Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving Contributions

My contributions to this year's Thanksgiving dinner did not include turkey, mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes. They didn't include pies or cranberry sauce.

Instead I made two contributions to my new family's table: I removed pomegranate seeds for an hour and I made mac and cheese. Thanksgiving should be so easy, right?

So if you didn't know already, here's how you eat a pomegranate. You try your best to cut it in half over a plastic or glass cutting board, since the juice will stain.

You then cut the halves into more halves and more halves and more halves until you have some very manageable pieces to work with. Fill a bowl with water, and submerging your hands with the pomegranate slices, gently push the seeds out. They'll sink to the bottom and the membrane will stay at the top.

It will take FOREVER. But it's worth it. We ate the pomegranate seeds with our salad and also dropped a few into glasses of prosecco. Very tasty.

In the midst of all that seed-pushing, Katie discovered this Simple Stirrings martini mix for spiced apple martinis. Don't mind if we do!

For the mac and cheese, I usually use a variation on a few different recipes. I shredded gruyere and white cheddar cheese.

And while the mac was boiling, melted 4 tablespoons of butter, whisked in flour and then added 3 cups of whole milk. I think it either could have used more milk or less flour, but it was still edible.

I topped it with panko bread crumbs, bacon crumbles and green onions, since we didn't have any chives. It baked in the oven for 20 minutes at 375. It was good, but it was better the second day because: We used normal, Italian-style bread crumbs, and we added more cheese and milk.

The key to good mac and cheese is to use very strong cheese. The mac and the cream will absorb a lot of the flavor, so you want something that will pack a real punch.

It was a great Thanksgiving otherwise. My mother-in-law ordered a smoked turkey, and all she had to do was heat it for 30 minutes. It was delicious. Seriously. I'm never going back. If you're interested in smoked turkey (and why aren't you?), you can order it here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Thankful List

Things I am thankful for:
  1. My husband, who manages to survive living with a scorpio Latina, who cheerfully doesn't ask questions when I don't feel like cooking, who cleans the dishes even when he didn't get to eat whatever I cooked, who cleans his bathroom more than I clean mine, who will drive an hour with me to pick up an antique chair off Craigslist, then kill time driving around neighborhoods, fantasizing about our future dream house.
  2. My family, who truly rose to the occasion for our wedding and made me proud to call them mine. I might be biased, but I think my parents and grandparents are just the best. They dance, they sing, they laugh at my jokes, they make funny jokes, and we can talk about anything from "Peanuts" to the cap-and-trade legislation.
  3. My friends, who overwhelm me with their love. I recently turned 26 and if there is one wonderful thing that comes with each year, it's further acceptance of who I am, what makes me unique, what my faults are and where my strengths lie. I couldn't do that without friends who challenge me, accept me and help me be my best me.
  4. You faithful folks who read my ramblings on this old blog of mine.
  5. Cheese. Seriously. It ranks in my top 5 things I'm thankful for.
  6. Health.
  7. A job that challenges me, interests me and keeps me in the loop.
  8. My relationship with the little girl I mentor, and how much more confident she's made me around children. Maybe I'd actually be a good mom someday?
  9. The Internet. Srsly. The ability to have access to everything is just beyond.
  10. The freedom to do what I want, say what I want, go where I want and be whoever I want. It's a wonderful gift and I try not to take it for granted.
What are you thankful for this year? My list is pretty darn corny, but it's true. I'm spending Thanksgiving with my new in-laws and I've deemed myself the macaroni-and-cheese maker. I'm pretty excited about it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Verabel Lockets

Omigosh, I'm DYING for these lockets from Verabel, a jeweler based in Oregon. The designs were a collaboration with the fabulous Alyson Fox. I found them via A Cup of Jo, and I'm pretty sure they'd be the perfect Christmas gift for me (most especially the top one, hint hint) or any other stylish gal in your life.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sundance Catalog Headboard

Soon after I wrote that post on mastering the Masculin-Feminin style of decorating, I stumbled upon this bed frame at Sundance Catalog. Railroad ties reimagined in a feminine shape? Yes, please.

Duvet Love

Do you ladies ever feel like you need to compromise on style a bit to satisfy the man that now shares your bedroom? I will always be drawn to soothing spa colors for the bedroom, but I'm trying to keep the Danish modern teak thing going on to lend it that masculin-feminin mix.

