Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day!  My little family spent our weekend on the shores of Lake Michigan soaking up the warm sun, building countless sandcastles and enjoying the colorful bounty of fruits and vegetables that early summer brings.

Flag by Jasper Johns

Today we honor those that gave their lives in military service.  It is difficult to find the right combination of words to express thanks for such heroes, and for their families who go on without them.  We know that freedom is not without a price, and are forever grateful for their sacrifices.

"The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it."    -Thucydides

Monday, May 24, 2010

My Perfect Patio

Last weekend we did our summer planting, which consists mostly of filling simple, pretty pots with brightly colored annuals on the front steps and back patio and praying I don't kill them by mid-season.  Every morning as I spend a few minutes watering the flowers, I imagine what my perfect backyard oasis would look like if I had unlimited funds and time to devote to it.

I'd start by adding a huge teak dining table where we could have fabulous summer dinner parties and family meals.  Around it I'd put these fun aluminum "Samantha" chairs found here.  They can be used outdoors and I love their bold colors and sleek, modern lines, the antithesis of my imaginary rustic teak table.

While we're at it, I'd like a fire pit, this one found here on Sunset Magazine's site.

Oh, and I'd also like this outdoor kitchen.  Is that too much to ask?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pork and Greens

This recipe is one of my favorite weeknight go-to dinners.  It's an extremely simple dish, not even a dish so much as a few ingredients thrown together after everyone else has been fed.  Loosely adapted from the traditional Szechuan dish "Ants in a Tree", I give you the cleverly named "pork and greens".

1/2 lb ground pork
3 cups bok choy (dark green portion)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp grated ginger
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
2 cups rice
sriracha (optional)

  • Stir cornstarch into pork until the pork is lightly coated.  Stir in soy sauce and sugar.  Set aside.
  • Heat wok on high, adding half the vegetable oil and half the grated ginger.  When wok is smoking, add pork.  Stir fry the seasoned pork until it is completely cooked through and there is no pink remaining.  Some bits will have a crispy brown edge.  Remove from wok and set aside.
  • Add the remaining vegetable oil and grated ginger to the wok.  Wok should already be warm and therefore heat quickly. Add diced yellow onion to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes until fragrant.  Add the greens and let them cook down in the pan.  Stir to coat with oil.  Add the sesame oil and stir. 
  • Once the greens have cooked down and are dark in color, return the pork to the pan.  Stir the pork mixture into the greens until combined. 
  • Serve over a bed of rice (I prefer Thai sticky rice, but Jasmine will work nicely too).  Dot with Sriracha for a bit of heat.  Serve and enjoy.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Matryoshka Measuring Cups

Happy Saturday! This weekend I am spending some quality time with my little ones, squeezing in a little cooking and baking during nap times and their allotted Sesame Street viewing time.

I think I'll use the adorable Matryoshka measuring cups I picked up with the birthday money my sweet Grandma sent me. 

I've had my eye on these for a while, but they keep selling out before I can get my hands on them.  Modeled after the traditional Russian nesting doll, this set comes with three dolls that fit inside each other, and the tops and bottoms double as measuring cups from 1/4 to a full cup.  I actually got them at a boutique in Chicago, but they are in stock and available now at Urban Outfitters

Thanks for the gift, Grandma! 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Homemade Life

I just finished reading another recipe-filled memoir (my newest literary obsession), this one by the fabulously talented Molly Wizenberg of Orangette.  Her book, A Homemade Life, is a blogger's inspiration.   When I stumbled upon it while perusing the shelves at Borders, I immediately had to take it home and dive in.

As a blogger who also has a full-time gig completely unrelated to my domestic ramblings, I often struggle with sharing enough personal information to give my writing meaning and revealing myself completely, flaws and all.  Wizenberg is refreshingly open and forthcoming as she beautifully articulates her love for her late father, chronicles meeting her husband, and shares everything in between while feathering in simple, delicious recipes that flow brilliantly through the story of her life.

I loved the book and am working my way through the amazing recipes, starting with the chocolate banana bread with crystallized ginger.  Yep, it tastes as good as it sounds.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sweet Paul Magazine

Have you checked out the first issue of Sweet Paul Magazine yet?


