October 2, 2015

Have a Lovely Weekend

Do you have anything planned this weekend? It's a family weekend for us! I'm about to drive down to RI to pick up Amanda. Kate was given an extra long weekend because of cancelled classes, so she's already home. I've made them their favorite fall treats and tomorrow we're going to see a movie (or two!). The weather isn't going to be that great, so we figured we'd make a day of it.

I hope you have a great weekend and here are some links you might enjoy!

Think pink. Text PINK to 59227 to sign up for Breast Health Reminders each month. Know the facts about breast and ovarian cancer on Bright Pink.

For the writer in you. And is this this for you?

The pressures of college.

Celebrate Christmas at Hogwarts!

Find your focus.

Could you live in a tiny house? And is your house making you tired?

October 1, 2015

It's October!

October is hands down one of my favorite months. I love the cooler air, the clothing, the smell of wood smoke, pumpkins, mums, Halloween, the color of the leaves, just about everything. It's not too cold, not too warmit's just about perfection to me.

Do you have any favorite things you love to do this month? I make lots of cold-weather inspired dishes (before I get bored with making them) and I love to cozy up the house with fall decorations. I layer in more blankets, pillows, and accessories indoors, while I primp my porch with cornstalks, mums, pumpkins and the usual fall fare.

Here are some activities to inspire you to celebrate fall and the glorious month of October!
  • Find a fall festival. At The Farmer's Daughter, in Kingston RI, they're hosting a Harvest Festival complete with pony rides, scarecrow making, hayrides, and almost anything to do with a pumpkin. I highly recommend that you visit this beautiful garden center. (The photo above is of their beautifully decorated chandelier located in the shop.)
  • Drive through your neighborhood, your town, neighboring towns, or hit the road and go even farther to take in the scenery. That's how I've found all of my favorite haunts. Get lost for a while and don't forget to bring your camera!
  • I'll be baking this weekend and I always bake extra apple pies for my sweet neighbors. Why not do the same. It doesn't take much to double a recipe and it will be much appreciated. (I'm making pumpkin bread too.)
  • Get outside as often as you can and enjoy the fresh air. We're so busy working and doing that we forget to breathe. Get up a little earlier in the day and take a brisk walk outside, eat a meal outdoors, or set your chair in the sun and enjoy a good book. David and I plan to spend an entire day outdoors. We're going to eat and play all day and only go inside when we have to. No technology, just the sounds of nature and the dogs!
  • Buy some pumpkin tea. I just bought a tin of Harney & Sons Pumpkin Spice herbal tea and I'm in love. I've been drinking it every morning and it just tastes like fall. Combine it with a bag of Hot Cinnamon Spice and you have quite a treat! (You can also find them at Barnes & Noble caf├ęs.)
  • Start to unpack your scarves and buy a few new larger ones to dress up an outfit. They're great to toss in a bag to ward off a chill. I keep several large stoles stashed around the house so I can pick one up at will. One of my favorites is orange!
  • Go un-trick-or-treating. Mourning the loss of one of our beloved family adventures (our town goes all out for this holiday!), last year the four of us walked up and down Halloween Street, as they affectionately call it, and just enjoyed watching the children and their parents have fun. And yes, we dressed up!
  • Visit Salem! And really get into the spirit of Halloween. There are lots of places that hold haunted tours. Amanda's school gets in on the action and we're finding lots of interesting places in and around RI that sound rather spooky. After all, it is the birthplace of those wacky Ghost Hunters! (Check out my Halloween Pinterest board for more inspiration.)
  • Buy an electric blanket! Amanda bought me one for Christmas last year and I love it. I haven't brought it out quite yet, but soon enough I'll be snuggling underneath its warmth.
Ok, now it's your turn. What do you love to do in October?

September 30, 2015

Eating Out - Eating In

Last Friday, David, Kate, and I went to one of our favorite Italian cafes in the North End for a treat. I normally don't eat sweets, but it's really hard to resist sharing a piece of chocolate mouse cake with your husband, especially if you're drinking a delicious cappuccino. Kate boxed the rest of her cake and then we went and got her some more goodies at Mike's Pastry a few doors down. She was psyched!

Eating out, bringing food in, it's not something we do very often. But when we do, we try to stay within our dietary restrictions the best we can (cake and coffee aside). That means visiting restaurants that offer humanely raised options like b.good and Tasty Burger when I need my burger fix. It also means staying clear of ordering meat options when we decide to bring food in like Vegetarian Chili from our local pub and a wonderful Puttanesca sauce from another great Italian place a bit closer to home, Filho's Cucina.