I think I will always be undeniably girly, but lately, I was feeling a little sorry for Sean. We've slept with my uber-girly quilted satin coverlet for a couple years now, and as much as I love it, there's no denying it looks like something Marilyn Monroe would have had in her bedroom.

It's also incredibly slippery, which means when Sean inevitably kicks off the sheets, it slides right off the bed, leaving me shivering.

Sean also hates blankets, so I was trying to come up with a way to keep me warm as we move into the new seasons without having to layer 50 blankets on the bed. Using one of our wedding gift cards, I invested in a down comforter and ordered this pintuck duvet cover in natural from West Elm.

What I liked about it is that it kind of hints at the style of my old coverlet, but is in a more dude-friendly cotton. I also thought the pintucks somewhat resemble origami, and what's more manly that Japanese paper art? LOL.

But in all seriousness, did you feel the need to adjust your style for that extra Y chromosome now taking up space in your home?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wino Wednesday: Still Eclectic Tapas

In celebration of a recent onslaught of birthdays in our wine club, we ventured to downtown Portsmouth, Va. for a fun dinner. Our original restaurant choice seemed to have shuttered its doors, so we had to quickly find a replacement. Lauren suggested Still Wordly Eclectic Tapas, a speakeasy-inspired tapas restaurant located in the basement of a building on Court Street.

Considering it wasn't our first choice, Still absolutely blew us away. Their drink menu featured all those classic cocktails you never see on menus: Sidecars, Old-Fashioneds and more. I ordered a Moscow Mule which was refreshing and tart and minty deliciousness. A Moscow Mule is made with vodka, ginger beer, lime juice and sometimes, mint. It was fabulous!

We ordered a bunch of random items, all of which were delicious. Forgive the horrible flash lighting! These are the pork and ginger potstickers, with spaghetti squash. They were SO GOOD.

Banana fritters with caramel sauce.

Pumpkin ginger spice cake with coffee ice cream.

Crab cake!

Bacon-wrapped tater tots with chili ketchup. Also super good.

All of us ladies! The birthday girls sweetly received mini Astis from Miranda.

I can't recommend Still enough; we really enjoyed it and the atmosphere was great, too.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sunday Best v.41

I've been organizing the many pictures I had stored on my desktop that inspired me, and I came across this old one from a house tour on Apartment Therapy. The owner needed to divide the spaces in her studio apartment and I think this is just the trick.
  • French Toast Candy Bar, anyone?
  • Design inspiration from Sense and Sensibility.
  • Love NPR? Love rap? I present the NPR rap.
  • The scale of pain you should take to the doctor's office.
  • If you are geeky like me, you will probably love the White House Museum website.
  • Pinterest is like retweeting for visual people. All the prettiest images, repinned.
  • A precious stop-motion tour of Paris.
  • And YouTube removed the link, but you must find the Jimmy Fallon clip of "Neil Young" and Bruce Springsteen performing "Whip My Hair." It's superb.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sunday Best v.40

My birthday is today, and I'm feeling pretty blessed to see color like this every year for my birthday. Fall is my very favoritest season, and it's certainly lovely in Virginia. These links are a bit late (not exactly Sunday, is it?), but I was a little busy prepping for my early birthday party yesterday.

Friday, November 12, 2010

New J.Crew Wedding Gowns

I think J.Crew's wedding gowns just get better and better. They're designing chicer, lovelier gowns than half of the wedding designers out there. All my engaged friends, I beg of you to drop $2,400 on the Starburst gown up top.

How dreamy is that tulle overlay? This is lovely Lorna, and she costs $3,000.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lanvin at H&M

Have you guys gotten a lookie-loo at the Lanvin for H&M line yet? I've had these pictures hanging out on my desktop for a week, and finally remembered to post them!
I DIE for this dress! It might be a little too glamorous for most of our holiday parties, but c'mon, let's live a little!

For those of you who don't know, Alber Elbaz is a fantastical genius, who seems to always know exactly what every girl wants in her closet. The full selection will be available in stores on Nov. 20 in the U.S. and Canada, and it also includes some lovely dinner jackets for the fellas and plenty of fun costume jewelry.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Our Wedding: Photo Booth

One of my dream fantasies was to have one of those amazing photo booths that I've seen at every wedding in the blogosphere. I wanted to have a realio trulio photo booth, but we just didn't have any extra cash in our budget.

