Monday, April 30, 2012

A New Home


In early spring, Jeff and I started to tentatively look for a new house to rent. We love our current place, but the location isn't perfect and we could use a little more space. After dealing with crazy competition in New York, I was amazed to learn that rentals in our desired neighborhood are few, far between, and love to play hard to get. In an effort to be realistic, we opened our minds to other areas of the city and to staying in our current house, but as luck would have it, serendipity decided to enter the picture.

We found the house online, scheduled the first available appointment, and waited anxiously for that day to arrive. In the meantime, we drove by, read the listing repeatedly, and started to imagine ourselves living there. We loved the place inside and out, enjoyed meeting the owners, and well, hoped it could be ours. Luckily, the owners agreed, and we became their new tenants two weeks ago. We'll have more space, an excellent location, and because Jeff settled us into our current place before I got here, we'll be physically moving in together for the first time. As stressful and exhausting as moving can be, I'm very excited for that part and can't wait to make our new house our home.


Friday, April 27, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons...

...Make sweet things. I love lemon desserts - lemon bars, lemon cake, lemon curd. Tart, tangy, a little sweet, very addicting, and delicious all year round. My mom made lemon pie for Easter, which is the best dessert when I'm in the mood for something light with a boost of flavor. It's also the easiest pie on the planet, so it seemed like the perfect choice for a recent work potluck.

Lemon Pie with Blueberries

(Makes 8 servings)

2 ripe lemons
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 graham cracker pie crust
1 quart fresh blueberries
UPDATE: My co-worker made this pie over the weekend and added a box of flavorless gelatin to the filling - firmed up in just a few hours!

Using a micro grater, grate lemon rind until you have 1 tablespoon of zest.
Juice lemons until you have 1 cup.
In a medium bowl, mix condensed milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest until fully combined - do not whip.
Pour into crust and refrigerate until firm (minimum 2 hours to overnight).
Garnish with berries before serving.
NOTE: I like to leave space for berries and/or cream on top of the filling, but if you would like more filling, add an additional 1/2 can of condensed milk and 1/3 cup of lemon juice.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Life's a Beach

One of my favorite daydream destinations is a beach in some far away, tropical paradise. Jeff and I have talked about making the dream a reality for a long time, but work, money, and other plans have kept us stateside. However, as soon as I figured out my new work schedule, we decided that it was time to get moving, and recently finished planning a week long trip to Mexico in August. We'd love to go farther away and travel for longer, but for our first big vacation together, this will be just perfect. We'll be spending a few days at a resort in Puerto Vallarta and a few days at a tiny villa in Sayulita, and I can't wait to don my bikini, soak up the sun, taste the local flavor, and savor a little slice of heaven.



Monday, April 23, 2012

BBQ Nights

The temperature climbed to almost 90 degrees this weekend and we welcomed the sun with lots of time outdoors, cold drinks, and firing up the BBQ for the first time this year. Last night, we dined on potato salad, barbecued chicken, and mixed greens - the perfect meal for a warm, spring night.

Easy Potato Salad:
(Makes 5-6 servings)

5 large red potatoes, washed
2 eggs
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut potatoes into 1/2 inch pieces, put them in a large pot and cover with water. Bring potatoes to a boil, turn down heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
Place eggs in a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, turn down heat to simmer and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
When potatoes are cooked, drain and sprinkle with vinegar. When eggs are cooked, rinse in cold water until cool enough to handle. Remove shells and cut into small pieces.
In a large bowl, mix mayonnaise, mustard, and celery. Add potatoes and egg and mix together. Season with salt and pepper.
Best if refrigerated for 30 minutes or more before serving.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

It's the Little Things: A Good Book

Quite simply, I love to read. Reading a good book is like eating a delicious meal, sleeping in on Saturday mornings, laughing over wine with your girlfriends - it can just make you happy. I've read many, many books in my life, and still remember all of those that I couldn't put down, that I raced home to finish, that made me look forward to bedtime so that I could have a few moments with my story. I've been in a few book clubs, have lots of friends who are voracious readers, and am lucky to come from a family in which reading is of the utmost importance. Many of my favorite books are not unique, obscure titles; I believe that some books end up on the New York Times bestseller lists for very good reason. I'm always looking for new titles, so for my fellow bookworms out there, here are a few of my favorites...

