25 April 2013

Cutting Back

We're cutting back around here...on spending and on calories. So naturally that means all I can think about is buying stuff and eating junk.  Indulge me in a little make-believe splurging?

In my virtual closet:

1 // 2 // 3 // 4

In my virtual tummy:

1 // 2 // 3 // 4

Anything you're indulging in these days, virtual or otherwise? 

23 April 2013

Menu Planning Part Deux

I always get questions/comments from people about our meal planning, and the last post on that topic was pretty popular, so I thought I'd share how I use Pinterest as a meal planning tool.

I'm always surprised to learn that people "pin" recipes and food ideas on Pinterest but never make them.  Based on what I hear from friends and family, that's what most people do.  Nothing wrong with that, but I've found Pinterest to be a great meal-planning tool.  I use recipes I've pinned all the time!

Originally I just had the one board for all of my food inspiration pins. Lately I've found that I had so many recipe pins on one board that I was only ever making the ones that were most recently pinned. So in the past few weeks, I've broken down the boards into categories based on how I plan our meals.

{side note: someone please suggest a better name for this board. i don't love it.} 
This was my original food board and is still the one with the most pins.  These are where my "normal" {i.e. with meat/seafood} recipes go.  

This is one of the newer boards. We've been doing meatless mondays for awhile now and this just makes those recipes that much easier to find.  For reference, we don't eat seafood on meatless mondays, but we do have eggs.

I started this board back in the fall when I started our soup sundays routine.  One of my favorite things about fall is making soups, but before I designated one day a week for soups, I would either make soup every day of the week or forget about soups entirely and would end up only making one or two soups the whole season.

This is my newest board.  I am terrible at picking/planning sides to go with our main dishes.  I normally just make frozen veggies.  Not that there's anything wrong with that, but there are so many healthy, creative, and tasty side dishes out there that I feel like I need to up my game a few times a week.  I've had many of these recipes pinned for ages, but they got lost in the mix. Not anymore!

Breakfast/brunch is my favorite meal of the day.  I don't really make breakfast; that's M's job. But I love to make big brunch feasts, so now I have a place to collect all of those ideas.  This is the most droolworthy board, in my humble opinion.

Like the side dishes, these were originally pinned on my regular food board, but I kept forgetting about them.  Now whenever I feel like splurging or baking something fun for my coworkers, I've got a quick reference board of new things to try.  

This was one of my early Pinterest boards, but it used to be just for party decor/invitations images.  I started adding dips and other party food to this board because it's just more intuitive, at least the way I think.  I think this is my favorite board!

I'm curious: how many of you make the recipes you pin and how many of you pin it and forget it {or stare at it hungrily}?  No judgement either way! I just think it's interesting to see the different ways people use social media.  If you've made anything, what's your favorite recipe that you've pinned? I'm always looking for new inspiration!

image sources
1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7

22 April 2013

Menu Monday

Playing a bit of catch-up on Menu Monday today since it's been 2 weeks since the last one.  In order from most recent to oldest:

Rachel inspired this meal after I saw it on her Menu Monday last week.  I served the skewers with peppers and onions we grilled and Near East Roasted Garlic and Olive Oil couscous.  We LOVED this meal and I can see us making this a lot this summer.  It would be easy to change out the meat, and M thought the grilled onions tasted like a Bloomin' Onion.  Can't argue with that!

Oven Fajitas {Budget Bytes}
M actually made these since I was feeling under the weather.  Love, love, love them!  Really easy {seriously...just slice the chicken, onions, and peppers the same size, thrown them in a pan with some fajita seasoning, and put in the oven}.  It made a lot and M has been enjoying the leftovers as sandwiches and with scrambled eggs.

I've made these before and they're just as wonderful as I remembered.  The trick is to watch the video on the website to learn how to completely seal the feta in the burger.  Otherwise you end up with a serious mess of falling-apart burgers.  

Emeril's Kicked-Up Tuna Melts {Everyday Food May 2010}
Although I think the term "kicked-up" is being a little too generous, we really enjoyed these.  We go through a lot of canned tuna in our house, so this was a nice change of pace.  The red onion added a lot and I liked the burst of sour/bitter flavor from the capers.  Plus, anything with a slice of cheese on top is OK in my book.  

Whole-wheat Rotini with Arugula-Walnut Pesto
This was a clean out the fridge/pantry/freezer recipe.  I just put arugula, walnuts, Parmesan cheese, lemon zest, garlic and olive oil in the food processor and out came pesto.  Toss with whole-wheat rotini and a little pasta water and voila! Dinner.