Bringing food in can actually be the start of a wonderful meal without all the fuss. I ordered the Puttanesca sauce, made my own pasta and salad, and voila! A delicious meal without over-thinking what's-for-supper. In fact, I doctor a lot of ready-made foods and give myself a break when entertaining by buying dessert, an appetizer, or even part of the main meal.

However, there's nothing quite like making a big pot of something, especially this time of year. I know I'll make some soup (maybe this weekend) and chili soon enough, but the girls want apple pie and pumpkin bread, so I will happily start baking away before the weekend begins. In the meantime, here is a yummy recipe for that delicious sauce.

Puttanesca Sauce

This happens to be one of my favorite sauces to eat. Have you tried it? Tomatoes, capers, olives, anchovies, onions and peppers in a wine infused marinara sauce ready to be sopped up by a crusty loaf of bread, is real comfort food. You probably have most of the ingredients in your pantry. (Look up the origins of Puttanesca. It may surprise you!)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion

1 red pepper, chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
4-5 anchovy filets, minced 
1 large (28 oz) can Roma plum whole tomatoes in juice, broken up 
3/4 cup Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
3 Tablespoons capers, drained
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/4 cup red wine like Sangiovese or Chianti (optional)
Salt, to taste
In a large pot heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute until soft and lightly caramelized, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the remaining ingredients and simmer until the sauce is thickened and slightly reduced, about 40 minutes. Add the wine and stir and drizzle with a bit more extra virgin olive oil.
Serve over your favorite pasta.

P.S. You may also enjoy Comfort Food and Pizza!

September 29, 2015

Worshipping at the Alter of Elizabeth Gilbert

Literally and figuratively speaking of course. As you can plainly see, she is on an alter and I do adore the woman. Never more than now.
Last Friday night, I got to finally hear one of my favorite writers speak at a book event sponsored by the Harvard Book Store. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I missed the first opportunity to see her in New England, scored tickets for the second but couldn't go. As they say, third times the charm. I finally got a ticket and I was able to attend.
My husband and I went into Boston early that day to meet up with Kate and enjoy some time with her before heading over to Cambridge. I wanted to make sure I was there very early.

And I was. Early that is. I was first in line (technically third, but only because the first couple split up and went to two different doors while David and I tried the side door first). We sat on the church steps for a couple of hours with a small group of people and I wondered if anyone else would show up. Doesn't everyone take a half day off to go see their favorite author?!

The crowd started to grow about an hour before it was slatted to start. Then people from all over started to get in line, which eventually turned the corner.

Of course I snagged the first pew. The two people in front of me went to the left and David and I sat on the right with me firmly planted in the isle seat. The church filled with, I'm estimating, 500 people.

Okay, you have the visual, now let me tell you how the evening went.

As I sat there, I started to fidget with the recording device on my iPad and my phone. (I wasn't taking any chances.) The evening was cool, so I brought a wrap that I couldn't seem to keep contained in any way. It was if it had a mind of its own. Maybe I was a little nervous. Okay, I was shaking with delight. I think I may have cried a bit.

Enter Ms. Gilbert. She wore jeans, a white top, the Harvard-required blazer, and boots. And she brought out a large leather bag, which I thought was odd. She was immediately engaging and her sense of humor was keenly sharpened. She truly is the type of person you would love to have as your best friend. (In fact, one woman got up to ask a question and lamented that she would indeed love to be Liz's best friendhers and Oprah's and Brene Brown's. Sorry. Liz wins hands down, lady.)

The bag, come to find out, contained a six-pack of beer... for four Canadian worshippers who drove down tweeting the entire way about how much they would love to have a beer with Liz. Trust me when I say that I can't do the story justice, so I won't. Just know it was endearing and very entertaining. And damn, I wish I had thought of it first.

She is on tour for her book, Big Magic. I devoured this book in one delicious meal of a reading session over the weekend. It's all about how to live a creative life. But it's much more than a self-help book (a much-needed niche, but I hate the term), it's a guide to finding out how to tap into your creativity with a practical, why-didn't-I think-of-that approach. Her stories, her advice, the cadence of her voice that you can hear as clearly as if she were in the room reading it straight to your heart, is uplifting. I went out and bought extra copies the very next day to give as gifts. Get it!

