been able to make my planned Thursday meal, but grateful for the ease of an ample leftover supply.  There is wine and good TV.

Friday brings renewed hope that Thursday's planned meal will be just as fabulous whipped up a day late, but each Friday afternoon I'm faced with the unpredictable result of parenting teenagers with social lives - we could have 10 teens in the house around dinnertime or none.  Sometimes even an opportunity for a spontaneous gathering with family or friends crops up.  Or lacrosse practice runs so late that the thought of chopping and stirring for another two hours after driving a smelly carpool no longer holds much allure.  And Chipotle sounds so good.

This is why by Sunday, I have a fridge full of wilting veggies and a freezer stuffed with meat I've put on ice along with the fabulous meal it was going to star in for dinner.  Nine times out of ten, our Sunday dinner is what I intended to serve on Thursday.  But what with our family weekend plans morphing minute by minute, Sunday is often the only night we have together as a family.  It is truly one of my favorite times.  Even if we're eating off schedule.

And each week, I take basically the same approach to planning our family meals with oddly renewed hope.  Perhaps I'm an eternal optimist.  Or a slow-learner.  My guess is a bit of both.

For Meatless Monday, we'll be dining on a delicious beans and rice dish offered up by an old work pal, Erin, who I've reconnected with through Facebook and the blog.  Thanks for the recipe, Erin!  We were supposed to eat this on Saturday but, you know...

I'm wearing this.

When I pull up the weather on my computer and it says, "27 degrees, feels like 16", I do not feel joy.  Sweater weather has lost its charm.

gratitude:  saying 'no' to one thing so something better can come along, Spring Break, blankets warm from the dryer, clothing sales

thanks and love.

Friday, March 21, 2014

It's Another Fashion Friday And Today We'll Talk Pants, Shorts, Skirts And Dresses. Let's Get To The Bottom Of It, Shall We?

As I give my humble opinion about these fashion basics, please understand that this is only my opinion.  There are no rules you absolutely must live by except that you do need to cover your lower torso pretty much all the time.  That said, why not make the most of it and wear something cute and comfortable?

Let's get started, we've got a lot to cover (that is not a pun about bum sizes).  Our list of pants and shorts includes:

Skinny denim jean
White skinny jean
Wide-legged linen pant
Ankle length black pant
Khaki chino - boyfriend cut
White shorts
Khaki shorts
Printed shorts

Skinny Denim Jean:
I'd like to amend this to any jean you like, preferably in a lighter wash.  I just don't think you can get through any season at all without a pair of jeans.   And, since we're talking Spring and Summer a lighter wash is fitting.

White Skinny Jean:
These are a 'must-have' for spring and summer.  It can be a challenge to find the right fit, but it's worth it.  By all means don't go without this pant.  It epitomizes warmer seasons.

Wide-Legged Linen Pant:
This may be one of those pieces you think you can't wear or don't want to wear because it's a little funky, but trust me, these can be fabulous during the warmer months.  They're great for just lounging around, but you can also dress them up easily with a wedge heel or a flat thong sandal.  They are classics and just as comfy as sweats.

Ankle-Length Black Pant:
Look for these pants in a narrow or a wider cut, whatever works for you, but make sure they are ankle length.  They look great dressed up with a heel or worn casually with a flat sandal.  Black gives this pant a little edge and some formality too so it's extremely versatile.  I just bought a pair of Old Navy's new Pixie pant in black for $25 and they are amazing.  I also like the cropped Martin fit pants at Banana Republic.

Khaki Chino:
This pant should be in a nice, comfy cut in a thinner material and you'll need to roll the bottoms so they hit just above your ankle.  I think khaki is a great base color because it's a classic and goes with everything, but there are so many other colors and patterns out there that it's kind of fun to pick out a zippy second pair too.

* You may totally disagree with me, but in my opinion capris should be avoided as much as possible.  They are okay for workouts, but not for real clothes - no one looks good in a pant that hits them in the middle of their calf.  I know they're comfy, but they make people look frumpy.  The shortest you should go in a pant is to the bottom of your calf - just above your ankle is ideal, in my opinion.  If you think that's too long, then just wear shorts.

Shorts - White, Khaki, Printed:
The key here is if you are over 30, I think you should avoid the super short shorts.  Even if they look good on you, it just makes you look like you're having a hard time letting go of your teen years.  Wear whatever length looks best on you from a 3 1/2" inseam to a Bermuda length.  Khaki, white and one print are the basics I think you should have.  Once you have those then add on with whatever brings you joy.

