My Christmas Wishlist ver. 2014

It’s official – Christmas season is among us! There’s not a whole lot I actually need this year but putting together a little wishlist is always fun. My shopping is basically done – I went really minimal this year. I was wondering on Black Friday if people really still go nuts at the stores at like 4am; it seems like there are some really great deals to be had online (and not just on Cyber Monday).

Here are my picks for Christmas this year. What’s on your wishlist??


1. Hoover Linx Cordless Stick Vacuum Cleaner (I did a lot of research on this bad boy; it’s super light, works on carpet and hardwood, and has a rechargeable lithium battery/is cordless!)
2. PNY 256GB USB Flash Drive (because my external hard drives have been slowly dying on me)
3. Bon Appetit Magazine Subscription (thinking this will kickstart my cooking/baking slump)
4. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (one of my favorite authors, how have I not read this one yet?)
5. Rose Gold Nuggest Necklace from the Burnish Etsy Shop
6. Fresh Brown Sugar Hand Cream (my favorite brand for beauty products)
7. Morning Walk Print from Leah Duncan’s Etsy Shop

Posted in Things I Love | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thankful: The Day After

I’ve been up since 5:45am. It’s snowing outside. It’s dead silent in my house, my street, my whole neighborhood. I have a piping hot mug of peach green tea. I’m cozied up in my big fluffy robe. Everything is perfectly still; this is my happy place.

I tried to write a post last night about what I am thankful for this year but it wasn’t coming out right. I’m thankful for so many things, the standards really – my husband, our home, our cat, my job, friends, family, my health, all of the good fortune and good luck that has seem to come our way. But what I am really thankful for this year is the calm, the stillness.

I often feel self conscious about being a homebody, a person who loves peace and quiet. For a long time I thought it prevented me from doing things but it doesn’t; I simply don’t enjoy those things. I prefer quiet conversations over tea, reading a good book, a long drive with someone I love, yoga, writing in my journal.

Finding my place in this world, my quiet place, has been a lifelong search. I took an active journey of self-care this year, reaching out for help both professionally and from my support system. It’s not easy to talk about here. Which is a big reason for the radio silence as of late. But if I’m being true to myself I will admit that I’ve enjoyed the silence. It slows down my thoughts and helps me focus on the things that deserve my attention. There is so much busy-ness to life that I honestly feel swallowed up by it most of the time. So much that is pointless and superficial and excessive and expendable in this world; constant streams of information, consumerism, making life picture perfect (literally). I need quiet time to reflect and to give my thanks but it’s hard to find that time every day. Even in moments where I have downtime – on my commute, making dinner, during my before-bed rituals – I’m not actively reflecting. My mind is churning over my to-do lists, and dwelling on all the things I have to do or didn’t get to do. It’s really hard staying in the present because of that. But discovering my natural inclination and need for silence has made all the difference.

So what I’m thankful for the most this year is the silence I’ve been able to recognize and accept as required, to slow myself down, permission to stop worrying about what’s next, to take stock of the things that truly matter and deserve my undivided attention, to serve as a place to listen to my needs. I hope that whatever brings you joy and satisfaction has been abundant this year, and that there is much more to come.

Posted in Life | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Thanksgiving Recipe Round Up v.2014

thanksgiving2014Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, hands down. A whole day to celebrate food! And it’s the best food too; I’m totally the type of person that gets a Gobbler sandwich all year round and makes a full turkey dinner in the middle of the summer just because I love it so much.

This year I won’t be cooking anything (we’re celebrating with my family and I was assigned to salad, ha!) and I’m secretly glad. I’ve cooked the whole meal with John’s family for the last 3 years so I’m happy to take one off and just enjoy myself.