Unbroken: This was the first historical non-fiction book that I ever read, and I couldn't put it down. Hillenbrand does an amazing job of making you feel like you're right there with the soldiers, and like you know them through intimate and personal detail. It read much more like a novel and gives an incredibly clear and open-minded view of World War II and the life of a POW.

Me Talk Pretty One Day
: David Sedaris was the first writer in my young adult life who made me laugh out loud. His books of short story memoirs are hilarious, brilliant, and raw, and you'll want to read them again and again.

The Dive From Clausen's Pier
: This coming of age story is about embracing life, love, and growing up. Through the big and small chapters of life, our protagonist Carrie changes before our eyes, and many moments remind the reader just how monumental the little things can be.

The Glass Castle
: For anyone who hasn't read this book yet, stop whatever you're doing and get to the book store or library. Walls takes us on a journey through her troubled upbringing with parents who didn't believe that the law applied to their family. It's jaw dropping at times, sometimes painful, and always honest.

She's Come Undone
: I've written about this book before. I read it for the first time over a decade ago, and have revisited it almost annually ever since. In the beginning of the story, Lamb introduces us to a young Dolores, who we learn to love and root for throughout her tumultuous life. You'll grow up with her, share her journey, and you'll never forget her.


Monday, April 16, 2012

A New Spin on Pasta Sauce

One of my favorite things about cooking is learning how to make something that I would have so often bought pre-made. Take sauce for instance. Before trying the onion and blue cheese sauce recipe, I had never made my own sauce. Now, I'm on a total sauce kick. After finding this roasted red pepper and goat cheese alfredo recipe on Pinterest thanks to Mo from New on U, I couldn't wait to give it a shot. Maybe I'm easy to please, but this was simply delicious, such a great alternative to marinara, and I'm definitely adding it to my short list.

Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Alfredo

Recipe, adapted from Lauren's Latest:
(Makes 4 servings)

3 whole red bell peppers
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fat free milk
4 ounces goat cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus 4+ tablespoons
1/2 lb. spaghetti (I used gluten-free pasta, but for regular, cook to al dente)
Red pepper flakes and ground black pepper to taste
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with tin foil and place red peppers on sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes until peppers are charred. Remove from oven and cover with foil 10 minutes.
In a large, deep sauce pan, saute onions and garlic in olive oil until tender. Pour in milk, goat cheese, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Stir until goat cheese is melty and keep warm over low heat.
Peel skin off peppers and remove stem and seeds. Chop into large pieces and place into sauce with Parmesan cheese. Stir to melt cheese and remove from heat.
Pour sauce into blender or use an immersion blender. Puree until mostly blended. Pour back into hot pan and toss with cooked pasta.
Top with remaining Parmesan cheese and more black pepper. Serve with turkey Italian sausage and sauteed spinach.

Boyfriend Meter:
4.5 out of 5
"Flavorful, light, more please!"


Friday, April 13, 2012

The Extra Long Weekend

My weekend ended on Wednesday, when my mom headed south to California and I back to the office. We had fun filled days of family, great food, lots of time outdoors, wine, and relaxing. The weather was perfect - warm, breezy, and mild - and we had to slather on the sunscreen and keep our shades close by. One of the best parts of the weekend was getting Jeff's parents and mine together. Having hometowns thousands of miles apart and few opportunities to all be in the same place, the past few days were a welcome chance for the adults to get to know each other better. It made me wish Mill Valley and Boise were next door neighbors, but also reminded me to treasure the moment. And of course, that moment included a little Easter photo shoot...


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Happy Birthday, Bear!