Our skirts and dresses included:

Denim pencil skirt
Short printed skirt
Solid maxi skirt
Solid summer dress
Printed summer dress

Denim Pencil Skirt:
I like denim here (in a lighter wash with the slightest bit of distressing) because the casual fabric contrasts interestingly with the classic style.  They are incredibly versatile and look great well into the Fall too.  If denim isn't your thing, then pick a solid or print in a cotton or linen.

Short Printed Skirt:
Just a fun piece to wear.  Don't spend too much if you're not sure about it - Forever 21 has some really cute options for almost nothing.  Play around with the look.

Solid Maxi:
Like the wide-legged pants, you may think this style isn't going to work for you.  Try it anyway.  Maxis are so comfy and make everyone look taller and slimmer if you pick the right fit.

Summer Dresses - Solid And Printed:
I love wearing dresses in the summer.  It's one piece of clothing to put on - how easy is that?  And dresses always make you look fabulously feminine.  Dress them up, dress them down, but have one of each at least.

So there you have it.  A thorough wrap-up of bottoms.  One note, finding the right fit in some of these pieces may take some time, but it's worth it.  Make sure you try things on.  Ignore the sizes (they are so screwed up anyway who knows what size we really are anymore) and pay attention to how things look and feel.  Also, have a tailor correct the fit if necessary.  You should feel good in what you have on, and if it doesn't fit well you won't feel right in it, if you even manage to wear it at all.

I'm wearing this:

Another striped top.  With a statement necklace.  And my suede boots.  What else is new?

gratitude:  Oh, Wondrous Spring!!, bread dipped in olive oil, roasted lemons, my yoga brick

thanks and love.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I Bought Some New Earphones To Use On Runs. They Were On The Kitchen Counter For A Couple Weeks Because I Hadn't Really Felt Like Running. Every Time I Saw Them I Felt Guilty. So I Put Them In A Drawer And Am Feeling A Lot Better About Myself.

What with tomorrow being the Vernal Equinox, and Spring Break peeking around the corner, I find I'm wanting trying to convince myself I need to step up my work out routine.  Even though our Spring Break won't be spent lounging around the pool in a warm climate (we'll be skiing in Steamboat which isn't a bad deal at all), I know that swimsuit season is just around the corner.  And even if you're not much of a pool person during the summer months, you'll still find yourself with fewer clothes on than you do in the winter, that's a fact (unless you're a beekeeper).  And so, I've been working to psych myself up for a new routine.

I haven't been completely idle during the colder months.  But I've kept my exercise routine close to home and have managed to do most of it in my pajama bottoms - which, in my defense, do bear a striking resemblance to loose fitting-yoga pants.  I have noticed so many runners doing their thing during the deepest darkest parts of winter and I'm always amazed at their fortitude and ability to maintain a healthy core body temperature.  I tried running once about a month ago (not in my pajama bottoms) and it was freezing - I mean so cold I felt my ear canals had frozen up like the Great Lakes.  Then, while running and battling frostbite, I tripped and flew almost three feet before crashing to the concrete covered earth.  There was even a car driving by for bonus humiliation points.  At that point, I decided I wouldn't head out again until things heated up a bit and the scabs on my hands healed.

That said, I've been doing some shorter and less strenuous workouts at home.  I've liked this approach.  I think winter is a good time to hibernate and take it easy - we need a break sometimes.  I found these apps for your phone or iPad that run you through various workout routines depending on what you're looking to do.  They're listed under Lolo in the app store.  I use the Easy Abs and the Killer Butt (stop laughing) ones.  It's great because you don't need any equipment and your workouts can be as short as three minutes or as long as 20.  Sometimes I find it's easier for me to squeeze in five minutes here and five minutes there, than it is for me to set aside a full hour-and-a-half to work out.  I don't end up blowing it off because really, who can't spare five minutes?

I also like using online yoga instruction.  I use Yogaglo, but there are a few others out there.  I like it because I can search for classes to take based on what type of yoga I'm interested in doing or how long I want to do it.  Sometimes I'll just find a nice 10 minute restorative or hatha session and it'll be perfect.  I've heard that just 10 minutes of yoga is better than no yoga at all and this makes it possible for me to make that happen.

