Monthly Archives: February 2012

Things To Love Today

Instead of going all sappy, lovey-dovey on you today, I thought a non-romantic, non-gushy, non-sentimental, non-pink post might just be in order for this Valentine’s Day. Whether you have plans for today or not or someone that you’ll be sharing those plans with or not, please accept a few of my latest favorite things to love on instead.

I am so enamored with the new line of TOMS ballet flats, especially this contrasting pair. However, I know that my wallet wouldn’t be loving me very much if I splurged on such a hefty price.

I just saw Chipotle’s “Back to the Start” commercial (which I believe originally aired during the Grammy’s) yesterday. I’ve been a huge fan of Chipotle’s food for a while now and this commercial just solidifies my love for the company. I haven’t seem much mainstream media address the issue of food sourcing with such a clear message/visual, so I say, good for Chipotle’s for putting a commercial like this out there!

For Super Bowl Sunday, I made a batch of Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies. There’s only one way to really enjoy the cookies’ full potential. Straight. Out. Of. The. Oven.

I recently discovered Little Friends Photo who has an AMAZING series of dogs underwater (check out the Wall Photos album on their Facebook page). Some are cute. Some are hilarious. And others are just downright scary looking!

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For whatever reason, I stopped eating oatmeal last year. Since moving to Connecticut, I hadn’t had a single bowl. No clue why. Well, this year the oatmeal is back and just as comforting as I remember it being. I’m also equal parts in love with my heart bowl from West Elm. I checked their website and the bowl doesn’t seem to be available anymore, but you might get lucky and still find it in store. (Oh, and ok, I lied. Apparently I did sneak in some pink heart stuff into this post.)

I am not a music buff. I actually hate talking about music. I usually just listen to whatever the radio is playing. I dread having people ask me what type of music I like because I don’t have an answer. I like all music as long as it’s good. However, the fact that I have come across an amazing song by an amazing artist that seems to be relatively unknown (or at least hasn’t hit mainstream status) makes me feel incredibly cool. Like maybe I could be a hip, indie, music buff. Wait, who are we kidding here?

This song popped up on Pandora the other week, and no joke, I’ve listened to it probably 50 times already. I’m not sure what it is, but the tune just gets stuck in my head and I find myself singing under my breath while getting ready for work in morning, during my commute, on my lunch break, and while getting ready for bed. Me? Obsessed?

Does anyone have any non-Valentine’s Day themed things that you’ve been loving on?

Easy Valentine’s Day Decorations

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On Friday, I decided that I wanted to decorate for Valentine’s Day. Late to the game, much? I had been on the fence all throughout January on whether or not I should put any decorations up or not. After taking down all of my Christmas decorations, my apartment felt so bare and I missed the cozy feeling of seeing my tree and Christmas lights. So, with just a few days to spare, I decided that a little pink would do my apartment good.

And if you’re like me and waiting for the last possible moment to put up decorations, I hope that you find inspiration in mine. If anything, they are cheap (everything was less than $30!) and easy (everything came together in under two hours).

The main area for my decorations was going to be my sideboard table by my front door. It’s fun to look back on the evolution of this table through the holidays.

From Halloween

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To Christmas

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And now Valentine’s Day…

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In the middle of the table is a four piece vase that I had picked up on clearance from Target last year filled with artificial flowers from Michael’s. I love how bright and cheerful the flowers look, and more than once, I’ve caught myself just staring lovingly at them. If you want a similar look, you can pick up retro style milk bottles that are becoming very popular and are available at most stores. Or you could go a little more vintage and use mason jars instead.

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On the right hand side of the table, I replaced my snowflake sign in the white frame with a love themed one that can be seen in detail at the top of this post. I lined three 4” red heart doilies on top of a large white round doily and used self-adhesive pink letters to spell out ‘Be Mine’. I found all the materials at Michael’s and was even able to score the doilies for 50% off.

Next to the picture frame, I set out a small candy dish filled with dark chocolate and cherry Dove candies. I don’t have high expectations for these lasting too long in my household, if you know what I mean.

