Thursday, April 30, 2015

Olive Garden Dressing Is My Everything Right Now

A recent wine club at my friend Stacie's house revealed something revelatory: Olive Garden now sells its dressing AT THE SUPERMARKET. I've been dousing my salads in it, but the other day, I realized it would also make an awesomely easy and delicious marinade, the way my Dad and I used to marinate chicken in Zesty Italian dressing when I was a kid. I chopped up some herbs from my container garden (booya, extra credit right there), placed the chicken breasts in a bag with just enough dressing to completely cover, and plopped the whole thing in the fridge for about 6 hours.

Sean grilled it and it was delicious! This is definitely one of my sillier posts, but for real, I thought you'd all like to know Olive Garden dressing can be bought at the grocery store. Game changer.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Taste of India in Norfolk

When I was about 7, my family took me to an Indian cultural festival in New Jersey. I sipped sugarcane juice, bought bracelets and loved seeing the sculptures of Vishnu and Ganesh. I've always loved the Indian culture ever since, and when I saw that Norfolk is host to a festival called Taste of India every year, I told my husband, "Why do we make it a point to go to the Greek festival every year, but not to the Indian festival?"

The festival was held in the Ted Constant Convocation Center on the campus of Old Dominion University and it was so fun! There were plenty of Indian foods to try, an entire room of saris and tunics called kurtis and sparkly jewelry, and my favorite part: Bollywood-style dancing!!!!!!

Sugarcane juice was exactly as I remembered...throwback to childhood!

I tried Nawab's Chicken Makhani (butter chicken), which was a pretty safe choice on my part, but it was delicious just the same.

And Sean and I shared two scoops of pistachio (not my fave) and rose (delicious) Indian ice cream while we watched the Bhangra dance competition. I'm looking forward to possibly making it an annual tradition, just like going to the Greek festival. Since May is around the corner, it's definitely the festival season. If you're local, don't miss:

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

New Addition: The Siesta Chair

We have a new comfy friend in our lives! My in-laws bought Norwegian designer Ingmar Relling's Westnofa Siesta chair in the early 70s for like, $150 and have had it ever since. It's a little scratched up, but from the first time I visited their house, I thought it was an extremely handsome chair. I was delighted when they let us know they wanted us to have it, even though I had no idea where exactly to put it. It landed in the living room and although I'm still not 100% happy with the furniture layout, I can vouch that the chair is a great addition.

It's lovely distressed tan leather supported by bentwood beams, canvas and rope. It's like a stylish La-Z-Boy. 1st Dibs called it "one of the most comfortable chairs" ever designed.

I decided to take it for a spin drive yesterday afternoon, finishing The Signature of All Things during a blissful (and sleepy) few hours. I truly almost fell asleep in this chair and I am NOT a napper! It's a great addition to the room and definitely gives the living room area a heavy library vibe. Now I just need to get a cat to sit in my lap for ultimate reading bliss!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday Best v.242

Kinda wanting to rewatch The Darjeeling Limited for the first time since it came out. We spent the day at Taste of India, the local Indian festival and it was so fun and only made me want to go there someday even more than already. Here are some links to enjoy:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Life Lately

We've been BUSY. Work is busy, social life is busy, guests all the time, yardwork, blah blah blah. All the usual excuses, and yet they don't stop being true! So, I hope you don't mind a bit of a photo dump post to share what's been going on with us!

Sean celebrated his birthday about 12 days ago and it happened to fall in the middle of a bunch of work events on my end, so I skipped the fancy super-special perfectly selected gifts, went to the ABC store, and grabbed him this Irish whiskey from County Cavan and Bulleit Bourbon. He's a happy camper, and boy, did they look lovely in the afternoon light! The whiskey is surprisingly sweet, with hints of vanilla. I'm not a regular whisky drinker, but the sweetness was a nice switch.

I went to buy this Tula hat that I'd had my eye on at Bridget's (one of my favorite local stores), and as I left, I took a selfie to text to Ashleigh to show off my new must-have hat. No sooner had a taken the shot when a skinny hipster approached to ask if he could draw me. I hesitated, but then remembered, DUH I work for a freaking art could I say no??? He explained he's homeless (although he technically has a place to crash) and is trying to save up some money to help his mom with her prescriptions. The street was busy and although he seemed super anxious, I felt like I could trust him, so I pledged $5 and stood still for about 10 minutes while he drew this sketch. Bless him; it looks hilariously not like me, but it's not terrible and it definitely made for a great anecdote.