I'm finding, as I contemplate my new springtime fitness plan, that I'm coming at it with a bit less trepidation than in years past because I haven't just been laying on the couch eating potato chips (I stand in the pantry and eat them).  My shorter, less strenuous workouts have sort of kept my fitness embers burning over the winter.  And now the thought of working out a bit more isn't making me nauseous or anything.  I'm actually almost looking forward to it.

Even though it's not Fashion Friday I do have a style tip with a fitness theme.  I don't know about you, but I certainly enjoy my workouts a bit more if I have a little something spiffy to wear while I'm huffing and puffing.  If you're in the market for leggings or the like, the Old Navy compression workout bottoms are great.  The price is incredible for what you get.  The really give you nice support and, while they're not the fanciest, you can always jazz them up with a cute workout top and some snazzy footwear.  Just a thought.

I'm wearing this.

Yes indeed.  That's the LLBean French Stripe T in that mix.  It was a very good purchase.

gratitude:  sleep, the Carla Bruni station on Pandora, iPads, Flonase

thanks and love.

Monday, March 17, 2014

One Of My Favorite Kitchen Tools Is My Potato Glove. You Slide The Glove On Your Hand And Rub It All Over The Potato To Clean It Instead Of Having To Use An Unwieldy Scrubber. Why Do I Think My Irish Ancestors Are Rolling Their Eyes Somewhere?

My treasured potato glove, in all its glory.

Ah, St. Patrick's Day!  As an Irish girl myself, I do enjoy a special day set aside to honor the Emerald Isle.  Of course, I find it slightly ironic that food is such a big part of St. Patrick's Day celebrations what with that nasty potato famine thing that devastated the Irish people.   But if any group would have an appreciation for the ironic, it would be the Irish.  That said, let's talk food.

I grew up eating corned beef and cabbage made by my mom and grandma every St. Patrick's Day.  It felt good to connect to our Irish heritage and I always intended to continue that tradition as I married and had kids of my own.   However, corned beef makes me kinda queasy and, while I enjoy cabbage (sort of), I much prefer it cooked in someone else's home.  I don't like walking through pockets of cooked cabbage air for days after preparing that lovely vegetable.  So I've had to take a different approach to my St. Patrick's Day culinary celebrating.

As a fan of regular meat-free eating, I tend to focus on color for our traditional Irish meal (who doesn't enjoy a big, GREEN salad for St. Patrick's Day?) and potatoes.  I find making potatoes the star of the show on St. Patrick's Day is an act of defiance, really.  I eat potatoes in celebration BECAUSE I CAN!  That said, I think potatoes are their most delicious when prepared simply.  I love roasted Yukon Gold potatoes drizzled with olive oil and lots of pepper and coarse sea salt.  And steamed red potatoes covered with sour cream, fresh dill and a healthy dose of salt and pepper.  But today, our St. Patrick's Day meal will center on the russet potato.  They shall be baked.

I love the smell of potatoes baking, so this is one of those dishes that gets bonus points for its aromatherapeutic qualities.  I will scrub them, rub them with olive oil (used to use Crisco, but not so much anymore), stab each of them with a fork three times, pop them in a 375 degree oven for an hour and a half, then doctor them up with butter, sour cream, salt, pepper and chives.  This is not brain surgery, but it's an undeniably delicious food experience.  I will be serving them with a big salad made from the Super Greens mix from Whole Foods and a few nuts scattered atop for additional protein.

Perhaps we shall avail ourselves a pint, or two, as well.  Slainte!

I'm wearing this:

I started with just the green top, but it has a dragon or something on it (what was I thinking?) and I just felt a little too Irish ninja in it.  I popped the grey T over it and immediately hopped on the train to Snoozeville.  So I donned the fabulous Mallorca pendant from Stella & Dot and my problems were solved.  This tale brings to light the importance of layering for interest (not just warmth) and the undeniable power of good accessories.  The end.

*Note:  Behind me there is a slipper on the floor and a lacrosse stick head on the counter.  I'm all about keepin' it real.

gratitude:  little sprigs of green grass, being pleased with our kids' writing, comfy couches, garlic bread

thanks and love.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Fashion Friday Is Finally Here! I Know, You Start Thinking To Yourself, "Wait! First It's Pi Day, Then We Have St. Patrick's To Look Forward To, And It's Also Fashion Friday?" Our Cups Indeed Runneth Over, Friends.