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On the left hand side of the table was the easiest project of all my decorations. I took a glass hurricane vase and white pillar candle that I already had on hand and poured four bags of the candy conversation hearts (the candy was on sale at my local grocery store 4/$5) as a vase filler around the candle. I wanted to use the heart-shaped Red Hots instead to stay more consistent with the red and pink theme, but wasn’t able to find them in the store. This would make such an easy centerpiece and would work with virtually any type of candy… now that I’m thinking about it more, the Valentine’s Day themed M&Ms would also have worked out great.

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Going across the mirror is a heart doily garland which certainly takes the title of the second easiest project. I bought a thin gold ribbon that I was able to weave through the lacey sides of the doilies and then just secured it at each corner of the mirror.

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Using the same method as the heart garland, I strung together five heart doilies and tied them around a small, clear vase that held a large candle. Again, I already had the vase and candle on hand making this an incredibly easy project. This is sitting on my TV stand in my living room.

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Also in the living room is a beautiful bouquet of pink tulips that I picked up from my grocery store. At $8, they were a little bit of a splurge, but they really do bring a smile to my face, so I think it’s worth it.

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Did you know that you can put a penny into the water to help your flowers bloom faster? I recently heard of this trick and couldn’t wait to try it out. When I bought my bouquet, all the buds were tightly closed. Within 5 minutes of dropping a penny into the water, I could already see a huge difference with petals starting to open up, and after letting them sit over night, they had fully opened up into beautiful blossoms. All the better to smell them, of course.

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The next few details are permanent fixtures in my apartment and aren’t Valentine’s Day decorations at all… but they fit the bill nicely enough that I wanted to share.

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I’ll categorize these items as geography love. On the top shelf of my bookcase are three fames filled a heart-shaped map. For those Pinterest users out there, I’m sure you recognize this idea as I’ve seen several different variations of it popping up in my friends’ pins. For those not familiar with the idea, each map represents a special location. For me, this is the three places I’ve called home – the Seattle area, Orlando area, and Hartford area. (For anyone interested in recreating this look, I ordered maps for free from AAA since I’m a member. You can also pick these maps up at a bookstore for a small price.)

On the second shelf, I have a map of the U.S. with three small hearts in the same three special locations. I originally got this idea off of Etsy. I printed a map of the U.S. out off of Google Maps and then traced it onto white construction paper. After cutting my map out (and small hearts out of red construction paper), I glued everything onto an aqua piece of paper. Also on the second shelf is a graphic image of “I Love You From Here To Seattle” that I ordered off of Etsy. Oh, and the red berry garland on top of the bookcase is a leftover decoration from Christmas that I purposely left out to help tie in the Valentine’s Day theme.

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Did you catch the white light garland sneaking into the corner of bookcase picture above? That would be the Valentine’s Day decoration that I was most excited to try making and the one that almost didn’t happen.

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I had been obsessed with the idea of turning Christmas lights into a pretty garland with the use of doilies after seeing this pin on Pinterest.

So on Friday night, I found myself on the mad hunt for white lights but kept turning up empty handed. After checking The Party Store, Big Lots, and The Dollar Store all I was able to find were white lights that were on a dark green strand. I had given up all hope of finding lights on a white strand when I made one last quick stop at Jo-Ann’s five minutes before they were supposed to close. After doing a quick swoop around the store and seeing nothing, I found a store associate and asked if they had any Christmas lights. She said that they didn’t and all they had were bridal lights which were all white lights on a white strand. I was so ecstatic that I nearly hugged the poor woman. I had never heard of bridal lights before and would have never had thought to look in the wedding department to find my lights.

I thought making the garland was going to be an incredibly tedious task, and although it did take some time, it wasn’t nearly as bad as what I thought. To start off with, I kept my doilies in the stacks of 12 that they were packaged in so I could cut all of them at once. I cut out a slit going to the middle with a small hole at the end that the wire would have to fit through. I then pushed the wire through the slit and into the hole and then stuck a small piece of scotch tape over the slit to hold the doily in place.

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Using clear push tacks, I hung the strand of lights in five places on the beam that divides my living room from my dining room. You can kind of see it in the picture below, but I ran a 9ft extension cord down the side of the wall and to the nearest outlet to power my lights.

I was somewhat apprehensive of the safety aspect of putting paper doilies next to the bulbs. I tried doing some research online about it, but didn’t turn up any clear guidance. I decided to risk it with turning on the lights and all I can say is from my own experience, I’ve left the lights on for a maximum of six hours straight so far and no fires. If you decide to make your own lighted heart garland, I would just recommend being careful that none of the doilies come in direct contact with one of the bulbs where it could potentially heat up.