Meh.  This wasn't bad, but I don't see us making it again.  It was just really, really bland.  I even added a little leftover Boursin to the mix and blah. It makes a lot and it's very filling.  I didn't hate this; I actually really enjoyed the leftovers cold.  But I wouldn't fix this if you're looking for a big flavor hit.

Bon appétit! 

18 April 2013

Brain Dump

*A few weeks ago, HBO started playing episodes of The Sopranos from the very beginning every weeknight at 8pm.  This makes me a happy camper.  The Sopranos is still my favorite TV show of all-time and it sparked my love/fascination with all thing Mafia-related.  Sometimes I'm still not sure why I love the show so much, given the fact that I cannot stand any type of violence on any other TV show or movie.  I just get so sucked in to every episode. Love it.

*I suffer from chronic sinus infections and they always rear their ugly heads this time of year.  Yesterday I felt one coming on and woke up this morning feeling like a train wreck.  I picked up some advice from a few colleagues.  These two products are the only reason I'm semi-functioning at work.

*I had a really intense craving for angel food cake earlier this week.  Not sure where it came from, but now I feel like I need to go buy a tube pan and whip up this Barefoot Contessa treat...

*J.Crew Factory Final Sale is another 30% off with the code GETMORE.  I ordered some of the Winnie pants.  Better hop to it; things are selling out like crazy!

*Ignoring the above angel food craving, I signed up for MyFitnessPal this week. I need to do some spring/summer tuning up, if you will.  Are any of you on it?  Leave your username in the comments so I can add you as an accountability buddy!

12 April 2013

Friday Favorites

Spring {sprummer?} has finally sprung and the beautiful D.C. cherry blossoms are calling my name.  Happy Friday!

Anyone else feeling the need to reduce, in the words of Betty Draper? Or at the very least, do a little freshening-up on the inside?  I've posted the link to this article before, but it's worth reposting.  The genius that is Mark Bittman lists 101 drool-worthy salad recipes that take minimal effort and ingredients.

I mean...are these the cutest cookies you've ever seen?  I'm a sucker for anything with a lamb on it.  

Soooo...is it OK to wear skorts now?  I kind of thought that was something that ended in early middle school, but this little number from LOFT is kind of adorable.  Right? Or am I nuts?  Would you totally judge a grown-ass woman wearing a skort?

I'm feeling crunchier than usual as of late, so I bought all the ingredients to make my own laundry detergent {minus the Purex Crystals, which are decidedly un-crunchy}.  It claims that this makes enough detergent to last a family of 4 for an entire year for only $30.  So will we get 2 years out of this?  To be continued...

I am SO excited to be celebrating the wedding of one of my dearest friends this weekend.  Those are our bridesmaids dresses in the above picture.  We're all going to be pretty in pink for a sure-to-be stunning cherry blossom wedding with an even more stunning bride!  Can't wait!

What are your plans for this spring weekend?  Do tell!

11 April 2013

Denim, Denim Everywhere

I have a complicated relationship with jeans.  I want to love them.  They just seem so timeless.  Jeans never go out of style, you always read in terrible magazines that men find women sexiest in a pair of jeans, the right pair can go from day to night, yada yada yada. I've just never been able to find that magical pair.  I feel like my girlfriends have these religious experiences where they put on a pair of jeans and they look 5 lbs skinnier and their legs look 3 miles long and their butt looks like circa-2001 Britney Spears.  No pair of jeans has ever done any of those things for me.

It may be because I've never bought a pair of designer jeans.  I know, I know. Everyone says that they're the way to go.  But when designer jeans first came around again, they simply did not offer them in lengths/inseams for us shorties.  And you cannot hem jeans more than 1/2-1 inch without ruining the look.  The only jeans I've owned for the past 6 years have all been from Old Navy and meh.  They weren't AWFUL, but they certainly weren't flattering and they most DEFINITELY did not make me look sexy.  At all.  And then a fellow blogger {I think it was Kate at Nautical by Nature?} posted this article about Gap and Old Navy mom jeans. Suddenly it all made sense!  I was buying the wrong jeans!

I got rid of all my jeans {I hardly ever wore them anyways} and swore I would buy new ones....yeah, that part never happened.  But armed with research, I'm ready for a denim bonanza.  The hunt for the perfect pair.  Here are the top recommendations:

1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7

In all fairness, there is still a pair of Gap jeans in this mix {#7}.  But multiple people recommended checking them out, so I'll give them a shot.  There is also a pair of Banana Republic jeans in there {#5}, as 3 different people recommended them. The picture from the website is hideous, so let's hope they're a bit more impressive in person.  I have high hopes for the Levis {#3 and 4}.  They are super inexpensive, have great reviews, and look quite stylish in the pictures. Then there are the 3 extra $$$ fancy designer pairs {#1, 2, and 6}.  I'm not trying them until I've tried all of the others.  That way, if I end up spending that much on a pair of jeans, I can say I tried everything.