I deeply pondered all our options, but in the end, I bought a vintage frame, had my friends hang it in a tree and put out a prop display. The whole thing would have gone off without a hitch if the lights in the tree had been working; you could barely see the camera in the dark! Nevertheless, my friends got in on the action and had plenty of fun with it.

For props, I did a quick run-through of the Halloween pop-up store and bought lace "Lady Gaga" bunny ears, fake mustaches, eye masks and a host of fun sunglasses. I bought the chalk and chalkboards at Dollar Tree, and we used our own Nikon D70. Enjoy the pics!

I only have one wedding post left to go: a master list of vendors. In the meantime, I'm getting pumped for my birthday party this weekend! Hint: It involves pizza and ice cream cake!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mini Lasagnas

I am terrible with leftovers. First of all, I hate eating the same thing two days in a row. Second of all, I think very few things taste as good or better the second time around. Thirdly, I'm just not that creative with leftovers.

But a couple of weeks ago, I totally rocked leftovers for the better! I had a busy day at work ahead, so I set up the slow cooker to make bolognese sauce. Then, two days later, we were invited to go tailgating and needed a snack to bring. I remembered this recipe for mini lasagnas, so — ta da! — the bolognese didn't go to waste AND I brought a super delicious dish to our tailgate. Win-win, for sure.

The magic that makes these possible is wonton wrappers, which are usually available near the tofu in most grocery stores (typically near the produce and random Naked and Acai juices). The first step is to cut the wrappers into rough circle shapes. I don't have a biscuit cutter, so I used a wine bottle and cut around the base with a paring knife.

This yielded very rough circles, which I stuffed into muffin pans that had been spritzed with olive oil cooking spray.

Once the first round of wonton wrappers went down, I added a dollop of ricotta cheese and a sprinkling of mozzarella. I was out of parmesan, but that would have been a good addition, too.

Then added a scoop of the bolognese and repeated the process one more time: wonton wrapper, ricotta, bolognese and much more mozzarella.

I put the mini lasagnas in an oven preheated to 375 and baked for about 20 minutes. You want them to get sturdy enough to hold in your hand, but not crispy. The cheese should form a little burnt crust — a.k.a the most delicious part.

I packed them up to take them to the tailgate, and I don't mind saying they killed. They were super delicious and anyone could make them for their next party hors d'oeuvres. You could easily make them vegetarian, as well, by subbing eggplant for the meat in the sauce.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday Best v.39

My hair is getting long these days, on its way to being as long as this Gap model's pretty hair. As cool and pretty as hers looks, I'm fairly certain I'm going to chop it off, but I'm a little torn. What do you guys think?
  • The best Halloween costumes.
  • Ever gone to text "boo" and had your autocorrect replace it with "bipolar"? This is a blog for you.
  • In case you missed it: the best of the Rally for Sanity signs.
  • This photographer plays with the idea of the burdens we carry.
  • Amy Sedaris is at it again, this time sharing her perverse crafts.
  • A brave mom who loves her son the way he is, thankyouverymuch.
  • Possibly the most brilliant food product I've seen in a long time.
p.s. I fell a little behind on my wedding recaps; I have two more to go and then we'll all move on with our lives! Thank you for remembering it with me.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Our Wedding: Decor and Food

Photo by Pat Jarrett.

To be completely honest with you, this is probably the post I was most looking forward to sharing! I understand not everybody enjoys a do-it-yourself wedding, but I come from the kind of family where my mother/father/grandmothers would look at something and say, "I can make that."

I wanted the family to feel like an antique garden party. I told my mother I wanted it to give the impression we just gathered some stuff out of grandma's attic and planned a last-minute party. I could not have executed this vision without plenty of time to plan, and I had a leisurely year-and-a-half to pull it together.

The weekend before the wedding, I made three wooden signs out of posts and pre-cut arrows I purchased from Michaels and secured with wood glue. Directional signs were crucial because there were three weddings in the same complex that night!

Sara and I spent two days in April punching hearts out of the "Twilight" books to make these garlands. We used twine from the $1 bin at Target, and bought the heart hole punches at Michael's. I chose to use the "Twilight" books because they were the only literature I could imagine destroying; I figured fans of the books would think it was romantic and people who hated the books would think it was funny.

