You Need to Visit: The Arnold Arboretum!

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The weather is finally cooperating (for the most part) in Boston, so this weekend I got the chance to cross another place off my “To Visit” list: The Arnold Arboretum! And because I like to enjoy the beauty of nature with excellent company, I invited my best friend Anna to join me!

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Here we are enjoying the sun, and also enjoying the feeling of our skin not burning. Thank you, April weather. You’re pleasant at 70 degrees.

photoI could go into lots of details and facts about the Arboretum, but I like to keep it simple: It’s a giant museum for trees and natural wildlife. With almost 300 acres of space, The Arnold Arboretum is massive. It’s hard to catch everything in one day, and if I were you, I’d leave the main path every once and a while and do some hiking. The views from above are breathtaking, and you never know what you’ll find.

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Everywhere we turned there were gorgeous patches of flowers blooming, with such vibrant colors that I was tempted to take some home as a little souvenir. But I wouldn’t. Just like you wouldn’t try to pluck a Monet off the wall of an art museum, you shouldn’t try to take even the tiniest flower from the Arboretum.

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When you see things like giant trees and creeks that run for miles, it makes you forget that you’re technically still in Boston. Just twenty or so minutes from this total serenity is the hustle and bustle of the city, and yet they feel like two totally differently worlds. The only reminders are the occasional sewer grates with “The City of Boston” etched on them.

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Something tells me that I won’t be able to live in the city forever. The Midwesterner in me, who grew up in the country, feels the need to be back in the woods. I need the quiet, and I miss seeing animals standing inches away from that aren’t pigeons and park squirrels. The Arboretum is a fantastic escape, and a terrific way to spend a beautiful spring day. The only thing that would make it better? If you were allowed to picnic!

If you’re in Boston, I encourage you to take the short T ride and enjoy another side of Boston. You might just catch me there!

 

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Liebster Award!

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My nice friend, and former classmate, Olivia (this is her blog, Lively Liv, and it is AWESOME) nominated me for a Liebster Award, and I’m super stoked!

The Liebster awards are a neat way for bloggers to get to know other bloggers. It’s because of Olivia that I started trying to step up my blogging game, so it’s pretty awesome that she thought of me!

 

Here are the questions Liv asked me:

 

1. When did you start your blog and why did you decide to start?

I started my blog about two years ago as a way to document my interests, and also stay creative. Initially this was going to be a blog about interior design appreciation, but then I discovered my love for food, and it morphed from there.


2. What is your favorite place that you’ve EVER visited?

Cairo. Hands down. There is no other city like it in this world. I bought some of the most beautiful textiles I’ve ever seen, and when I look at them, I’m taken back to the mornings exploring, and the afternoons lying in the sun, constantly reapplying sunscreen.


3. What are your top 3 favorite blogs?

JUST THREE?

Joy the Baker (she taught me how to bake!), Smitten Kitchen, and as of two days ago RachelKhoo.com (Have you seen her cooking show? I want her life!!)

4. Describe your perfect Sunday.

Brunch with the perfect cup of coffee, afternoon services, then a stroll downtown, popping into Marshall’s and Crate and Barrel to see what’s new / on sale.


5. What is your secret talent or skill? Spill!

I don’t think I have any secret talents, actually! I’m pretty good at predicting a character’s pregnancy on television shows before they announce it…Is that weird?


6. What is your favorite thing about blogging?

I like that blogs are your own little diaries. Sure, you post for others, but it’s so nice to be able to look back through the archives, and say, “Oh man, I remember that. THAT WAS DELICIOUS.” Or, “Oh my gosh, I miss my friends so much, I’m glad that I wrote about it so that I can remember it always.”


7. What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?

I don’t think I can answer this! Too many choices! It’s a tie between the three-course meal me and my work chums had at The Liberty Hotel for Restaurant Week, or the wonderful french cuisine my family had at Lake Park Bistro in Milwaukee. After that meal, I remembered how much I love french food. Bring on the butter and sugar!


