Friday Faves

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Happy Friday!  I hope everyone is enjoying the gray, rainy weather that has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest. I have to admit, I’ve been pretty excited to dig out my sweaters, raincoats, and Hunter boots this week (driving in the torrential downpours, however, not so much).  The forecast looks like more of the same for the next few days, so I hope your weekend plans include lots of fun indoor activities (building a fire in the fireplace, carving pumpkins, maybe making lasagna or apple crisp).  In the meantime, some links and pics to get you to 5 pm a little sooner (hopefully!). Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend!

photo-66{my grandma on her 95th birthday last weekend}

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photo-60{new fall lipsticks – NARS audacious in ‘raquel’ and ‘anna’}

photo 1-22{sleeping baby snuggles}

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Friday Faves

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{kate spade “one in a million” necklaces}

Happy Friday, friends! What are you up to this weekend? I’m still waiting for my baby nephew, if you can believe it.  At first I thought he was just fashionably late like his favorite auntie, but now I’m afraid he’s bordering on rude.  I had some fun plans this weekend that I’m going to have to miss, but of course it will be well worth it. I’m so excited to finally meet this little person, and to find out his name (my sister and her husband have it narrowed down to two and are going to flip a coin at the hospital – true story).  I have so many personalized and monogrammed items in my (virtual) shopping carts all over the interwebs, I can’t wait to finally complete my purchases with an actual name! Hint: it’s going to start with one of the letters above.

PSA: the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale ends on Sunday. So if you haven’t stocked up already, add that to your to do list for the weekend. My top five recommendations (aside from the Kate Spade necklaces) would be:

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{the beach this past weekend – this is literally a “#nofilter” photo}

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{new favorite face wash}

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{whale wins patio + summer white}

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{I put together this entire whale/beach/nautical themed package for Baby P, and intended for it to be a shower gift until I realized it needed to be “wrapped” in a Land’s End tote with his name on it – and of course we’re still waiting on a name.  And then I got impatient and gave it to my sister without the tote (which of course is in my cart, in two versions). But, isn’t it all just so cute? I’m pretty proud of the fact that I got every single one of these items on sale. The perks of having 20+ weeks to plan. Whale rattle here, beach towel here, all else long gone. Are you sick of all these baby clothes pics yet? At least we know there’ll be an actual baby by next week for sure.}

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Friday Faves

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{make your own ice cream sandwich at Hello Robin}

What are you up to this weekend? I’m heading to the coast for my cousin’s bachelorette party – we’re excited for some cooler beach temperatures after another sweltering week. And Baby Nephew Watch 2014 is officially ON – T minus one week to go.  I’m so excited I can hardly stay away from the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale bear it. Doctor says he might be early, so next week’s Friday Faves could be all baby pics (don’t say I didn’t warn you)!! My poor sis is more than ready for him to make his debut, but I’m hoping he sits tight until at least Wednesday so that he’s a Leo (not that I particularly care about astrological signs, but I’ve bought him a LOT of lion stuff and I don’t want it to be for naught). 

Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend. Links and faves to get you through your Friday morning (and the links even have a theme this week, I’m getting so fancy!):

  • How to grill anything and everything – so many helpful tips! 
  • How to make entertaining look easy – I would add “get yourself ready ahead of time.”  My aunt threw a dinner party this past Christmas and told me she told my uncle beforehand “our goal is to be sitting on the couch with a glass of wine half an hour before the guests arrive.” I’m usually still drying my hair when my guests arrive, but the thirty minute/wine/couch rule is now my goal too.
  • How to be the most popular person at a party – my friend Larisa brought these to a beach weekend a couple months ago and they were amazing! 
  • How to cure a headache – I need this! 
  • How to get really excited about this movie – ok this really isn’t a “how to” – but it does make me VERY excited for October 3rd!!  I hope you’ve all read the book – even if you hated the ending.  And if you haven’t read it yet, you have 2.5 months! 

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{my new summer obsession – stumptown cold brew}

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{love this organic lip/cheek color}

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{peaceful summer evening at the driving range}

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{some pics from my sister’s baby shower last month –  can you tell we were pretty into our alligator theme? invitations and banner from olive + star, alligator brownie toppers from etsy, DIY vases, cookie favors by yours truly, and cordy roy and his mini radio flyer from auntie/hostess Amanda}

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{and of course, my gift to baby p – hopefully he’s a baseball fan!}

Friday Faves

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{road trip + mcdonald’s cone}

Happy Friday, everyone! Look at me, two blog posts in two days.  I’m pretty proud of myself! (Taking two months off creates a bit of a FF backlog, but I’m going to do my best to catch up over the next few weeks).  I hope everyone has exciting plans for the weekend.  I’m helping out at my family’s annual charity golf tournament tomorrow – the forecast is 97, so wish us all luck not dying of heatstroke.  I hope your plans involve a beach or a pool instead!