Several people recommended the J.Crew toothpick and matchstick jeans.  People either love them or hate them, which I find to be true of all J.Crew pants.  In the past, their jeans have been majorly frump-tastic on me.  If none of the above pan out, I would be willing to revisit the Crew to see if any improvements have been made.

Plan of attack: order the Gap, BR, and Levis.  Cross fingers that one or several of those pairs is a winner.  If not, move on to the upper echelon of denim.  Cross fingers that I don't become hopelessly addicted to overpriced jeans.

Wish me luck!

10 April 2013

Closet Overhaul Update

So it happened.  Well, it's still happening.  The start of the overhaul was shockingly easy and quick.  The above stack of clothes were in the toss/donate/sell pile within about 5 minutes because none of them passed the "Do you absolutely love it?" test.  That pile was about double in size by the end of the morning and all of those items marched off to a local consignment store yesterday.

Last night I went through my chest-of-drawers and weeded out ancient t-shirts, PJ/lounge pants, and other items that are in decent condition to be donated to the Goodwill.  A few things just went straight into the trashcan.  My project for tonight is to start the Herculean task of trying on all of my spring clothes that I got out of storage last weekend and giving them some tough lovin'.  And then my shoes...that's the part I'm dreading the most.

Still, it felt GREAT to drop off those big bags of stuff at the consignment store and I feel like I still have more brutal honesty in me to narrow down the ranks even more.

Then comes the fun part! Filling my closet with the clothes that I actually need/will wear/will be flattering on me {I'm using the term 'need' loosely here}.  The downside to all of that brutal honesty is that my closet looks like I've been robbed.  I am pared down to the basics and the items that I love and wear over and over again.  At least that's made it easy to identify what I need to purchase.  Right now, here's what that list looks like:

pencil skirts {especially in basic colors like khaki, black, and navy}
ankle-length/cropped pants {in all colors and a few fun prints}
long cardigans {in all colors}
button-front shirts {in all colors and patterns}
sleeveless shift dresses {in all colors and patterns}
work-appropriate jackets/blazers
several pairs pantyhose in a color very close to my skin tone
jeans {2-3 pairs}
fun blouses {work-to-weekend}
skinny belts
black pumps
black flats
nude pumps
play clothes {a.k.a. weekend wear}

Any one out there have favorite brands/styles of these items?  Petite readers: have you found any jeans that work for you?  Jeans are my enemy.  You can't have them hemmed more than a 1/2 inch because they don't taper or flare properly.  It seems like every pair of designer jeans I try on is made for tall ladiezz. Suggestions? I used to love shopping, but now I kind of get exhausted thinking about it.  Any help in narrowing down the selection would be tres helpful!

09 April 2013

Hiking and Picnicking

Last Sunday was the first real spring day we've had, so we packed up the dogs and headed for the nearest state park.  It turns out that hiking with two extremely curious dogs makes for very full hands, so the above pictures were the only ones I managed to get. 

1 // 2

But fortunately some people on the interwebs were kind enough to share their photos, so you can see how beautiful it was! We want to go back without the pups so we can tour that gorgeous historic home on the property.  That view made the burning I felt in my legs all day yesterday totally worth it.

We also packed a picnic, but we were too busy scarfing down our lunch to be bothered with pictures.  I made these sandwiches
{they were just OK}

and brought these chips {the best chips EVER and made not too far from where we live!}

{BBQ for him, Chesapeake Crab for her}
and packed it all up in this nifty picnic cooler set.  My mother-in-law gave us one of these Picnic Time Malibu coolers at one of my showers with our monogram on it.  We used it for the first time on Sunday and I'm kind of obsessed with it. It has everything you could ever need, including a handy compartment for wine bottles, plates, napkins, utensils, wine glasses, a cutting board, a cheese knife, and a bottle opener.  GENIUS. At the time, I wasn't sure we would ever use this, but now I'm dreaming up all the different picnic opportunities this baby will afford. Love it. 

It felt so great to be outdoors again and to do something active {read: something other than watch DVR'd reruns of 'The Americans'} on a Sunday afternoon.  I can't wait to go back again, especially since all this hiking will come in handy for quickly approaching bikini season!