Today, our little guy turns two. In the last two years, Bear has grown to be over 50 pounds, has become a great swimmer, a fierce lacrosse player, and a wonderful companion. He is completely his own, unique animal - skittish around big dogs and playful around friendly ones, afraid of the vacuum and garbage bags, full of strange noises and funny mannerisms. He's brought so much laughter and joy to our lives, and I can't wait to celebrate many more birthdays with our big, red dog.

Happy birthday to the sweetest, cuddliest, most energetic and affectionate pup we could ask for. I love coming home to you each day, being attacked by your wagging tail and slobbering kisses, and going to bed with you each night, when you curl up right where my legs are supposed to go and start to snore. You're the best, Bear!

 As a baby, taking a snooze

 A little over a year, watching his favorite sport

All grown up and posing


Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy Easter!

Mama and me lovefest, 1994

In a few hours, my mom and stepdad will be arriving in Boise for a spring break trip. If that wasn't exciting enough, I'm taking a few days off next week to spend time with them, and temperatures for our extra long weekend are currently dancing around the high 70's! This is hallelujah kind of information. On Easter Sunday, we'll be celebrating with Jeff's family and mine and digging into lots of home cooked goodness. In honor of the holiday, check out the recipe for my family's favorite Greek Easter dish, tiropita. Have the happiest weekend, everyone!


(Makes 12+ servings)

16 ounces feta cheese
16 ounces cottage cheese
1 package filo dough, 3 sheets reserved
1 dozen eggs
1 stick butter
Splash of milk

A few hours before assembling your pita, remove all ingredients from the fridge and let them warm up. You'll be using your hands for this one and I promise they will freeze otherwise!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10x15 glass baking dish.
Melt butter in a microwave safe bowl. Remove the filo dough from its cardboard box and plastic wrapper and roll it out.
Place a few layers of filo on the bottom of the baking dish. In a large bowl, mix feta cheese, cottage cheese, eggs, and milk.
Using your hands, plop the cheese and egg mixture onto the filo, about 1/2 cup at a time. Then, dip your fingers in the butter and sprinkle butter on top of the cheese and egg mixture. Add a layer of filo. Repeat, repeat, repeat, until you've used all of the cheese and egg mixture and butter. Top with the remaining three sheets of filo dough. 
Bake for 45-60 minutes or until the top is golden brown, the pita is bubbling, and your knife comes out clean. Enjoy!


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Spring Break

After my most recent "I love having long hair but I'm not going to spend an hour doing my hair and I hate wearing it in a librarian ponytail so in order to actually have put together hair I need to have less of it" conversation with myself, I decided that my hair needed a little vacation, and off to the hairdresser I went. Many snips later, I'm a new woman! I'm still not completely used to it, but I think I'm going to love have a light, low maintenance 'do.

Tell me, do you like to experiment and take risks with your hair?


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

It's the Little Things: Wheels

Getting my own car, let alone a brand new one, was a very big deal. Of all of the wonderful gifts my parents gave me, a car wasn't one of them. I drove a couple hand-me-downs for a year at a time, borrowed my roommates' and friends' cars in college, and then moved to New York City where cars are completely useless and offensively expensive. I had no experience with cars and no educated knowledge of how to get one, but I knew that it would be on the top of my "must have" list when I moved to Boise. Of course, being the responsible young lady that I am, and completely afraid of things that require financial commitment, I waited until I'd been working for a few months and had a little nest egg saved up to start shopping. A few weeks later I am full of car facts, have test driven a few, fallen in love with more, and am the proud leaser of a real beauty. I'll miss driving Jeff's enormous pick-up truck, but I'm so happy to be cruising around in my own set of wheels.

Life's little pleasures - groceries in the trunk


Monday, April 2, 2012

March Photo a Day: The Final Countdown

Phew - the March Photo a Day challenge is finished! I didn't love all the prompts, but it was fun to use Instagram more and I can't wait to get a nicer phone so I can take further advantage. See Week 1 and Week 2, and take a look at the second half of the month (minus March 23 when the prompt was "moon" and I couldn't find one in the sky!):

Find me on Instagram!