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“Smile, you’re prettier when you do”

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:::::trigger warnings::::::  loss mentioned

One of my biggest annoyances in life is when random strangers, hell even people I know,  tell me to “smile”. As if my face is too pitiful to gaze upon when my mouth is not stretched wide revealing a sea of porcelain white teeth.
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The day I found out the twins I was carrying, had died inside me, I left work and headed straight to a liquor store. With mascara streaks down my cheeks, I placed a bottle of vodka on the counter and pulled out my money. Much to my surprise the man behind the counter told me, “you’re too pretty to not smile, you should smile more”. Dumbfounded, I just said “ok.” Who the hell was this guy to tell me to smile?! He knew nothing of my life, of me, or the devastating news I had just received, yet he felt compelled to tell me to smile, to judge me.
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When we walk through this life, do we see people for who they are, Flawed and emotional creatures? Or, do we see them only from our own perspective? Perspectives that are colored by our own individual experiences and molded by our own abilities to handle life in a way that makes our worldly experience unique. Why can’t we just leave ourselves out of the equation? Just accept that not everything is rosy for everyone?
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I write this because, yet again, I have miscarried another little babe. A baby who was planned for, who was wanted, who was dreamt of.  Another baby I will never hold, cuddle, worry about, or love on…….

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I didn’t head straight for the liquor store when I heard the news….. instead I saved myself the judging glances, and had that bottle waiting at home as this miscarriage wasn’t a big surprise.

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Please be careful with your judgements of others. Instead, just assume that you have no idea what journey they are on, and love them for the human-beings that they are… just like you….Flawed and emotional….. and sometimes without a smile to give.

Ode to Summer…

 

Summer is quickly coming to a close.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of summer. The heat usually has me wishing for all things winter.  But, I do love some of the quintessential traditions that summertime carries with it! BBQs and tanned skin to name a couple.  I am also a fan of watermelons (the only melon I actully like).  To me there is nothing more refreshing than mixing watermelon into a salad.  But, have you grilled a watermelon before?  I know, it goes against everything a watermelon is (92% water), kinda like deep fried ice cream…. just one of those things that just doesn’t make a lot of sense, but turns out delicious!

Before summer closes on those delicious watermelons, go grab one and grill it up!  You will be pleased!

Grilled Watermelon Salad

Ingredients
* 1 whole mini watermelon
* 4 ounces feta cheese, cubed
* Two limes or lemons juiced
* 1 cup thinly slices fresh basil
* Freshly ground black pepper to taste
* Balsamic reduction for drizzling, (I use Fini Modena)

Instructions

1. Cut the watermelon into 1 inch thick slabs leaving rind on and brush lightly with olive oil
2. Place the slabs of watermelon onto a heated grill and grill for approximately 2-3 minutes per side or until marked
3. Remove watermelon slabs from grill, cut off the rind, then cut watermelon into 1 inch cubes and place in colander to drain for 20 mins
4. Toss the drained cubes of watermelon with the basil, pepper, and lime juice.
5. Before serving, Gently fold cubed feta into salad.
6. Drizzle salad with the balsamic reduction.

 

 

Cultivating Home

Cultivating my nest is probably my most favorite of things. Raising the little birds in our lovely nest, becomes even more exciting when I get to exercise my creative talents. And it is time to refresh!

Greg and I have purchased a new house. It is a lovely ranch house with a little barn and corral. We plan on purchasing a couple of Pygmy goats in the near future to add to our little farm. It is all incredibly exciting. The house has a wonderful footprint and with some minor updates, it will really be ours!

So, let the redecorating commence! Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a H U G E fan of the French Farmhouse look. The challenge with the house that we purchased is mostly in the kitchen. We will be keeping the same footprint, but refreshing everything else.

I am truly inspired by the muted color tones with the occasional pop of vintage inspired colors. Think, grays, white, and of course robin egg blue. Throw in a little red and the dark accents like wrought iron, and voila! You have a modern twist on the vintage French Farmhouse!

Stay Tuned for more on our redecorating project………..

 

And now, some inspirational images from my look book!

 

Caprese, Caprese, Caprese Pasta that is!

I am a big fan of baked pasta dishes.  They are both fundamentally simple and tasty at the same time.  I need simplicity in my life, and a baked pasta dish for dinner provides that luxury.

Today’s recipe is made vegetarian, but you could easily add chicken and/or substitute the vegetable broth for chicken broth.  To make the dish a lighter healthier option, you could also cut the cheese down by half and/or use light mozzarella cheese instead of whole milk mozzarella.  No matter what you choose, the dish is bound to be delicious!