Some fun links to get you through your Friday:

  • Orange lipsticks – what are your thoughts? I went to Nordstrom the other night in search of the second one (the most neutral, obviously) but tragically it’s been discontinued.  I was already at the MAC counter so I tried on the first one just for fun, but of course it made me look like a clown.  And by clown I don’t just mean like someone wearing an absurd shade of orange lipstick, I mean like someone you would pay to come to your child’s birthday party wearing a rainbow-striped wig and make balloon animals. Yikes.
  • I would like one of these right this minute.
  • I’m working my way through Emily’s monthly beauty buys – so far I’m still on April, but I’m loving this series (I bet she gets all her products as gratis too, no fair).
  • I don’t think I’m as obsessed with Ryan Gosling as much as the average female between the ages of 15-50 (I’m too busy planning my future with this man), but I find all of this freaking out pretty hilarious.
  • How to Write a Wedding Speech – I wish every best man would read this!

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{my dear friend alison’s gorgeous pacific palisades wedding}

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{new favorite pinot}

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{and favorite party punch from pinot release party}

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{new favorite skincare product – thanks emily!}

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{cuddle time with my (current) favorite newborn, sweet greta jane}

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{and her adorable big brother with his birthday cupcake and his trucks}

Cucumber Melon Salad with Feta, Basil, and Mint

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Happy summer, everyone! Sorry for the long hiatus from blogging – I wish I had a good excuse, but sadly I don’t. Life just gets so busy in the summer, who has time to cook? But, I’m back now and I have really good intentions of being more consistent. I have good intentions about a lot of things that don’t always come to fruition (gym, yoga, being punctual, curbing my binge-shopping for my unborn baby nephew – just to name a few), but I have a lot of recipes on my to-do list so I’m feeling good about my re-committment to the blog.

It’s finally summer here in the Pacific Northwest, where we can count on blue skies and sunshine only after the Fourth of July. And with temperatures in the 80s and 90s all week/weekend, what sounds better than a cold, crunchy, watermelon salad? I love getting my Martha Stewart Living each month, but I have this problem where I put magazines in a “to read” pile and then kind of forget about them (see above re: “good intentions”). But it’s my dad’s birthday today (Happy Birthday, Dad!!!) and watermelon is one of his all time favorite things, so when we celebrated earlier this week I dug through my pile and tried my best to copy the gorgeous picture on the cover.

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This salad really couldn’t be easier. Just cut up your melons and cucumber, throw in some herbs (you could use just mint or just basil – Martha only lists basil, and most watermelon salads only use mint – it was delicious with both but if you only have one or the other on hand it would be fine), toss with olive oil and lime juice, and you’re good to go.  The feta is totally discretionary – I liked it with, but it would be equally good without. You can prepare the salad ahead of time and then just toss with the dressing before serving. I like my watermelon as cold as possible, so keep the salad in the fridge until you’re ready to eat.

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Cucumber Melon Salad, adapted from Martha Stewart Living 

(note: Martha’s recipe is for one serving, mine serves a crowd)

One cantaloupe, cubed or balled
One small or one half large watermelon, cubed or balled
1-2 large or 3-4 small cucumbers, diced or sliced
Olive oil to taste
Lime juice to taste
Small handful mint leaves, torn or julienned
Small handful basil leaves, torn or julienned
1/4 cup – 1/2 cup crumbled feta, optional
Salt and pepper to taste, optional*

Toss together your melons and cucumber. I used the melon baller for my watermelon and diced the cantaloupe like Martha told me to, but you could cut both or ball both, whatever is easier. If you’re using regular cucumbers, I would cut them lengthwise into quarters and then dice them, but if you can find persian cucumbers (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, etc.) you can just slice them. I read once that in salads like this everything should be the same size (pieces of watermelon = pieces of cantaloupe = pieces of cucumber), so I used that as a rough guideline.

Just before serving, drizzle the cucumber and melons with olive oil and fresh lime juice and toss with mint and basil. I used only a tiny bit of olive oil and two limes (heavier on the lime, lighter on the oil) but you can adjust this to your liking. Garnish with additional mint and basil and sprinkle with feta, if using (I used it this time, but Martha doesn’t and I might not next time – it was good with it but would be just as good without). Chill in the fridge if time allows. 

*I didn’t use salt and pepper as I didn’t think the salad needed any – but if you weren’t using feta I think a little salt would be good.  