This beer is the best thing that's happened to me this month. I'm a total grapefruit nut, so I'm loving this limited edition shandy. 

I noticed all winter that our house was the darkest on the block. It made me feel like we are the Addams Family of our street! So I was excited to spot these solar path lights at Costco that give off this gorgeous star pattern on the lawn. It makes coming home a treat! 

A little extra illumination goes a long way!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Wine Club: Tour L'Italia!

A couple weeks ago, wine club convened for what might have been one of my favorite themes ever: family-style Italian night! Stacie hosted and gave us the full Olive Garden treatment at home; she made two lasagnas, one with sausage and one with beef. Both were delicious! And just to give the full effect, she served up salad with Olive Garden dressing, which can now be found at the grocery store (!!!). Basically a life-changing discovery right there.

To complement the lasagna, we sampled Chianti wines (sans fava beans.....hahaha).

We tried:

  • Chianti Classico: Click the link to learn more about the rich history behind chianti classico, produced in the Barberino Val D'elsa area of Tuscany for more than 2,000 years. If you're looking for an authentic chianti classico, look for the black rooster label, a symbol for chianti (find the whole origin story on the link). This one was particularly tasty.
  • Casalino Chianti Classico Riserva: A silky smooth chianti with notes of cherries and spice.
  • Chianti Superiore Banfi: A floral and plummy chianti. We got two years' worth...the first time that's EVER happened at wine club! Neither Melissa nor I could resist Da Vinci's "Lady with Ermine" on the label.
  • Dellatori Chianti : Fruity flavors abound in this wine, including strawberries and plums.
  • Rocca Felice Barbera D'Alba Superiore: Hints of red berries and vanilla, along with a "wash of smoke," according to the description. Another very good chianti.
Next up for Wine Club: Mexican food and sangria!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday Best v.241

My favorite besties, Tina and Amy.

Y'all, this week was BUSY and it kept raining. I had planned all these posts about yard stuff and then it rained a ton and then I got busy a ton and that's just life, isn't it? Today, Sean and I are celebrating 10 years of being together (!!!). My in-laws are coming to visit and help us learn how to manage the great outdoors. Hopefully I'll have more to report about that later in the week!
  • If you're a Jinx addict, here's even more info from Robert Durst's biographer.
  • Sizzler made the most patriotic commercial ever.
  • Feeling super inspired by Jenny's post on hex tile.
  • Kelly Clarkson kills it on the Phantom of the Opera cover.
  • Feminist books for little girls.
  • The incomparable Amy Schumer sums it all up perfectly.
  • Italians struck upon an amazing discovery while fixing a toilet.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday Best v.240

I'm spending a lot of time thinking about patio furniture these days...kinda wishing I could have this set owned by Marilyn Monroe! The weeks have been BUSY, so I apologize for missing last week's Sunday's a super-sized one for your distraction and enjoyment:

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Working on Our Curb Appeal

From almost the day we moved in, I've been grimacing about our curb appeal. We moved in just in time for all the plants to die, leaving our house with no color for the entire winter. Eventually, I'm hoping to add some color with year-round shrubs and other foundation plants, but for now, we'll enjoy the hostas that are starting to sprout for spring and summer. In the meantime, I decided to try my hand at creating pretty planters to dress up the porch.

My mommy sweetly bought me these lovely iron planters from Home Depot and I spent a feverish night exploring Pinterest for inspiration. I knew I wanted to aim a color combo I always love: deep purple, lime green and white.

In case you have never planted in planters this large, I have a hot tip I learned the hard way: just buy the HUGE potting mix bags. You would need probably 6 of those little bags if you want to try to fill these.

After checking out what was available at my local garden centers, I ended up with this combo: Cordyline in the middle, flanked by bright green creeping jenny, white candytuft and a pretty purple and green plant whose name escapes me. It might be huechera? Dangit. I knew I'd forget.

And because I know myself, I bought three small glass watering bulbs; I call them my plant insurance policy because I'm so truly terrible at watering plants.

Around the rest of the garden, new plants are sprouting and blooming every day and it's so fun to come home after work and see what's new. This little tree finally sprouted and it's so, so lovely. I still don't know what kind of tree it is, but I'm smitten.