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As much as I love the way the garland looks during the daytime, I’m even more in love with it at nighttime. It gives off such a pretty, soft glow that I’m already tempted to leave it up year round now.

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So there you have it, with thirty dollars and two hours (and the help of some items that I already had on hand), I was able to transform my apartment into a bright, cheerful space. It was just in time too since I threw a party Saturday night in honor of someone special’s birthday.

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But that’s a story (and a cake) for another time.

Eat Real Meals

In the year 2012, I have decided that I need to make a bigger effort at eating real meals at home. I used to be so good at this, and I’m not quite sure how or when I got off track. Sure, I would have good weeks where I would have a large bowl of Peanut Chicken Pasta Salad or a pan of turkey lentil meatloaf prepared and ready to go for an easy lunch or dinner. But, by the end of 2011, I found myself passing something like chips and salsa off as my dinner. And there are only so many times that you can getaway with doing that by using the excuse that you live by yourself.

With all that said, in 2012, I am going to try my darnedest to eat real meals with better consistency. I’m hoping to accomplish this by putting a bigger focus on prepping ingredients (like my most dreaded kitchen task – chopping vegetables) on the weekend and making large batches of food that can then be frozen for quick and easy options when I find myself not in the mood to cook on the weeknights.

So far, I’m off to a pretty good start if I do say so myself. One of the first weekends in January, I made Mini Broccoli, Tomato, and Pesto Quiches and White Chicken Chili. This time with the chili, I subbed in 0% plain Greek yogurt for the sour cream and could barely taste the difference! I love to think that with the substitution of the Greek yogurt, this chili really is a healthy option and packed with so much fiber and protein!

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The mini quiches resulted in a dozen and I wrapped half of them up individually in wax paper and stored them in the freezer right away. I’ve eaten these at all times of the day by themselves, alongside a salad, and sandwiched in an English muffin with a squirt of ketchup as a makeshift egg sandwich.

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I’m not a huge red meat person, but boy do I love me some chicken! Another tactic that I’ve been trying to use to help make meal time easier is to poach chicken breasts on the weekends. To poach my chicken, I bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil and drop in four chicken breasts. I reduce the heat to low-medium and let the chicken cook for about 14-16 minutes. I’ll usually cut one of the chicken breasts open just to make sure that there’s no pink left and that it’s fully cooked through. I’ll let the chicken cool a little bit so that it’s not too hot to handle, and then using two forks, I shred the meat.

I’ve used the shredded chicken on top of salads, in my Curry Chicken Salad, and on top of BBQ Chicken Pizza.

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I’ve also been keeping chicken breasts on hand for quick dinners like the one below. I’m proud to say that this dinner came together in under ten minutes (with the help of Trader Joe’s microwavable mushroom ravioli)!

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And you know how I mentioned above that chopping veggies is one of my most dreaded kitchen tasks? Thanks to certain mischievous cat, I found myself awake one morning at a very ungodly hour, unable to go back to bed.

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I decided to put my extra time to good use and grabbed my cutting board and a bunch of vegetables out of the fridge and carried everything out to the living room. With the help of an old episode of Grey’s Anatomy, I found that chopping veggies can be a lot less painless if done in front of the tv instead of the kitchen.

And with all the prep work done of chopping the vegetables, making a veggie stir-fry the following night was practically a breeze!

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I’m hoping that I can keep this momentum up of taking the time to make real meals. I think I really just have to remember:

  • Prepare ingredients ahead of time like chopping vegetables
  • Make large quantities and freeze leftovers that can easily be reheated

Do you have any tips for making dinner time easier? Do you have standby meals that you turn to that you know will come together quickly? What’s your most dreaded task in the kitchen?

In January…

Hi Everyone! After taking a month off blogging, regular (or as regular as it gets) posting is going to start back up again this week. I didn’t want to jump right into the swing of things though without first catching you guys up on January.

So, without further ado, here was my January in a nutshell…

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(click on the photo to enlarge)

Puppy eyes, lots of coffee, lots of citrus, cold weather, warm food, and a handsome fella. Yup, that pretty much sums up the past month! See you guys back here tomorrow!