I hope that whatever you are doing, it is relaxing, restful, and full of thanks! And if you’re cooking and need some inspiration, here are my favorite recipes that are guaranteed Turkey Day winners. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sausage Stuffed Baby Bella Mushrooms
One Bite Balsamic Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella Skewers
Roasted Rosemary Almonds
Whipped Feta Spread

Apple Cider Sangria
Lavender Mead Arnold Palmer
Chocolate Chai Latte

Vegetable Sides:
Panzanella Salad
Mashed Potatoes
Brussel Sprouts with Shallots and Pancetta
Grilled Lemon Balsamic Asparagus
Twice Baked Potatoes
Kale Caesar Salad

Miscellaneous Sides:
French Bread Boule (plain and rosemary)
Homemade Cranberry Sauce (regular and sugar free)
Apple Potato Latkes
Buttermilk Fantails
Homemade Gravy

Main Dish:
Brined Turkey
Smoked Turkey

Main Dish Alternatives (if you don’t want to cook a whole bird or want to have a vegetarian Turkey Day):
Turkey Meatloaf
Real Deal Lasagna
Easy Salmon Cakes
French Style Pork Loin
Butternut Squash Lasagna
Sausage and Kale Stuffed Shells
Chicken Pot Pie and Cream Cheese & Chive Biscuits

Apple Cranberry Cake
Chocolate Ricotta Pie with Pecan Crust
Classic Pecan Pie
Ice Cream (classic vanilla bean and cinnamon are my standards)
Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
Apple Crisp
Mini Cheesecakes
The Best Chocolate Pudding
Chocolate and Peanut Butter Chip Blondies

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Birthday Road Trip To The Adirondacks

In mid-October John and I took a little road trip to the Adirondacks for my birthday. We decided to keep this trip somewhat local (the Adirondacks are only about 5 hours away), relaxed, and mostly unplanned in advance (we have a habit of planning the crap out of our travels and we want this trip to be a little more go-with-the-flow). The main goals were to see a lot of nice foliage, eat some good meals, and do one fun activity per day.

On Wednesday, my actual birthday, we packed up the car and headed west.

Right off the bat the foliage on the Mass Pike was insanely gorgeous. In fact, the foliage on the whole trip was exquisite. I’ve lived in New England my whole life and have never seen it this wonderful. Birthday luck?



Foliage is so dreamy. There’s so much life in how vibrant the trees are. It’s like the best last hurrah ever.


We crossed into New York around noon and continued on to Troy, NY.


Troy is an old industrial city that has sadly seen some decline since the recession. Downtown Troy is small but very quaint; the narrow streets and brick buildings always feel like home to me.


Of course the reason for a stop in Troy is to have lunch at Dinosaur BBQ! We’ve been to Dinosaur a half a dozen times (in many locations) and it’s always amazing (it’s an upstate NY barbecue mecca that you absolutely must try if you haven’t already). We got the Sweetheart Deal For Two which is a full rack of ribs, four sides, and cornbread. We were stuffed but it was a total birthday treat!


After lunch we headed due north and drove through some pretty idyllic New York towns. My favorite was Stillwater, NY.



The Revolutionary War-era Blockhouse in Stillwater was a really cool stop – we learned a little bit about life in the 18th century and enjoyed a lovely view of the Hudson River.


In the early afternoon we reached Saratoga National Historical Park. We were both really excited to check out this amazing place and national park we’d never visited before!


Saratoga National Historical Park was the site of the Battle of Saratoga in 1777, which was the first significant American victory in the Revolutionary War (Americans defeating the British, of course). The first view when approaching the Visitor’s Center is of the vast battlefield, it was breathtaking.


The Visitor’s Center houses the museum where we checked out their really cool exhibits and educational film about the Battle of Saratoga.


Also in the Visitor’s Center is a fiber optic map which is part of a 15 minute presentation illuminating (literally) the American and British movements that happened just outside during the Battle of Saratoga. You can watch the whole presentation on the park’s website, if you want!


After taking our time in the museum, we headed out to the “Battlefield Tour Road.” Saratoga National Historical Park has a 10 mile road that goes through the entire battlefield. There are about a dozen marked stops where you can get out of your car and check out key battle sites along the way.



The Tour Road was beautiful and educational!