My friend Bret told me it was hilarious to see people reading the hearts and saying, "Oh, this is when Jacob is teaching Bella how to ride a motorcycle..."

Sara, my stepsister Crysta and I all worked to make the glitter stars. We purchased cardboard 3d stars from Michaels, and used Martha Stewart glitter in gold, silver and bronze. They were gorgeous! We hung them from the trees with ribbon, also purchased from Michael's, and I plan to use them as Christmas decor for the rest of my life.

I picked up this sweet vintage cake topper from the 1940s at my favorite antiques store in Staunton, Va. It's called 17 East Beverley (which is also its address), and has to be one of my favorite places to while away the hours. The sweet lady at the checkout counter said it was from her collection, and told me she used her entire collection as centerpieces at her son's wedding. Isn't that a sweet idea?

I didn't want to spend a lot of money on favors and I've always liked edible favors, so I decided to do a candy bar and give people muslin bags that they could fill with candy. For our candy bar, I collected apothecary jars and vases from Target, TJ Maxx and various other places.

Our candy bar included Twizzlers, Sixlets, M&M's, Swedish Fish, cotton candy-flavored rock candy swizzle sticks and Charleston Chews (an old favorite of my mom's). I ordered the swizzle sticks and chews from Candy Crate, the only place I could find the right flavor of rock candy!

Ashleigh kindly hand-stamped each of these muslin bags, which are just so excellent for all kinds of gift bags. I always receive Anthropologie jewelry in them, but they are great for sachets, office products, candy, etc.

I ordered 100 of the bags for $25 from Celestial Gifts. The stamps were office-themed, because Sean and I met at our college newspaper office. They are made by Cavallini.

The vintage Coca-Cola crate, by the way, is from a great antique store in Newport News called Plantiques. It's located in Hilton Village, right on Warwick Avenue.

We agonized over what to do for a guest book. My original dream was to use a typewriter, like all the cool couples in blogland and Martha Stewart Weddings. But despite months of searching, we couldn't find an affordable, usable typewriter and I was becoming desperate.

When my friend Miranda was married, her guest book had cute little cards with writing prompts in a blank scrapbook. The prompts asked guests to predict how many children the couple would have, and where they would live; others had Mad Libs-style paragraphs to fill in. I liked that idea, but I wasn't having much luck finding a completely blank scrapbook. Stymied again!

THEN, a week before the wedding, I spotted John Derian's hollow storage books at Target and I knew I had found the perfect guest book for us. Using a card catalog we keep in the office as storage, I printed four newspaper-themed prompts on the back of index cards: Archive, Headline, Horoscope and Advice Column.

People filled them out, stuck them in the box and the box will go on our bookshelf. It was great fun to read people's advice and predictions for our future, and the headlines were really fun.

I was equally stuck on what to do for programs, but I knew I didn't want to spend a lot of money because experience has shown that no one other than parents keeps them.

I decided to keep our color scheme and print two pages on the cheap pastel paper you can buy at Office Max, then secure them with fabric tape from Michael's. The first page featured our bridal party and the ceremony info, while the second page had our thank you's and shout outs to all the people who helped make our wedding happen.

I bought the Canada Dry crate at the Williamsburg Antique Mall. I decided to use crates at the wedding because they can easily be used and reused for storage for the rest of our lives. That was very important to me...I wanted to see reminders of my wedding in my home.

I love this shot Ryan got of the Bentleys looking into the venue; the Bentleys were my second family growing up!

Our caterer was Sweet Madeleine's, based in Gloucester. They were amazingly flexible, and brought out all sorts of little touches I wouldn't have even known to request. We told them we wanted food that was unpretentious, delicious and easy to eat. I wanted people to mix and mingle, and make a meal out of whatever they liked.

Our menu included: cinnamon bourbon brie tarts (above), sesame chicken skewers, caprese skewers, shrimp cocktail, Virginia ham biscuits, assorted fruit and cheese and the piece de resistance -- mini burgers with a display of toppings.

Sean doesn't much care for cake, so we had a groomsman run out and buy an apple pie to surprise him. He ended up not having a bite!

I bought the napkins on close-out sale from For Your Party!