8. Fashion dos & don’ts?

Never wear white socks with dark pants. Do be bold and wear red lipstick. It looks good on everyone, trust me.


9. What movie can you watch over and over again and not get sick of it?

You’ve Got Mail. I LOVE YOU, TOM HANKS.


10. What are your blogging goals for 2014?

Make a schedule and stick to it! Blogging is hard work, but if you set a schedule and stick to it, you’ll reap the rewards.


11. What advice would you give to someone who is just starting (or who is thinking about starting) to blog?

Go for it! There’s room for everyone. If you can inspire even one person, then you’ve already won.

I nominate:

Anna from Anna Travels the World

1. What first got you blogging?

2. What’s your favorite place to visit?

3. Any hidden talents?

4. Favorite childhood memory?

5. Top 5 favorite musicians…and GO.

6. What is the one thing that you never leave the house without?

7. If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would you invite?

8. Coffee or tea?

9. Any blogging goals for 2014?

10. What’s one piece of advice that you would give to a blogger that’s just starting out?

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Ladies’ Brunch!

 

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I’d been itching to have a party for a while, so when my friend Grace mentioned an article she’d seen solely devoted to french toast recipes, I knew that a Ladies’ Brunch was definitely in order.

As much as I love cooking and baking, I almost never do it for myself. Cooking for one can be a little depressing, so when given the chance to cook for others, I dive head first. All the bases were covered: a cheese plate, (a chalkboard plate I got on sale at Crate and Barrel!) a Florentine Fritata (I got the recipe from Breakfast for Dinner),  delicious and crispy brioche french toast with baked berries and maple syrup (curtesy of Grace!), and last but certainly not least, fresh and giggle-inducing grapefruit mimosas! At my house, you go big with brunch, or you go home.

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A good brunch always needs fresh flowers. It brightens up any room, and reminds you that Spring has sprung, and you must embrace it.

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Trader Joe’s actually has a great selection of cheeses from all over the place, for excellent prices. My local grocery store was trying to charge me almost double, for less product. I don’t think so!

photoIt took me 20 minutes to make the mimosas, and I had the best time doing it. Cutting up those grapefruits made the house smell so wonderfully citrusy.

 

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I thank my lucky stars everyday that I decided to keep the champagne glasses I impulse bought at Goodwill last year. I hardly ever use them, but when the time comes, these beauties come in absolute handy.

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I’ve caught the entertaining bug, and I’m thinking a nice, classic dinner party is next!

 

Grapefruit Mimosas

What You’ll Need:

1 750 ml bottle of Prosecco, chilled

4 large grapefruits (should make 3-3.5 cups of grapefruit juice)

Optional Sweetener or Simple Syrup

 

1. Fill a large pitcher with your freshly squeezed and chilled grapefruit juice, then add the prosecco. (Make sure your pitcher is big enough to handle both the juice, and the contents of the bottle, plus the foam. The foam is what ties it all together!)

2. Add sweetener to taste. (I added a couple spoonfuls of granulated sugar)

 

Yields about six servings

Source: Jason and Shawnda

 

 

If loving brunch is wrong, then I just don’t want to be right.

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Happy First Day of Spring!

photoLast week I flew to Nashville to see Oscar and my family, and it was amazing. I needed it, and I also needed the 60+ degree weather.

I got so used to the nice weather that now I’ve refused to accept that the temperature is in the 40s here. I will not switch back to my winter coat, I just won’t.

 

It’s officially Springtime, and I’m diving in head first!

 

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Shopping Wish List

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 10.02.48 PM“Jade Green” Hunter Boots // Eaton Shoulder Bag from Madewell // Two-Tone Sunnies from Kate Spade Saturday // Keds Champion Seasonal Solid in “Bright Green” // The A Satchel from Kate Spade Saturday 

Guys, I just want it to be spring so badly. On Saturday it was light jacket weather, and now we’re back to gray skies. And as someone who is actually quite a fan of snowy winters, I have had enough. This shopping wish list is meant to remind me that there will come a day (hopefully soon) where there won’t be a cloud in the sky. And when that day comes, I will be dressed in all kinds of colors.