Baked Caprese Rigatoni

1 cup fresh basil leaves (chopped or torn) divided
4 cloves garlic (minced)
1 3/4 cup grape tomatoes (cut in half)
3 cups uncooked rigatoni pasta
3 cups vegetable broth
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups shredded whole milk mozzarella (divided)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine 1/2 cup of basil, garlic, tomatoes, uncooked pasta, salt, and 1 cup shredded mozzarella in a bowl and mix. Pour ingredients into baking dish and pour vegetable broth over the ingredients. Cover tightly with foil and place in oven to bake for approximately 45 mins or until pasta is al dente.

Remove the dish from the oven, stir and top with remaining cup of mozzarella cheese. Return dish to oven and allow to bake approximately 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining fresh basil.

Viola! Dinner is served!

SUMMER is COMING

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While Jon Snow was most concerned with winter, I am more concerned with shedding my winter layers for a more nekked style coat, aka, a bikini. And that friends, is why I need to jump start my metabolism, boost my immune system, and ahem, detox my liver (winter boozing was in full effect!)

I created my own master cleanse after going through IVF four years ago. I put on about 35 pounds of sad weight. I say “sad weight” because, it was the weight I gained after several pregnancy losses and my body being pumped full of IVF hormones…. and, the booze and comfort eats that came with it.

I knew that I needed to loose the weight and purify my body. I needed to cleanse my heart and my body, and shed that sad weight. So, I amped up my exercise, decreased my caloric intake, implemented clean eating, and developed a daily cleansing drink that I want to share with you! With these three components, I safely lost 35lbs in 8 months and have kept it off, even through my successful pregnancy!

This cleanse has all of the important components: immune and metabolic boosters, plus liver purifying properties….. But, it is also low calorie, delicious, and contains just 5 ingredients! So, it is super EASY to boot!

Here you go!

6 lemons
5 strawberries
1 tsp Cayenne pepper
Honey, stevia, or agave nectar to taste
1 liter of Filtered water

Juice the 6 lemons, purée the strawberries, add cayenne pepper, honey and 1 liter of filtered water. This concoction will make about 2 liters, and will keep for several days when refrigerated. You can dilute it with more water to stretch out the use. I usually drink mostly just this concoction for several days, so adding water to the mix helps stretch it out that long. In order to achieve the best results from this cleanse, it is vital that you eat cleanly as well.

Watch…. or should I say WD watches?

IMG_7087.JPGProducts!  Don’t we all love a great product?  Well, I sure do!  So, let me tell you about my favorite watch designer….

Daniel Wellington!

I bought my Daniel Wellington watch about 8 months ago. It is truly a beautiful, classic time piece! There are several face sizes to pick from for women; 26mm, 34mm, and 36mm. I went with the classic 36mm white face in rose gold finish, because well, I love all the rose gold things!

I think my favorite thing about the watch, besides the classic look and rose gold finish, would definitely have to be the selection of BANDS! There is such a variety to choose from, that you can literally compliment your entire wardrobe with the selection! Because you can change your band to match nearly everything in your wardrobe, you really only ever need one time piece! What a bargain!

I’ve owned a variety of watches, by a variety of different designers, and Daniel Wellington watches are the most lightweight and classic of all the designs, and they also come in a variety of different finishes! They are priced super well, with prices starting around $150usd!

{hint, hint to my hubby for our upcoming wedding anniversary 😉}  I may need a few new bands!

Roasted Red Peppers Garlic

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I can’t quite find a title to do this recipe justice. This is just a recipe that is so simple, but so damn delicious, that you will get excited every time you make it!

4-5 large red bell peppers
1/2 olive oil or sunflower oil
2 tbsps red wine vinegar
5 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
Dash of salt
Fresh cracked black pepper

1. Roast the bell peppers. I do this in the oven on broil, but this can be done on the grill as well. You are going to roast the bells until they are blackened.
2. While the peppers are roasting, chop your garlic and set aside.
3. Remove blackened peppers and place in bowl and cover with a towel. Allow the peppers to cool. Covering the peppers with a towel will allow the peppers to steam and the skins will be easier to remove.
4. Skin the peppers and remove the seeds.
5. Cut or tear the peppers lengthwise and place in a large bowl.
6. Mix in garlic, oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Serve peppers warm or cold with a nice crusty baguette.

Bon Appetit

Soup du jour

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Soup, is where it’s at! And I do soup, very well!

I love how a good soup can warm you up on a cold day. I also appreciate, how soup has healing properties for your soul! I consider soup the ultimate in comfort food, but without the caloric devastation of comfort food (for the most part anyway).

I make several types of soup on a regular rotation: potato soup, vegetarian tortilla soup, vegetarian chili, pea soup, and vegetarian Italian wedding soup.

The soup up today, Vegetarian Italian Wedding Soup. I do use chicken stock for the base, but you could easily substitute with vegetable stock.