She read directly from her book for about 15 minutes. Then she opened the floor for a Q&A session. I can't remember how many people actually asked questions, but a hour or so later, I do remember her answering them as though she had scripted her thoughtful replies in advance—with much care and insight. I listened happily from my seat knowing I would rather watch and listen then get in line, although I had plenty of questions of my own.

She ended the evening with the poem, "Advice to Myself" by Louise Erdrich.

I could go on and on and on and on. But let me just say, the night was magical. Her words were healing. Her soul is electric. She is truly magical. Don't miss the opportunity to hear/see/be with this wonderful human being.

"The older I get, the less impressed I become with originality. These days, I'M FAR MORE MOVED BY AUTHENTICITY. If your work is authentic enough,
believe meit will feel original."
Elizabeth Gilbert
Big Magic

Stay curious!

Need a little more encouragement? Listen to her TED talk (viewed more than 10 million times), and read Some Thoughts on Writing.

September 28, 2015

Totally Crushing Over

The Intern! I saw the movie over the weekend and fell in love... with the interiors. (And the movie.) Nancy Meyers really knows how to put together a set. You'll recognize some of her beautiful designs in movies like, It's Complicated, Something's Gotta Give, The Holiday, and Father of the Bride, to name just a few of my favorites. Well, add The Intern to the list. Inspired by her interior designer mother, antique dealer grandmother, and (for this movie) Pinterest(!), Meyers already had a grasp on exactly how she wanted the movie to feel. She's very invested in her sets and feels as though they're characters in their own right. (Credit also goes to production designer Kristi Zea and set decorator Susan Bode Tyson.)

This movie had me laughing and cryingsometimes at the same time. Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway are intern and boss respectively at her internet fashion company, ATF (About the Fit). After the company decides to start a senior intern program, the type A Jules (Hathaway) is finally charmed by the sweet, calming presence of Ben (De Niro). And away we go. This is not your typical Meyer's romantic comedy, but a comedy that appeals to all generations. Check out the trailer and see for yourself.

Filmed in and around Brooklyn (ATF was built in the Bronx), they did a fantastic job of blending the old with the new.

Working around existing traditional architectural design, modern design elements, and some industrial pieces were added to give it that wonderful tug and pull, put-together look that I find especially appealing in today's interiors.

Open shelving was used in placed of typical over counter cabinetry to give the space a more ethereal feel. Brooklyn townhomes are beautiful, but not often very spacious, so anytime you can squeeze extra visual space from a room when space is at a premium, it's always a good idea. Marble counters and gray cabinets, white subways tile, the contrast of black and white accents along with pops of color, make this room timeless.

The living room, dining room combination uses the space well. When floor space is sparse, look up. Bookshelves and cabinets provide much-needed storage. Using a pair of chairs instead of a loveseat or second sofa keeps the room from looking (and feeling) closed in. The large mirror helps to bounce the light around the room when windows are only located in the back and front of the home, as is typical of most townhomes. 
A close-up shot of the dining room reveals the Restoration Hardware table, the Lindsey Adelman chandelier (here's a substitute), and Josef Hoffmann dining chairs. AND Ms. Meyers did a lot of her shopping at One King's Lane and you can too. Shop the movie here.

The loft spaces used a lot of black and white with punches of color. You can find the CB2 couches here. White tables were paired with practical black desk chairs, but Jules' desk also has a couple of stylish Louis Ghost chairs for guests. The same aesthetic was used throughout the loftsa mix of chic, modern, traditional elements that make me want to see the movie again and again just to get more design tips!

Similar lighting at School House Electric. And let's not forget the fashionwide-legged pants, plaid jackets, knitted sweaters, and lots of black and white.

You may also like Nancy's Kitchens.
Photos: Joshua McHugh and Warner Bros.

September 25, 2015

Have an Amazing Weekend!

What are you up to this weekend? I'm headed into Boston today to visit my daughter and to attend a book event with Elizabeth Gilbert! I'm like a giddy teenager. As I was cleaning up the kitchen this morning, I started to think about how early I want to arrive to get a good seat. That thought lead to me daydreaming about showing up so early that I actually bump into Ms. Gilbert before she goes in. We start to talk about writing, her books, my adoration. She is so touched as I babble along that she offers me a job. Would I be willing to work on her team? Would I be willing to travel? Ummm... yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Do you ever have crazy runaway thoughts about events or people in your life? I started to shake it off and get back to reality. Regardless if I end up traveling the country and collaborating with Ms. Gilbert on her books, I know I'm going to be sitting on the edge of my seat and enjoying every single moment.