I can’t wait.

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Brunching in the South End Take Two: My Weekend in Pictures

photoI couldn’t stay away for long. It only took me a week to get back to the South End Buttery for brunch because it is just. that. good.

photoMy roommate and I have made it a point to do activities together on the weekends, and I take it as an opportunity to show her parts of the city that I hold near and dear. And honestly, the places that I hold near and dear also happen to be places where I can stuff my face. And there’s nothin’ like stuffing your face with brunch food.

photo photoSince I went with sweet breakfast food last week, I decided to go savory this time around. The last time I was there, Tori offered me a piece of her Eggs Benedict, and I was absolutely hooked. Poached eggs with hollandaise sauce, on top of the crispiest, most buttery homemade biscuit you’ve ever tasted, is absolutely the right way to go. Throw in a side of crispy on the outside, soft and warm on the inside home fries, and you’re set.

We sat at the bar again this time, and it must be said that our experience was a little bit different from last time. Our bartender was a character and a half, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He’s a fan of witty, slightly mean, banter. And lucky for him, so am I. While he hurled mostly harmless insults at us, I was happy to see that he is definitely a person who can take it as well as he dishes it. And hey, it made the dining experience a little bit more interesting.

South End Buttery is definitely my go-to brunch place in the city. It’s officially official.

What’d you do this weekend?

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Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats

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I spend a lot of time looking up really complicated recipes, because I want to challenge myself. But lately, I haven’t felt like doing really involved recipes. Maybe it’s because  the single-digit temperatures have left me craving comfort over complication. Or maybe, I just have too much cereal in the house.

It’s been two weeks since I’ve made anything for my work chums, which means it’s been two weeks since I’ve practiced my baking. Life has kept me a little busy, and by the time I get a free moment, it’s time for bed. But honestly, when you’re really passionate about something, you’ll find the time. So I carved a few hours out to get myself back into the swing of things. And what better way to get more practice in, than with yummy, crunchy rice krispie treats? But oh no, not just those standard treats you find the recipe for on the back of the cereal box, no. Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats are a much-needed twist on an old classic. They’re like your cool first cousins from Chicago with the same last name as you, but they’re way more popular, even with your group of friends.

What’s great about these is that the taste is not different, but rather enhanced. Brown butter is a sneakily powerful ingredient. Sure, it’s the same as butter, but with a slight twist that takes something basic, and gives it the depth that it’s always deserved. And to top that all off, sea salt helps to bring the flavors out even more. If you’re a sweet and salty type of person, then this is for you. I will not tell you how many I’ve had for fear that your jaw will fly open and never close. I’m just glad I have hungry co-workers, because the few that I saved for the house, did not last in the house for very long.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 8-inch square cake pan
  • 1 10 ounce bag of marshmallows
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt (plus more for sprinkling!!)
  • 6 cups of Rice Krispie cereal (buy on 12 oz box)

Butter (or coat with cooking spray) the bottom and sides of the cake pan. Lay a piece of wax or parchment paper on top, making sure that it properly sticks to the corners and edges.

In  a large pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. It will melt, then start to foam, and crackle. Once the crackling has subsided, the butter will start to turn a golden color. After a few moments, your butter will start to brown, and should give off a wonderful, nutty aroma. Stir frequently, scraping up any brown bits that are hanging out at the bottom. Do not leave your butter unattended. Brown butter will turn to burned butter in very little time. And no one likes burned butter.

As soon as the butter takes on a nutty color, turn the heat off and stir in the marshmallows. The residual heat from the melted butter should be enough to melt them, but if it is not, turn it back on low until the marshmallows are smooth.

Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the salt and cereal together. Quickly spread into prepared pan. If you’re like me, you love the salty-sweet contrast. Evenly sprinkle on as much extra sea salt as you please.

Let cool, then cut into squares, or whatever shape you’re feelin’.

SOURCE: Smitten Kitchen 

HAPPY BAKING!

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Saturdays in the South End: My Weekend in Pictures

photoThis weekend, one of my very best friends, Tori, came to town, and we, along with my other friend Grace, had the ultimate blast.

After we met up at the train station (and I engulfed them both in a powerful three-way bear hug), Grace declared herself more than a little famished, so we headed over to the South End Buttery, a cafe and restaurant combo that I’ve been meaning to return to since stopping by this summer. Since Saturdays and Sundays are optimal Brunch days, the line was, understandably, pretty long. But it was no matter really; Tori and I decided to wait outside on a bench while Grace waited for her food.

There’s something you really have to know about Grace and Tori: they are die-hard dog lovers. And when I’m with them, I become just as die-hard. If we so much as hear the possibility of a clinking dog tag, our heads swivel around so quickly, frantically searching for our next doggy encounter. And this weekend, I think I met the man of my dreams.

photo I’m speaking of course about the bulldog.

It’s a weird/interesting/funny story, I suppose. There we were, perched on a bench, admiring all the sights and sounds that go along with typical Saturdays in the South End, when all of a sudden we spotted him: Rocky, a 19 month old bulldog, happily trotting along with his owner. But the two were all the way across the street, and by the looks of the half-full basket of clothes in his owner’s hand, it looked like the pair was right in the middle of Laundry Day. And I’m not sure of this, but either the man saw us eyeing his adorable puppy, or Tori and my uncontrollable cooing was more audible than usual.Whatever the case, Rocky and his owner made a beeline for our bench. And before I knew it, his owner had picked Rocky’s front half up, walked him on his hind legs, and literally wrapped the dog’s arms around my waist. I instinctively hugged him because, honestly, what does one do in this situation? But one look into those beautiful eyes, and I was a goner. Rocky is a rescue originally from Texas, and is featured in this great local book, Dogs in Thought

After meeting him, I totally want a bulldog. And he’ll have a cool name like T-Bone, and wear muscle tees all the time. Or I’ll name him Herbie, and he’ll be a sensitive soul who wears sweater vests.

Welcome to my mind.

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What’s really cool about the South End Buttery, is that there are actually two locations. The first, is the traditional cafe, but the second, located just down the block, is a totally awesome little market. On the shelves are imported loose leaf teas, and locally made ice creams, and in the cases are the most delicious looking treats like cupcakes, quiches, and specialty cookies. Honestly, have you ever seen anything cuter than those Oscar cookies? Now I wish that I’d gotten one.

photoFinally. FINALLY after WEEKS of wanting to check this place out, I FINALLY made it Farm and Fable. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s this charming, freshly renovated, cooking boutique. It’s got everything from vintage cookbooks, to antique copper pots, to adorable, independently made recipe and greeting cards. And that’s just the upstairs! The lower level of the shop is equipped with a full demonstration kitchen, which is home to tons of events from a Cookbook of the Month Club where members each make a recipe out of the featured cookbook, to private cooking lessons.  I feel like I’m not doing this place enough justice, so here’s a write-up about it in the Globe

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We found ourselves feeling a bit peckish after the trip to Farm and Fable, and though the initial plan was to grab some Vietnamese food, Grace’s breakfast sandwich looked way too good to pass up. I never say “no” to breakfast food, no matter the hour. So guess where we ended up?

photoIf you guessed the South End Buttery, then you’re a great guesser. Two o’clock in the afternoon, and we tucked in at the bar for a spontaneous brunch. There are only a few things these days that remind me that I still live in a big city, and one of them is brunch. No matter where you go in Boston, you will find brunch, or it will find you. There’s no escape, so you just have to give in to it. And just LOOK at how fluffy those pancakes are! I have to admit (maybe I shouldn’t) that I’m a bit of a pancake snob (she said pretentiously). Not everyone can do it right, and the South End Buttery did it absolutely right.