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Friday Faves: Miraval Edition

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 early morning desert hike

Last week my mom, sister, sister-in-law, and I had the incredibly good fortune to hop a plane to sunny Arizona and spend a few days at Miraval, an amazing resort and spa outside of Tucson that I’ve been referring to as “Oprah’s Spa” (Oprah and Gayle went a number of years ago, and then Oprah sent an entire audience full of groups of girlfriends during her final season – if you were wondering).  Our days went a little something like this: breakfast, fitness class/hike/yoga, coffee/juice/smoothie bar break, classes or lectures (fitness, nutrition, cooking, mental health, photography, you name it), lunch, spa treatment, more classes or lectures, maybe some pool time, happy hour, dinner, bed.   Needless to say, our trip wasn’t nearly long enough and I can’t wait to get back.  A few highlights:

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life in balance spa – my new happy place

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hummingbird mama and her babies in their nest in the courtyard (in a kumquat tree!)

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pool time (not pictured: my prickly pear iced tea, so delicious!)

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desert sunset

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cooking demo with the pastry chef – lemon raspberry cookies and arugula salad with honey dijon vinaigrette (recipes coming next week, get excited!)

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downtime at the villa

Grandma’s Minestrone Soup

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My grandma is a pretty cool lady – she turned 94 this past October, and she’s still going strong. She’s been married for 68 years, raised seven children, and doted on 26 grandchildren and five great grandchildren (so far), with a few more on the way. She’s a three-time cancer survivor and has gone through three hip replacements, and even though she now uses a walker to get around and struggles with arthritis in her hands, she still loves spending time in the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, she’d rather spend her morning shopping and then having lunch at the Nordstrom cafe (she and I have that in common), but even at 94 she still loves to cook for her family.

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Grandma is famous for her soups, though most of them don’t have recipes. Fortunately, she clipped this one out of The Oregonian (our local paper) many years ago, and we’ve all been gobbling it up ever since. It’s a pretty traditional minestrone soup, although you could definitely add/omit any vegetables and beans to your liking. It’s a great January soup because it’s so healthy  – especially if you didn’t add cheese and pesto at the end like my sister and I like to do. You could even omit the pasta if you wanted to, although it’s a pretty small amount so I usually leave it in.

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This soup comes together pretty quickly – you could even use the pre-chopped mirepoix that you can find at Trader Joe’s or high end grocery stores, although I kind of like the thick carrot coins that you can get by slicing them yourself. Of course I always use pre-chopped onions (Trader Joe’s was sold out when I went this time, so I used the onion-shallot-garlic mix, which worked just fine). If you don’t mind chopping onions, lucky you. If you do go with the pre-chopped option, however, all you have to do is slice the carrots, celery, parsley, and cabbage. Everything else just gets dumped right from the can into the soup pot.

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The recipe tells you to start with the broth and just dump all the veggies in. I like to start by sautéing the onions in a little olive oil, then adding the broth once the onions have softened up (5-10 minutes) and following the recipe from there.  I should probably note here that if you don’t have a really large soup pot or dutch oven, you might want to cut this recipe in half.  My dutch oven is a 5 1/2 quart (I think), and I could only add three of the four boxes of chicken stock before I started to worry that the pot would overflow once I added in everything else.  I have no idea what I used to make this soup in, but I’m now in the market for the 7 quart Le Cruset.

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Barely room for the beans and pasta, literally (add the pasta as close to the end as possible so the noodles don’t get too mushy). I ended up ladling about half of the soup into another soup pot and then adding my last box of chicken stock that way (2 cups in each pot). I’m now really thinking hard about what color 7 quart pot I want to get, though, because that just seems like an unnecessary step (read: any excuse to get a new Le Cruset!). This sounds like a shopping excursion for me and Grandma!

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Minestrone Soup, from The Oregonian, a really long time ago

4 quarts unsalted beef, chicken, or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons salt (less if you’re using store-bought broth – I used 2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
3 large carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
5 stalks celery, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 head cabbage, thinly sliced
2 cups chopped onions
1 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes (you can use a 14 1/2 ounce can if you like a less tomato-y soup, but I love it with the bigger can)
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
1 15 1/2 ounce can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 1/2 ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup uncooked macaroni noodles
Parmesan cheese and/or pesto for garnish (optional)

Bring stock to a rolling boil in a large stockpot.  Add the salt (if using store-bought broth, reduce the amount of salt to 1-2 teaspoons to start with), pepper, oregano, parsley, carrots, celery, cabbage, onions, and spinach. [Variation: I sauté my onions in a small amount of olive oil to begin. Once the onions have softened, add stock, bring to a boil, and add veggies and seasonings as instructed above.] Return to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until carrots are tender, about 30 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add the kidney beans, garbanzo beans, and pasta and  simmer until the macaroni is tender, about 10 minutes more. Turn off heat and let stand for one hour before serving. Garnish with parmesan and a dollop of pesto if desired.

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