How beautiful are those blossoms? I'm feeling MUCH better about our curb appeal these days...but just wait until I show you our front lawn. Eesh.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Easter in the Valley

We had a wonderfully busy and fun Easter weekend visiting with our family friends in both Harrisonburg and in Northern Virginia. I always love how Easter ushers in the spring, bringing a season of new beginnings and fun. Plus, I love wearing an Easter dress!

We spent the weekend with our friends Holly and Arthur in Harrisonburg. Visiting the Burg always sends me into fits of nostalgia and wistfulness, remembering the year I spent there in my first year out of college. My job was very cool in a lot of ways, but I was in a long distance relationship (with my now-husband) and felt very lonely as I made my way in the world. It's fun to return and see how the city has grown and changed, but it's also delightful to see what's the same. They took us to have a dangerously delicious brunch at Billy Jack's Wing & Draft Shack, owned by the same team behind Jack Brown's. Holly and I split a carafe of mimosas and we were HAPPY by the end.

Sean got the 10-Napkin burger, complete with bacon nuggets. I mean, have you ever?

They have an incredible menu of sliders, so I had two super-bad-for-me options: a fried chicken slider with dill pickles and sriracha mayo (get on that, Chick-fil-a!) and the Greg Brady, a wagyu beef patty topped with mac and cheese and barbecue potato chips. That inspired combo was tasty, but actually a bit rich. I think salt and vinegar chips would help cut the richness of the mac!

From there, we headed to Three Brothers Brewing, where Sean enjoyed a flight...

And Holly and I both downed glasses of Good Adweiss! We had dinner at Local Chop & Grill House; one of my first articles in Harrisonburg was about the restaurant that opened there's surreal to think that was almost 10 years ago.

On Sunday, we piled into the car to go meet Arthur's family and my sister-in-law Katie for an Easter brunch. On the way, we stopped in downtown Winchester for lunch. I loved the green trim on this old home's windows!

And I had the best beer-battered fish and chips of my LIFE at Union Jack.

Two years ago, we put together a baby shower for this little nugget! I can't believe how time has flown.

Obligatory Easter couple pic!

The real occasion for getting together: the early arrival of this new best friend! Adam was only four days old in this picture, and already out socializing!

Cuddling with this pal, who decided my necklace was a choo choo and was trying his darnedest to move it around my neck. He's so adorable, I didn't even mind.

We hit the road, enjoyed a beautiful sunset and cracked up through a late show of Furious 7.

Sadly, our weekend trip had to end, but happily, it ended with my favorite sandwich from all the time I lived in Harrisonburg: the Santa Fe turkey sandwich, on a jalapeno bagel. Bliss is when you can leave a place for 8 years and still be able to get your regular order. The world changes, but hopefully this never will. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

DIY Moss Monogram Wreath

I've had the idea in my mind for a while that I really wanted to make a moss monogram to hang on our front door, but it wasn't until I popped into Michael's to buy origami paper that I decided to finally do it! It was simultaneously really easy and kinda not easy. I can't think of a way to tackle this without making a total mess, but the result (in my humble opinion) is kinda cute and different. You will need:
  • One letter (white, kraft, cardboard...if you can paint it and glue to it, it will work)
  • Green paint to camouflage for the moss
  • Adhesive moss
  • Exacto knife or scissors
  • Cutting mat or cardboard
  • Loose moss (these are available in craft stores)
  • Hot glue gun and hot glue sticks

First things first, I painted the letter green. No need to be precious about it; it's just going to get covered up.

Next, I laid my letter on top of a thick piece of cardboard and a sheet of adhesive moss and using my Exacto knife, carefully traced the letter into the moss. The next step is the TRICKIEST, so be careful. I made the mistake of removing all of the adhesive backing at once and almost immediately, the corners stuck together and there was nothing I could do to fix it. I ended up having to cut it out all over again using another sheet of adhesive moss. I would recommend carefully removing the backing bit by bit until the moss is placed directly on the letter.

Next, I played with my arrangement of types of moss before hot glueing each individual piece. That's tricky, too; those hot glue webs are unavoidable! Finally, I hot glued the ribbon (which I bought pre-tied...I'm no Martha Stewart!) and called it a day. It's far from perfect, but it definitely gave our door some spring cheer!

Next, I'm working on experimenting with arranging some decorative plants in some beautiful containers my mom bought for me...wish me luck, because I am decidedly not the best at watering plants!