I must preface with a disclaimer.  I am no fashion expert.  I love fashion and have as long as I can remember.  I even went to college as a Fashion Design major, but after one semester I realized someone had already come up with the idea of a turtleneck and wide-legged pants, so I switched my major to Journalism and settled into a world of words, all the while maintaining my great love of style.

My style isn't super 'on-trend'.  It's not filled with high fashion and cutting-edge looks.  I heard once that if you want to know what's really cool to wear, don't pay so much attention to what the models have on as they strut down the catwalk, look at what the designer wears when he or she comes out after the show.  I always wondered why the person behind all those avant-garde looks was often times wearing only jeans and a t-shirt.  The way I see it is, designers express their art through fashion, but what they choose to wear themselves demonstrates their personal style.  Personal style is where it's at for me.

So let's dive right in, shall we?

Today we're digging into the basic tops I think we all should consider for our spring and summer wardrobes.  I listed them on an earlier post, but for those of you who haven't committed the list to memory, here's a recap:

White t-shirt
Black t-shirt
Striped shirt
Ethnic print shirt
White, peasant top

And now, the evidence for my thesis.

White T-Shirt:
The workhorse.  This is really something we should have ample supplies of throughout the year.  It can be worn with everything from ratty jeans for yard work, to a black suit and heels for a fancy dinner out.  I like one that isn't too thin - I don't enjoy having to wear layers of undergarments beneath my white T, just to make sure Victoria isn't sharing any Secrets, if you get my drift.  Plus, I develop weird holes in my knits right at the level of my belly-button which is as frustrating as it is concerning, and I spill on myself frequently.  That said, I don't want to spend a lot of money on a t-shirt if its life span is limited.  The best t-shirt I've found for the price is the Perfect T from Old Navy.  It's thick enough that you don't need a camisole underneath, the fit is fabulous, and it costs less than $10.  If you pick one up now, they're on sale for $6, which is really insane.  Get about four of them.

Black T-Shirt:
Nearly as useful as the white t-shirt only with the addition of a bit more drama.  The Old Navy Perfect T is the best choice, once again.  Of course, once you have a couple of these super basic black T's in your wardrobe go ahead and add some funkier versions, if you're so inclined.

The Striped Shirt:
I'm talking the classic French sailor shirt, or Breton stripe, if you will.  I have about seven variations of this shirt in my closet and, to be honest, none of them are quite right.  So, I ordered the French stripe shirt from L.L.Bean earlier this week and am eagerly anticipating its arrival.  The L.L. Bean version of this is super traditional and that's what makes it funky, in my opinion.  There is also a pretty good one from Lands End.  Both of these are under $30.

You may be thinking to yourself, "Mal, how versatile is this striped shirt, really?".  I thought that might be the case, so I jumped onto Polyvore last night and put together three examples of how you can wear this particular item.  From super casual, to a chic night on the town.  Check it out.

The Ethnic Print Top:
I would like to amend this item to just a print top.  Really any print would work depending on your personal tastes.  You could try ethnic, if you were feeling a bit tribal, or you could go geometric, floral, bohemian, whatevs.  It's all good.  The point is to get a top that has an all over pattern on it.  It's such a nice way to beef up solid color bottoms or even to push the envelope a little and pair it with another pattern.  These can be a bit experimental, so it's nice to look for affordable versions at first until you know what look you like best.  Forever 21, TJ Maxx and Target are nice places to dip a toe into pattern without making a foolish investment.

The White Peasant Top:
Really, this is just a white top that may have some flow to it, but is for sure made of a broadcloth (not knit) fabric.  I put it on the list of basics because it's so light and summery and can be dressed up or down.  This look can also be translated into many different styles.  You could go for one in a loose t-shirt shape for a traditional look, you could do a puffy sleeve, a cap sleeve, a tank, anything, really.  Just make sure it's all white and has an airy feel to it.  It's like wearing summer.

There are a few extra credit items I think are nice for spring and summer tops (because I like extra credit):

Patterned Tunic. These look great over swimsuits and with shorts and pants.  I like prints in very tropical colors to give me that poolside in Florida look, but you could also stick to black and white if that's more your style.  Having a pattern though is critical because it's just too much fabric on your bod to be worn in a solid color without it looking heavy.

Pastel T-Shirt.  You can't miss with pastels in Spring and Summer and luckily enough everyone looks good in them.  Blush, mint, lavender and pale yellow are great choices.  I, myself, picked up a blush colored Perfect T at Old Navy for $6 the other day when I loaded up on my black and white T's.  I think I will enjoy it.