This fabulous digital magazine is filled with gorgeous photos of crafty projects, mouth-watering recipes and perfect party ideas that will make you swoon.  The layout is fantastic and the ideas completely inspired.  I'm hooked, and I think you will be too.  I'm off to test one of the super delicious ramps recipes I found inside!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy, Happy Mother's Day to all the moms and caregivers out there.  Motherhood, no matter what form it comes in, is the toughest, most rewarding job in the world.

I was lucky enough to be able to celebrate with my mom this weekend, who happens to not only be an amazing mom, but the coolest Grandma around.  She also has this ridiculous ability to design or create just about anything, including art, poetry, floral arrangements...the list goes on and on.  Her talents have inspired me to try my hand at floral arranging and planting over the last few years, projects which used to intimidate me but now I very much enjoy.

For my Mother-In-Law, I put together this pink and orange bouquet using a few stems purchased at our local grocery store's mix and match floral section.  I was thrilled to find one lonely stem of peonies (it's early May, and who sells peonies for $4?  total score).  Paired with some orange tulips and berries, and a few lillies, I put this arrangement together for around $15.  Unfortunately it was after midnight when I took the photo, and my sorely lacking camera skills hardly do it justice.  But I digress...

My husband and I picked out a few of our favorite annuals and filled up this lovely planter for his Grandma to put on her front steps.  Again, the subpar camerawork doesn't show you to gorgeous multi-hued dahlias, bright, fuzzy celosia, and bubble gum pink gerbera daisies, but Gramsie loved it.

As Mother's Day winds to a close, I am left thinking how very lucky I am to have such a fantastic mom to learn from, and two spectacular, hilarious, sweet and sometimes mischevious children to allow me to earn the mommy title myself.  So very lucky.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Teacher Appreciation Week

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! For all of the teachers out there, thank you for everything you do. You are truly unsung heroes and make such a difference in the lives of children.

Today is teacher appreciation day at my childrens’ school, so I woke up at 5 am to bake them these awesome treats. The recipe comes from the Pioneer Woman’s web site (she happens to be one of my favorite bloggers out there). These decadent goodies have become my new go-to for brunches, parties and general impress-your-houseguests sort of delights.

I picked up some gerbera daisies, lilies and other assorted flowers and made bouquets that the kids could give to their teachers. My little Dash was so excited to present his teacher with her flowers that he skipped giddily into school instead of his usual Charlie Brown-esque head down swagger.  Princess Remy was not quite as excited to share her flowers, but did try to take a bite out of them.  All in a day's work.

Thanks teachers!  Enjoy your special week.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

What The Dog Saw: And Other Adventures

I would venture to guess that most everyone who reads nonfiction on a regular basis has read at least one book by Malcolm Gladwell.  He is a brilliant writer, presenting true life stories in a way that the reader has probably never looked at them.  What The Dog Saw: And Other Adventures, his latest work, is a collection of his best essays that have been published in The New Yorker over the past 15 years.

{image via}
Some of the essays in the book are riveting, and a few I could have lived without.  I found the profiles on Cesar Milan, "The Dog Whisperer" and Ron Popeil, the celebrated pitchman to be completely fascinating.  Gladwell consistently forces the reader to look at things in a different way, and consequently I always feel challenged after reading his work.

If you're a Gladwell fan, this book is a must.  If you haven't experienced his unique, thought-provoking writing, What The Dog Saw is a great way to start, in the form of easily digestible essays that will exercise your mind and leave you hungry for more of his fascinating brand of writing.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Happy May Day

Happy May Day!  I have fond childhood memories of celebrating this holiday by spending countless hours crafting May baskets in the form of treat cones filled with wildflowers, candies and other delights.  My friends and I would hang these on neighbors' doors, ring their doorbells and run, leaving them to smile at the anonymous gift.

Fast forward a decade or two, the celebrations and gestures of May Day as I remember them seem to be a thing of the past.  But wouldn't it be lovely to find this basket of flowers from a friendly neighbor on your door today?

{image via flickr}