Those pancakes, mixed with the wonderful feeling of being tucked away in the back portion of the restaurant, mixed with delicious coffee, mixed with amazing friends who make you laugh so hard and loud that you feel slightly embarassed made for the best Saturday.

photoT’s back home now, and I miss her already. BUT, for my birthday, I’m planning a trip to New York to visit her, and I CAN’T WAIT.

What’d you do this weekend?

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Shopping Wishlist

I have a complicated relationship with shopping. In real life, I subscribe to the “Fill up the cart!” philosophy. Especially at Target. ESPECIALLY if I have friends with me who’ll say, “Why not? Get it!” That is very dangerous for me to hear. But online, if I find something I like, I very rarely purchase it. I pour over it for days, do as much research as I can, dissect the reviews, and then, after all of that, if I still want it, then I get it.

Here are a few things I’ve been crushing on lately:

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Red Flower Coasters from DecoyLab on Etsy // Quilted Picnic Blanket from Provisions by Food52 // Spiced Pomegranate Pear Molly Hatch from TeaGuys // Fairmount Park Telephone Salt and Pepper Shakers from Kate Spade New York

I just want them all.

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My Weekend in Pictures

 

photo-3On Friday, my co-worker brought in his cousin’s dog to visit because he knew how much it would make my day. His name is Monty, and he’s just the sweetest. As soon as I got into work, I was greeted with a nice hug, and an invitation to play a never-ending game of fetch where Monty pretends that he’ll give you the ball to throw, but when you reach for it, he slyly pulls away. Monty decides when you throw the ball, not you. At any rate, we had such a blast. He’s what’s called a Springville Labrodoodle who, despite his size, sat in my lap, cradled like a baby, and now I totally want one.

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On Saturday, I decided that it was finally time to take my roommate, Sophie, to my absolute favorite bookstore in the city: Brookline Booksmith. It’s an independently owned shop right in the heart of Coolidge Corner that’s been around forever, and is the place where I’ve met both Jim Gaffigan and John Krasinski. I have never left this place without buying something.I think it’s because of the sheer whimsy and quirk of the place that makes you feel right at home. There’s also a very impressively stocked used book cellar with amazing bargains. I picked up a used copy of Julie and Julia, (the movie is one of my favorites, so it’s about time that I picked up the book) and a brand new copy of Food in Jars, because I really want to start canning! I’m starting small with a batch of vanilla extract, then working my way up. I am TOO AMPED to dive into this book.

I should really visit Brookline Booksmith more often. Seriously guys, if you can shop small, do it. Support your local businesses!photo-5It’s funny, I live all the way across the city now, and yet I still very regularly find myself back in Allston. Part of that is because my close friends have remained, and another part is The Avenue. And more specifically: The Avenue Burger. Just picture it: Buttery, toasted bun, perfectly seasoned beef patty, melted swiss cheese, and the tangy deliciousness of the famous “Secret Sauce.” I have been trying for months to figure it out, but no such luck. It’s really no matter, I’ll just have to keep coming back until i do. Also worth noting: Sweet Potato Tots with Maple Bacon Ketchup.

The Avenue is the perfect neighborhood bar, and one that’s quiet enough during the day to keep me coming back. They have a TON of amazing beers and ciders on tap, and the waitstaff has always been nothing but friendly. Plus, if you’re a sports fan, there’s almost a TV for every table, give or take. If you find yourself on Harvard Avenue, find yourself at The Avenue. Burgers are only $1 on Mondays!

photo-4I’m feeling really inspired lately, so I’ve channeled that into my baking. I’m currently working on a double chocolate cookie recipe of my own, and I found myself diligently working on this Saturday night. I’m almost there, guys!

 

What did you do this weekend?

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