Chambray.  It's becoming a year-round staple, really.  A lighter weight chambray is best in the warmer months for obvious reasons.  It looks great with shorts and pants, even over a swimsuit or as a light wrap for occasionally cool nights.  Plus, you can easily wear it into fall, so it has some staying power.

So there it is.  We've wrapped up our tops overview for now, and next week we'll do pants.  Pretty exciting stuff, no?

As an aside...I've so enjoyed hearing from some of you with questions about your clothing selections.  Please don't hesitate to contact me personally if you need some wardrobe advice.  I'm happy to help if I can.

I'm wearing this.

The colors say, "It's still a bit chilly."  The shoes say, "Looks like Spring to me!".  Anyone looking at me would say, "How about a pedicure?"

gratitude:  Google, you blog readers, moto pants, weekends

thanks and love.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

This Year For Lent, I'm Giving Up Thinking I Suck. What About You?

I wasn't raised Catholic, but I've always appreciated the notion of giving something up during Lent.  I loves me some self-improvement and Lent makes that whole process an actual thing.  I know a lot of people give up the obvious vices - drinking, swearing, Taco Bell, eating entire chocolate cakes, etc. - but I felt that was too easy.  I wanted to try something really hard.  I challenged myself to believe I'm awesome.  Whaaaa?

Guilt seems to be woven into my heritage.  Maybe it's the Irish blood that runs through my family's veins.  I've spent most of my life feeling bad about one thing or another.  What I've done or haven't done, said or haven't said, been or haven't been - you get the picture.  I've carried some of these perceived 'failures' around with me for years.  And the stage of life I'm in: stay-at-home mom, parent of teens, mid-forties, vocationally confused, and more, seems to lend itself to a goodly amount of doubt, anxiety, and self-judgement.  It finally just got to me.

I don't think this is how God, or whatever term you use, wants any of us to live.  And I know that unless I can consistently let love flow freely from myself and to myself, Life just isn't going to move with the ease and beauty I so desire.  I needed to make a shift.

Here's the thing, we can't judge ourselves harshly without it spilling over into a judgement of others.  And when we judge another's behavior as right or wrong, good or bad, we also can't avoid classifying ourselves the same way.  I read recently in Marianne Williamson's A Year Of Miracles that God doesn't need us to police the universe.  We need to stop acting like Barney Fife to God's Andy Griffith and get on living our own best lives.

So I came up with a plan to change the course of my mind.  I decided that during Lent every time I felt a fearful or defeating thought pop into my psyche, I would simply say something loving to myself (in my head of course, because well, you know.).  Anything to shift my thought pattern from negative to positive.  And I'd try to let the meaning of whatever I said soak in for a second or two.  It sounds a little dorky and a lot like a Stuart Smalley bit from SNL, but it works.

This process made me really aware of just how many judgey, fearful, and self-doubty thoughts floated in and out of my mind in a very short period of time.  No matter how silly I felt, I made myself redirect my head by saying my positive phrases - it's a little trippy to just let go of thoughts that feel like they give you structure even though they're really holding you back.  I felt like I was repeating these statements a lot at first.  But now I find I'm simply not having as many negative thoughts overall.  My brain actually feels a little more relaxed.  It's quieter.  Like it's starting to give up being mean to me and may actually want to be my BFF.

I like to share info about having a positive perspective - and I have always loved and truly believed in the possibility of living life fully in a beautiful way.  Sometimes I've even managed to do it myself.  But now, I'm consciously committing to walking the talk. We are all awesome.  Even me.  And Life is awesome - even with the bumps we experience along the way.  And seeing life through eyes that are more self-accepting and self-loving, and processing it all with a quieter brain is bringing more ease and joy and love into my life, my heart and my head.

If you feel at all that your mind could stand to step it up a bit in area of support and self-acceptance, give this a try.  It works.

Yay Lent!  Can I say that?

I'm wearing this:

The jean jacket is such a great piece this time of year.  The perfect extra layer.  I would like to no longer need an extra layer.  Do you hear me, Mother Nature?

gratitude:  hanging with the kids, fresh sheets, writing, core-strengthening workouts

thanks and love.

Monday, March 10, 2014

I'm Including A Recipe For A Fabulous Dish In This Post. It Is Made Entirely With Things From Your Pantry. I Always Enjoy It When I Can Create A Tasty Dish Using Only Pantry Staples. It Makes Me Feel Very Self-Sufficient - Like I Could Maybe Last A Day Or Two During A Zombie Apocalypse. Which Is Somewhat Comforting.