I hope you have an equally engaging and curious (it's the new word for passion... check out her FB page - September 23rd post.) weekend. Here are a few links to pass the time that you might enjoy.

Big Magic is Elizabeth Gilbert's first self-help book all about living a creative life. See her on tour at these locations. (And to make buying this book a little sweeter, if you're a B&N member, you'll receive 20% off everything today through Sunday!)

My pumpkins, mums, and cornstalks are all in place. Fall has definitely arrived. Here are a few ways you can make your home smell as wonderful as it looks.

There's no better time of year to visit New England. Here is a list of 20 B&Bs and Inns perfect for leaf peeping. (They're not all in NE.)

12 must-read decorating tips.

My new fall uniform. If only!

It's fall y'all. Enjoy!

September 24, 2015

Fun in the Classroom

Yesterday, my students got the chance to play in the studio. I have a room filled with all kinds of accessories to help them learn the art of placement... it's like letting kids loose in a candy store! So what exactly do they learn? How to put together shapes, colors, materials, and textures into a pleasing curated display. I explain how everyday objects can be manipulated to create a one-of-a-kind look that doesn't have to cost a lot of money to pull off. I love to use books, boxes, found objects and lots of organic materials. Here are just a couple of examples of their work.

As I finish up class this week, I challenge you to start pulling together your own curated looks. This weekend, gather up your accessoriesthe things you love and cherishand start to group things together. Forget what they're supposed to be used for and instead, lay things on their side, turn them upside down, and pair the unexpected together. It's the perfect time to create a few new fall vignettes on tabletops, mantels, bookcases, and shelves. Take digital photos as you go so when you switch things around, you'll be able to look back on the looks you liked and didn't. And... if you'd like to send some of those pictures my way, I'll be happy to give you my most humble opinion.

Tassels ready? Go!

September 23, 2015

It's Apple Time!

This past Saturday, we went apple picking. The trees were bursting with apples, which surprised me a bit because we haven't had much rain here this summer in New England. We ended up with almost a bushel of apples that are now sitting in my pantry waiting for me to make into pies. I packed bags for the girls to take back to school and today, I thought I'd bring some to my students. There's nothing like a freshly picked apple!

Here are some new recipes you might like to try to break out of that traditional apple pie (ala) mode!

Apple Pancakes
Apple Pizza
Apple Fries
Apple Pie Jam
Apple Scones
Apple Pie Cookies
Bourbon Apple Pie Ice Cream!
Apple Cupcakes
Salted Caramel Apply Pie Bars
Apple Pie Cake

P.S. You may also like more recipes featured here.

September 22, 2015

Book Lovers

Now that I spend a good deal of time in Rhode Island, I've been exploring the area bit by bit. I'm getting to know Providence again. It's changed a lot since I used to live nearby in southern Massachusetts. But the outskirts are what I'm really interested in.

During one of our visits, I came upon a rare bookstore that I just had to check out. Allison Goodsell Books (great name!) is part of the Kingston Hill Bookstore in the historic village of Kingston, RI. It's filled with all kinds of treasures including an illustrated copy of Wuthering Heights I grabbed. And for only $2 I decided to purchase If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland. Originally published in 1938 and republished by her estate in 1987, this book, although a bit dated in some regard, is full of practical advice for the would-be writer. Although I wouldn't put it on my must-have list, for $2 it was worth the money and my time.

What I find most intriguing when purchasing old books is what previous readers do to the books themselves. This person didn't dog-ear a page, but he or she underlined a lot of sentences throughout. For years, I wouldn't even consider marking up a book. In fact, I have two copies of some of my best loved books just so I can keep one in pristine condition. And depending on what the book is aboutfiction, non-fictionI will dog-ear pages, highlight sentences, and toss it in my bag without a second thought.

However, what I really love to do with books (besides read them) is fill them with little mementos like tickets to a book event, the receipt, if I find it at a unique shop or out of state, bookmarks from the store it was purchased from, postcards or letters from the giver. And when I open these books again, it's like opening a scrapbook.

This Friday I will be attending a book event in Cambridge that I can't wait to share with you. And the book will definitely be filled with as many photos and scraps of paper I can get my hands on!