8 cups chicken stock
Bunch of chopped kale
Bag of baby spinach
Can fire roasted tomatoes
3 large chopped carrots
1 bag gardein vegetarian “meatballs”
1 cup Israeli couscous
1/4c olive oil
Tbsp garlic powder
Salt and black pepper to taste

Place all ingredients except for meatballs and couscous into a large heavy pan. Allow to cook on medium flame until kale and carrots are soft. Add couscous and meatballs and simmer soup for about 10 mins. Serve soup with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and fresh cracked black pepper.

Bon appetit

You sleep, I sleep, we all sleep….

Processed with VSCO with c3 presetI co-sleep, and not just with my husband. We also sleep with little Miss Willow. I’ve tried to put her in her own bed. Honestly! I’ve tried. Willow possesses a dog’s penchant for smelling all the things, because if I’m even 6 inches away from her…. she sets out to find me. If she doesn’t find me within that six inch window…. screaming commences! So, in order for us to get any semblance of sleep, she sleeps snuggled up to me, every nap, and every night.

For this co-sleeping habit that we have created, we have seen a number of side-eyes. For example, the pediatrician has been asking us where Willow sleeps since week one. I give her the same answer every time…… in our bed. At first, I was able to ward off the side-eye with the “she sleeps in a ‘co-sleeper’ in our bed” affirmation. This seemed to quell the fears of the doctor, at least until the 6 month check up, at which point, the doctor informed me that Willow may be “too big” for the co-sleeper. Ha! I had successfully fooled the doctor! Willow slept in the co-sleeper about 5% of the time! Lying to professionals about my parenting skills and being successful at it…. ✔️! At the 9 month check up, that is were the side-eye came in, as well as the soft lecture disguised as a genuine concern for my sleep speech…. “you would get more sleep if Willow slept alone in her crib.” Followed by, “you really should lay her down ‘alone’ and pat her back to sleep so she learns how to fall asleep without you”……. yup, I screwing my kid up for sure! Hopefully at the 12 month check up, the pediatrician won’t alert child protective services on us for the continued habitual co-sleeping we are doing. Wait until she hears that we don’t do CIO (cry it out)!

It isn’t that I am following a particular style of parenting. I’m just following my instincts and the instincts of Willow. Willow and I are simpatico. We live and breathe each other. I know her needs and wants, probably better than she does. And because I get her, she feels safest with me. She looks to me every time she does something new for reassurance. When she is scared, tired, hungry, or just needs snuggles, she seeks me out, and I am right there to give her what she needs. So why would it be any different when she sleeps? I know that some experts say that co-sleeping breeds bad habits. But is it really a bad habit to want closeness when you sleep? Why are we so inclined to push little souls away from us when they are too little to understand that we will still hear them and tend to their needs (even though they are left all alone)…. yet we retreat to our bed with our spouses? I don’t know, it just seems backwards to me.

So co-sleeping it is! For us anyway. It is what seems to work for us…. it is our jam. At some point in time, Willow won’t be reaching for me at every step, she won’t look to me for reassurance, she won’t seek out my scent….. so for now, and for the near future, I will be where she needs me to be, right next to her within smelling distance.

Ricotta Be Kidding Me

Fresh Ricotta CheeseI’m about to give you something that will change your life! No need to thank me, just enjoy!

I’ve spent my entire life buying H U G E amounts of ricotta cheese. Seriously! Ricotta cheese is a staple in my home. It has a variety of uses, on toast with jam, in a pasta bake, soups, pizza, and the list goes on. What I never realized was, making fresh ricotta is probably just as easy as boiling a pot of water….. I know, it doesn’t seem possible! But, friends, I am not feeding you a load of bullshit, I’m feeding you ricotta!

Now, ricotta is traditionally twice cooked….. but we aren’t going to do this here, simply because it really isn’t necessary. I’m only going to tell you to cook the cheese ONCE! And folks, this is life changing…. so much so, that you may never buy the store bought version again, E V E R!

Here is what you will need for approximately 16oz of fresh ricotta:

8 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
3 tsps cheese salt (although, if you don’t have this, table or coarse salt will do)
Juice from 3 lemons

Wait! I must be forgetting something?! Nope! Four ingredients folks! Just 4!

Now, put all of the ingredients into a large, heavy pan and bring the contents to a rolling boil. Allow the concoction to boil a couple of minutes (don’t stir) and then remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool down slightly.

Next, line a wire strainer with cheesecloth. Scoop the mixture (don’t pour as this will break up the curds) into the strainer and allow the cheese to drain. Once the cheese has cooled down, twist the cheesecloth closed (like a pouch) and tie close. Place the cheese in the strainer and put it in the fridge. You can use the cheese the same day, or within a couple of days. Enjoy!