Each stop along the Tour Road had informational placards and showed what the site looked like in 1777 versus today. The descriptions were great; you could really conjure a vivid image of the battle with just a little imagination.


When we were done at Saratoga National Historical Park, we hit the road and headed an hour and a half north to Lake George. Our final stop for the day was our hotel, The Erlowest in Lake George. No joke, this place was an actual castle! A turn of the century, granite castle to be exact.



The interior was just as beautiful as the exterior, with a grand staircase and gorgeous dining rooms.



The art was also pretty great; I love this high society dog painting.


Of course our room was beautiful as well with a huge tub and absurd amount of pillows on the bed (just the way I like it).


We arrived to prosecco and a cheese plate in our room with a personalized note. A very classy touch and the cheese was so yummy! We took the prosecco out to the balcony and toasted to my 32nd birthday!


It doesn’t get much better than wine and lake views, right?


It goes without saying that the rest of the Erlowest grounds were gorgeous too. The patio and fireplace area was made entirely of stone and had charming lake views.



We ended the night with a lovely dinner at a local restaurant, Le Roux Bistro, and then crashed.

On Thursday we were up early to enjoy our complimentary breakfast (made to order in the Erlowest restaurant) before leaving Lake George.


From Lake George we drove two hours north to Fort Ticonderoga for our first stop of the day!


Fort Ticonderoga was built on Lake Champlain in 1755 during the French & Indian War. It was significant in many military events, including the Revolutionary War.


The Fort is decked out with cannons and guns, both real and replicas.



The location contributed to the military importance of the Fort – between Lake George and Lake Champlain, and on many trade routes. The name “Ticonderoga” comes from an Iroquois word meaning “it is at the junction of two waterways.”


Aside from military strategy, the lakeside location also makes for gorgeous scenery. It was raining when we went and it was still one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.



The Fort entrance has a placard noting all of the important military personnel who have passed through it. Pretty cool.



The Fort has three barracks and four storehouses, a real leather workshop where they make all the shoes worn by the guides, and an impressive military museum.



One of my favorite small details at the Fort – this emo keyhole.


After several hours at the Fort, we got back on the road and headed for Lake Placid.



The drive was an hour and a half through the most gorgeous part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve. The preserve is 2.6 million acres – the largest park, and largest national historic landmark, in the contiguous US.


During the drive we stopped about 20 minutes outside of Lake Placid in Keene, NY to stretch our legs. Downtown Keene had just a few shops but it was so quaint and just our style. We picked up some donuts, handmade soaps, and a few knickknacks.



In the late afternoon we arrived in Lake Placid, NY.


We first checked into our hotel, The Golden Arrow Resort, and then went exploring for a bit. Fun fact: All of the action in Lake Placid actually surrounds Mirror Lake, not Lake Placid!



For dinner we headed over to Liquids and Solids, a dive bar for locals, and had one of the best meals ever. The menu was inventive and unique, and the service was excellent. Totally unexpected but very impressive. John wanted to go again the next night but I vetoed  – there are just too many great restaurants in Lake Placid!


The next morning, Friday, we slept in and lounged in the morning. We finally got up and headed to Chair 6 for breakfast around 10am. Ah, the leisurely pace of vacation! Our meal was great, best breakfast I’ve had in a while (sweet potato hash and over easy eggs) and definitely the best chai latte on earth.


Bellies full and ready for the day, we headed up to the Olympic Jumping Complex to check out the 120m and 90m ski jumps used in the 1932 and 1980 Olympics (they are also used year-round for ski jumpers in training).


The ski jumps were really cool to see up close and personal. The downhill is so steep!


We took the chair lift up to the top to check out the view and get a closer look.


The ski jumps looks so different in person than on TV or in photographs. John and I kept saying we could not possibly imagine jumping off one of these. On skis, no less. It’s unreal.



The views of surrounding Essex County were pretty incredible up at the ski jumps. It was overcast but we could still see everything around us.


I worked a little Photoshop magic for this one…


Also at the Ski Jumping Complex is the Aerial Training Center where freestyle ski jumpers and snowboarders can train off the slopes in a 750,000 gallon pool.