I've groused recently about the tedium experienced in preparing a family dinner every night of the week.  It's not always an inspired task.  I've opted for cold cereal in the past and, much to my dismay, it has received better reviews than a few dishes I put some actual effort into.  This makes me want to lay on the couch sipping a glass of wine and yelling over my shoulder to tell everyone they can eat whatever it is they can find for dinner.  And good luck, because I didn't get to the grocery store today!

And so, when I come upon a recipe that the family loves and is easy for me to make, I take advantage.  Often this has resulted in an overuse issue and eventually the family reaches a point where they can almost not even manage to swallow another bite of it.  However, there is one dish that has so far avoided the dreaded, 'that again?' death spiral.  I don't even know the name of it, but it's a pasta dish with tuna, so let's call it 'Tuna Pasta'.  It's a recipe my lovely neighbor Susi shared with me several months ago when she noticed that, based upon the goings on at our house, it appeared I have about 15 minutes some days to get dinner on the table.  She was right!

She was given this recipe by an Italian friend who currently lives in South America, so just making it causes me to hum the tune to 'It's A Small World'.  Her friend makes this every couple weeks when she has no time for anything fancy and wants to make something she knows everyone will enjoy.  I find it comforting to know that the dinner conundrum is felt worldwide.

This dish is truly incredible.  Geoff and I chaperoned the Sadie Hawkin's dance this weekend (thankfully we were given the coat check job rather than guarding the doors to the gymnasium like the last dance we worked so our mental scarring was minimal this time) and JD was home with a friend.  We left the boys a check so they could order a pizza.   Turns out, all they ate for dinner was the leftover Tuna Pasta we had in the fridge.  Two 14-year-old boys would rather eat leftovers of this dish than pizza.  Nothing short of amazing.  Here it is:

Tuna Pasta
* Note - all measurements are approximate.  I do a lot of eyeballing when I cook.  I find using tools to get an exact measure slows down the process (and we're usually starving) and makes for more dishes to clean up afterward (hassle).  When I've taken the time to check if my 'eyeballed' measurements are close to the real amounts I need, I'm usually right on the mark.  This is a strange skill, and as is the case with most of my secret talents, almost totally useless.

1 lb. pasta (I like to use spaghetti or linguine)
2 cans tuna in olive oil
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbs. capers
1/4 c. toasted pine nuts
2 tsps. anchovy paste
2 Tbs. Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 c. fresh grated Parmesan (or more if you like it)

Cook the pasta as you would cook pasta normally.  While that bubbles away, add everything else except the Parmesan to a skillet and let it simmer.  When the pasta is ready, drain it and reserve about 1/4 cut of the water.  Put the pasta back in the cooking pot and pour the tuna mixture over it.  Remove the garlic cloves so no one eats them and accuses you of foul play.  Heat the pasta over a low temperature and add a bit of the pasta water or olive oil if you need more moisture.  Turn off the heat and stir in the Parmesan, adding more if you prefer.  Taste for seasonings and serve to a very happy family.

I mentioned on Friday that I'd be diving deeper into the Spring Capsule Wardrobe elements I included in my last post, but I've decided to use Fridays as the designated day for fashion posts.  Fashion Friday, it shall be dubbed.  Until something else comes up.  I can only imagine how the anticipation will build.  I mean, who doesn't want to know what t-shirts I prefer and why?  Good stuff.

Happy Meatless Monday.  We're having French toast with sourdough bread and orange juice, because who can manage to eat anything with syrup on it and not need orange juice afterward.  Few things are more satisfying, agreed?

I'm wearing this:

I found this scarf at Nordstrom Rack.  Target also has cute scarves at very affordable prices.  One cannot have too many scarves, I feel, so finding snazzy ones that don't cost a lot is quite a score.

gratitude:  some inner peace, youth sports, New Zealand accents, simplicity

thanks and love.

Friday, March 7, 2014

I'm Talking Fashion, Folks. Because It's Nice To Share Info About My Closet That Doesn't Involve The Remains Of The Pigeon Infestation We Enjoyed Last Year.

This weekend not only will we at the High House enjoy a pre-season lacrosse tournament (with expected temps in the high 60's and low 70's), but daylight savings time starts and we can move our clocks ahead on Sunday triggering a chain reaction of all things happy and Spring-like from that moment forward.  While snow may continue to fall in Colorado for the next couple months, the longer days will serve as a constant reminder that flip-flop season is right around the corner.  And with that it's time to consider our spring and summer wardrobes.

I like preparing a capsule wardrobe a couple times a year - one for Fall/Winter and one for Spring/Summer.  It's sort of my way of ringing in the new season - that along with switching from red wine to white.  I don't particularly like to shop - I like to buy.  So I get really organized instead and go about putting together my wardrobe in more of a hunter/gatherer fashion.  I think a capsule wardrobe is a wonderful way to ensure you always have something to wear that looks and feels good.  And if you put one together properly, it's easy to come up with a huge variety of cute outfits.  And we all want to look cute, am I right?

A critical aspect of creating a great basic collection is to stick to a color scheme.  Neutrals are best - I look for pieces in black, white, gray, khaki, and of course, denim to build my base.  Once that foundation is established, then I can branch out into other colors if I so desire.  I will probably add navy myself as an additional base color with a pop of pink or orange for some zing.  Green would also be a nice alternative to navy, if you're into that, and a bright yellow would make for a good accent color in lieu of pink or orange.  Wild Orchid is the Pantone color of 2014, so if you're looking to be super 'on-trend' you may want to find a few bonus pieces in that shade.  Wild Orchid would work great with both navy and green if you were using them, so fear not my fashion forward friend.

In a surprisingly anal retentive way, I actually categorize and list the pieces that are included in my seasonal capsule on paper.  The sections I include are:  tops, pants and shorts, skirts and dresses, shoes, toppers, and accessories.  I try not to put more than five items on average in each category - I think it complicates things otherwise and weakens the final product.  I review the pieces that will carry-over from past seasons - this is where sticking to a neutral palate really comes in handy because if a piece is still in good shape you can use it for several seasons - then I make a list of what slots remain to be filled.  

Knowing exactly what pieces I need and in which colors makes shopping so much easier and I can make sure I'm spending my money in a smart way.  I don't spend a ton on clothes.  I like to get good quality at a good price.  And since I work from a capsule collection, I wear each piece a lot.  This keeps my cost per wear low, so if I spend a bit  more on something I want to know I can use it for a few springs and summers.

Here is my 2014 Spring/Summer capsule collection:

White t-shirt (will need more than one - obvs.)
Black t-shirt (ditto)
Striped shirt
Ethnic print shirt
White peasant top

Pants and Shorts:
Skinny denim jean
White skinny jean
Wide-legged linen pant
Ankle length black pant
Khaki chino that can be rolled to ankle
White shorts
Khaki shorts
Printed shorts

Skirts and Dresses:
Denim pencil skirt
Short printed skirt
Solid maxi skirt
Solid summer dress
Printed summer dress

Gladiator sandals
Thong sandals
White sneakers
Strappy black heel
D'Orsay flat

Black blazer
White blazer
Long cardigan

Statement necklace
Long delicate
Long pendant
Statement earring
Two scarves
Daytime tote
Evening clutch

I'm going to add a little info about each section in upcoming posts so you can see how easy it is to put together a cute and useful wardrobe and still leave money in your budget for food, wine, and college tuition.  I'll start with tops on Monday.  I hope the anticipation won't cause you to lose sleep over the weekend.

Celebrate the start of daylight savings time with something tasty.  A white would be appropriate - I think the Beach House Sauvingnon Blanc is tasty and it has a screw top.  Bonus.  Enjoy the weekend, friends!

I'm wearing this:

Guess what?  It's snowing!

gratitude:  longer days, the start of lacrosse and soccer season, the bunnies in our backyard, Jon Stewart

thanks and love.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I Dread Putting My Hand Into The Drain Of Our Kitchen Sink. I Dropped A Match Down There The Other Night And Almost Convinced Myself It Would Disintegrate After Running The Disposal For Awhile, Then I Remembered That Our Disposal Can't Even Manage Potato Skins, So I Reluctantly Had To Dive In. I Found More Than Just The Matchstick In There, Unfortunately.

How aggravating is it when you go to the trouble to empty the dishwasher only to return to the kitchen to find dishes stacked up on the counter or, worse yet, in the sink filled with a pool of watery food remains?  It sends me over the edge.

I can actually have a conversation with people in my family while I'm emptying the dishwasher then moments later, watch that very same family member walk across the room, rinse their glass, and leave it on the counter just over the dishwasher space.  They were so close to finishing the job - what happened?  

Worst of all though, is when whomever is rinsing their plate believes that the dish needs to soak.  There is something so incredibly disgusting to me to find a plate or bowl in the kitchen sink filled with a milky-looking pool of water with soggy food bits floating atop.  It really gives me the gags to have to reach into the sink and touch the (now freezing cold) watery food soup to dump it out.  I think we need to more clearly define what is considered 'soak-worthy' at the High House.

Sometimes I feel my loved ones believe a plate is considered a 'soaker' when all it really needs is a high power blast of water from the faucet to make it dishwasher ready.  I'm willing to endure near boiling water running over my fingertips in order to actually melt food remains on a plate rather than use my fingernail or a scrubber to scrape it off myself.  It's not environmentally sound at all, but I use the sink faucet and spray nozzle more than any other kitchen tool.

I stood at the counter today and sprayed hot water on some peanut butter smears in the sink to dissolve them for almost three minutes.  It finally occurred to me that this probably wasn't the best use of our natural resources when my face started steaming from the hot water.   I ended up wiping the peanut butter off with a paper towel, but not before I realized this is the closest I've gotten to a facial in since I had kids.  It's a glamourous life, indeed.

I'm wearing this:

White jeans.  And a turtleneck sweater.  Because we have snow on the ground, but it's warm.  Colorado in the month of March is all about juxtaposition.

gratitude:  accents, chicken salad, flow, quiet

thanks and love.

Monday, March 3, 2014

I'm Really Tired Of Making Dinner. I Remember One Night When I Was Single And Broke, My Evening Meal Consisted Of Parmesan Cheese Melted On A Saltine. I Paired It With A Bottle Of Chardonnay And Some Cute New Shoes. I Had My Priorities After All.

I love to cook, but sometimes the thought of having to whip up another dinner makes me want to chew on tin foil.  Honestly, I can't even allow myself to do the math calculating how many dinners I've made - but suffice it to say, it's a lot.  Lately, I've started to notice the mere thought of making dinner causes me to completely lose my appetite.  This is totally psychosomatic - I have no control over it, but my mind is so bored with dinner that it is shutting down my body's desire to eat.  This could be an excellent turn on behalf of weight loss, but then I remember I have a family.  And they're hungry.

I've tried all sorts of things to jump start my cooking joy, but they really haven't been as effective as I'd hoped.  I bought one of those cookbooks disguised as a magazine at Whole Foods the other day.  It's titled, 'Slow Cooker Favorites' (insert raised eyebrow).  Crock-pot cooking has never been something I've enjoyed.  I like the way the house smells when there's something bubbling away all day, but food from the Crock-pot, to me, always comes out tasting a little off.  I need something crisp or a bit of texture in a dish and after 'five hours on low' there just isn't much to enjoy.  Plus, I thought the key to Crock-pot cooking was simplicity - you just toss a bunch of stuff into it and later in the day you magically have a tasty meal.  However the recipe I tried required almost an hour of dicing, mincing, and sauteeing.  Then everything went in the pot and spent hours on the counter only to be reduced later in the day to a somewhat tasty mush.  It was disappointing.

I think my mealtime malaise could also be a seasonal issue.  By this point in the winter, I can barely stomach another pot of chili, or pasta, or soup.  I'm so over cozy.  I want to sit on the patio and eat a salad.  Preferably made by someone else.  And that's just not in the cards at this point.  So I'm left with an overwhelming feeling of 'meh' when it comes to dinner.  What do you make when you're just not feelin' it?  I think I'm going to try to sell the family on a 'do it yourself' peanut butter and jelly sandwich night tonight.  I'll offer creamy and chunky, an array of different jellies, a couple bread options, and a few kinds of chips to be served alongside or right in the sammy if they've got some real PB&J chops.  I'm getting a bit of an ironic hipster vibe from this idea and I kinda like it.

I'm wearing this:

 I almost forgot I had these snakeskin print pants.  I'm toning down the sassy edginess of them by pairing them with my blue Converse.  I like a subtle print pant like this because they can go from dressy with a strappy heel to super casual with a pair of tennis shoes.  Of course, if you forget you have them all this valuable versatility goes to waste so I think staying on top of what you own is really the key here.

gratitude:  serendipity, the movie '20 Feet From Stardom', a full tank of gas, a promising weather forecast

thanks and love.