Afterward we checked out Olympic Center just down the road, which houses the Herb Brooks Arena, Olympic Museum, and Olympic Training Center.


It was really cool to see the Herb Brooks Arena, where the 1980 Olympics ‘Miracle On Ice‘ men’s hockey game happened. The rink was so small, I couldn’t get over it! A lot of spirit in there though, you could feel it.


The Lake Placid Olympic Museum was great – they have a ton of Olympic Games exhibits, displays, medals, and artifacts on display from 1895 to the present. It is a really wonderful collection.


One highlight of the museum was the torch collection. They had one from each Olympics dating back to the 1970s.


The 1980 US Men’s Hockey Team display was also another highlight. They had equipment, photographs, uniforms, medals, and never before seen footage of the Miracle on Ice game. We had a great time in this museum!


After the Olympic Complex, we got some lunch and headed to Downtown Lake Placid. We walked along the waterfront, checked out all the shops, and took in the sights.


Downtown Lake Placid is really charming. The shops were adorable and fun, the views of the lake were pretty, and the vibe was really laid back. It was a very relaxing afternoon!


That night we had a fantastic dinner downtown at Smoke Signals and then headed back to the hotel to get ready to head home the next day.

On Saturday morning we checked out and began the long drive home. It was raining like crazy and we decided to take the scenic drive back to Mass. through Vermont. We also drove slow and stopped a few times so getting halfway home took 5 hours.


We did randomly stumble upon the New England Maple Museum in Pittsford, Vermont so of course we had to stop.



The museum had an awesomely retro interactive museum about the maple syrup making process. It was informative and hilariously old school.



On our way out we made sure to stock up on pure Vermont maple syrup, like you do. As we got back on the road the skies finally began to clear and we could enjoy the drive and the foliage again.


After another hour of southbound driving we stopped at one of our favorite places in Vermont, the Simon Pearce workshop, store, and restaurant!


While we were waiting for our table for lunch, we checked out the glass blowing studio, as we always do, and their new wood carving workshop. I’m always so amazed at the craftsmanship here at Simon Pearce; it is truly one of a kind.



We also strolled through the store and picked up a few new dishes to match the set we’ve been working on for the last few years. We get a few pieces each time we visit and it’s become an awesome tradition!


Finally we got seated for lunch, at a great table overlooking the water, and enjoyed a delicious meal.


Here’s John, excited about our new dishes. I should mention that as I took this picture an older couple drove by an audibly laughed out their window when they saw this happening. Haha!


Just down the street from Simon Pearce, we made our final stop before getting home – to the Cabot Creamery Store where we stocked up on cheese!


Our mini road trip was exactly what I wanted to do this year for my birthday – enjoy the best parts of Fall with my hubs, explore new places and revisit some of our old New England favorites, slow down, and relax. I couldn’t have asked for anything better!

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Restaurant Recreation: Flatbread Company’s Mopsy Kalua Pork Pie

We can all agree that pizza is the best food, right?

One of my favorite pizzas in the world lives just down the street from my house at Flatbread Company in Davis Square, Somerville. It’s their Mopsy Kalua Pork Pie (pulled pork, BBQ sauce, red onions, pineapple, cheese) and holy heck is it good. I love recreating my favorite restaurant meals at home (not to cheap out, but to challenge my cooking chops and to figure out if I can create a comparable recipe). Well here’s my take on the Mopsy and it came out pretty dang good, if I do say so myself.

Nine Steps to Recreating One Of The Best Pizzas of All Time:

1) Make one batch of homemade pizza dough. Let it rise for 1-2 hours.

2) Preheat your oven and pizza stone to 500 degrees.

3) Roll out the dough, using coarse cornmeal so that it doesn’t stick. Transfer to a piece of parchment paper.

4) Stretch/roll the dough out onto the hot pizza stone.

5) Layer on your choice of BBQ sauce.


6) Sprinkle on a generous layer of mozzarella cheese.


7) Top with thinly sliced red onions, pineapple, and pulled pork.


8) Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes (or until the cheese is melted and top is brown).



9) Slice and enjoy. Read: eat all of and be impressed with yourself.



Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Recipe: Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

I have eaten this bread for breakfast every day for the past 3 weeks. That alone should tell you how delicious it is (and how much the hubs loves it too). But if you need extra convincing, here are some other reasons to make this beautiful bread ASAP: there’s a ton of healthy zucchini in here but you can’t even taste it, the zucchini adds so much delicious moisture that this bread keeps all week and is just as good on day 5 as it was on day 1, and nothing puts me in the mood for Fall weather than a warm, cinnamony quickbread.

Domestocrat’s Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, makes 1 loaf/10 slices)
1.5 cup AP flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tbsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. ground flax seed
3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups zucchini, shredded (1 large or 2 small should do the trick)
3/4 cup chocolate chips

The only heavy lifting this recipe requires is processing the zucchini. To begin, rinse and trim the zucchini. Next, using a cheese grater or your food processor, shred the zucchini. I use a cheese grater and grate on to two layers of paper towel. When the zucchini is shredded, gather up the corners of the paper towel and squeeze over the sink to remove the excess moisture. I give it 4-5 good hard squeezes. You’ll be amazed at how much liquid is released! You can also do this with a cheesecloth or tea towel if you’re afraid of the paper towel ripping.


For the rest of the recipe it’s the standard muffin method: mix the dry ingredients together in one bowl, mix the wet ingredients in another bowl, and then slowly incorporate the two together (in a stand mixer is my preference).

When the batter has come together it’s going to look quite dry. Add the zucchini and mix for 1-2 minutes, you’ll see how much moisture it brings to the party as the batter starts to look more normal. Finally, add in the chocolate chips.


Grease a loaf pan and pour in the batter. Bake on 325 degrees for 1 hour, rotating at the half way point. Make sure to check with 15 minutes left as the bake time may vary depending on your oven.


The recipe is consistent and foolproof; the result is perfect, moist bread every time. Also, who cares about the zucchini when you have all of this decadent chocolate to focus on? Served best with a hot mug of tea on a crisp day (though I could eat it all year round).

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Simple Snack: Veggies & Hummus

Welcome to Simple Snacks! This feature is a place for simple snack ideas that are healthy, easy, and satisfying. To visit past snacks, click here.

Simple Snack #7 – Veggies & Hummus

I know veggies and hummus seems like the boring office party staple that no one eats, but they are truly one of my favorite snacks! If I can pick the veggies and flavor of hummus, that is. That’s the key right there.

When it comes to hummus, I like a little variety but nothing crazy (I’m not a garlic fan, really). My favorite flavors are Garden Vegetable and Spinach & Artichoke. Homemade hummus is a good way to go too. For the veggies, anything goes really – I love baby carrots, celery, sliced bell pepper, sliced squash, green beans, etc.

For this application I had baby carrots and Cedar’s Garden Vegetable hummus. What I really wanted to show you was my favorite way to store/transport this snack. I am currently in love with my wide mouth mason jar and Cuppow BNTO Lunchbox Adapter.


All you do is fill the mason jar with veggies, leaving enough room for the BNTO, fill the BNTO with hummus, stack the BNTO on top of the jar, and screw on the lid!



It’s super easy to use and so convenient, much like all of the Cuppow products! (I have the Cuppow Drinking Lid as well and I love it.) Another great thing is that the Cuppow Wide Mouth products work with a 16 oz./pint mason jar or the 24 oz. “tall boy” ones – so cool! This makes snacking on the go easier and definitely cleaner. I like that I can just screw the lid back on and wash the whole thing whenever I can later. Of course, using the BNTO isn’t just for veggies and hummus, the snack possibilities are endless!

(Products listed in Simple Snacks are never sponsored; I am in no way paid, given free samples, or told to say anything you just read. I have posted about this product because I went out, purchased this item myself, and want to share my findings in a candid and informative way.)

Posted in Simple Snack | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment