Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hi there! I hope you're having a wonderful day with family and friends :) I've been so blessed this year, I have many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Have a great day and see you again soon!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Drab to Fab: Chapter 1

Hi friends!  Happy *almost* Thanksgiving!  My husband and I are busy working on our home and the next item on our agenda is a re-vamp of our kitchen.  Thanks to the black Friday appliances sales at Home Depot, we were able to purchase all new appliances on Monday.  I can hardly believe that in January, we'll celebrate two years of living together. In the past two years, our home has begun it's transformation from bachelor pad to our home.  When I moved in, the majority of our first floor was green, we had upstairs roommates (love you Dan and Alyse!) and our home needed some major TLC after a few epic parties and who knows what else.

I was recently asked by Compass, a New York City based real estate startup company that helps match clients with the perfect listing (something I would have been dying to use during my single days and all those dreaded apartment search meetings - that's a story in itself!) to share my Starter Story as part of one of their initiatives.  Seeing as home design is on the up and up in this home, I was happy to share my story!  I ultimately decided to share how we're transforming our home from drab to fab and the tips I have from our successes and failures.

Upon looking at our list of projects, we decided the most important was painting the first floor bedrooms.  After that was competed, we selected our bedroom set and focused on the finishings.  We painted the upstairs portion of our home and our downstairs hallways.  Our focus shifted back to our dining room and we learned what happens when you go off the beaten path (see tip #3)

Along the way, I've learned a few tricks to help you transform your space.  Whether you're moving in with a significant other or just purchased your first starter home, use my tips to transform your home from drab to fab.

1. Paint, paint, paint - baseboards too!

  • There's nothing like paint to transform a room.  We love Behr paint and always choose eggshell enamel as our base color.  Make sure to buy paint with primer added and save yourself a step! Painting takes patience and attention to detail.  I love edging but hate rolling, so make sure you paint with a friend, family member or significant other who is the ying to your paint yang. 
2. Invest in trendy low cost pieces when you know they might not make it to your next move.

  • We knew we were limited by space for our bedroom furniture and didn't want to select anything that we might not want for our next home, so we chose to purchase from Ikea.  We were able to select a bedroom set that was both cost effective and fit our style. 

2. Know when to bring in the professionals.

  • If you aren't sure about a project, don't hesitate to get a professional opinion.  Our ceiling was cracking, so we stripped the paint ourselves. It was horrible and also led to a brief panic called "wait, is that paint lead?"  Luckily, it wasn't, but despite our best efforts, we ended up having a professional come to fix and finish the ceiling with plaster.  Know when to call someone from the start!

3. Invest in higher quality pieces that you can grow into.

  • We loved the idea of a rustic dining room table, but knew we might have a bigger dining room in our next home.  We looked for inexpensive options, but couldn't find anything that we loved.  We brainstormed and decided to select a style we loved, but decided to pay more to have the option of removable leaf inserts.  That way, our table fits our home now, but can come with us in the future to our forever home. 

4. Sell what you can't use.
  • One man's trash is another man's treasure!  We sold our old furniture on Craigslist and used those earnings towards the purchase of our new items.  

What's your Starter Story?

Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post, just happy to participate and share my story.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Recipes All Around

Hi there friends!  Happy Tuesday! All ready for Thanksgiving?  I can hardly believe it's only two short days away.  I'm looking forward to celebrating with my family and also having a few much needed days off of work.  The Thanksgiving festivities actually started last weekend when our friends hosted Friendsgiving!  We had a great time catching up with everyone and enjoying the delicious food.  Did any of you participate in Friendsgiving?  It's one of my favorite traditions, I've been to one every year for the past 5 years. I highly recommend it!  

On the home front, our Thanksgiving will be a little different this year.  My side of the family celebrates at my grandma's home, but this year she's currently in a skilled nursing facility gaining some strength after a hospital stay.  The silver lining is that my great aunt happens to be living there two rooms down!  She used to come to our Thanksgiving every year, but aging has changed a lot of things for everyone, so it will be exciting to have a reunion this year.  Our family will visit her and take food, so in a way, it won't make a difference because all that matters is we're together.

I'll also be throwing together something last minute to take I'm sure.  If you're in the same boat that I am,  check out my guest post on Calio for all the gluten-free Thanksgiving recipes you need. Whether you're in charge of appetizers, a side dish, dessert or the main affair, I've got you covered!

What are you making for Thanksgiving? 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Buffalo Lovin

Hi there! Happy Sunday! Hopefully, it's the start of a short week for you.  Any sales associates out there?  I totally feel your pain if you have to work on Black Friday.  My previous jobs were all in retail and I always remember working those crazy winter holidays.  Anyone going shopping?  It's debatable, but I feel like I'd rather stay at home in the comfort of my own pajamas.

Speaking of pajamas, this is the perfect weeknight recipe when you want to curl up on the couch and break the rules by eating dinner there.  It's healthy and easy.  I blogged about our trip to a nearby restaurant and the buffalo lettuce wraps that we devoured.  Of course, I had to make my own!

If my kitchen walls could talk: These wraps would be delicious with the addition of chopped celery or tomato!  Feel free to add shredded cheese as well, it's a fantastic addition.  Serve straight up or to really take this dish over the top, serve with your favorite homemade ranch or blue cheese for dipping.

Buffalo Lettuce Wraps


2 chicken breasts, large
3/4 C Frank's hot sauce
1 tbsp organic butter
1 tsp minced garlic
1/8 cup green onions, chopped
1 bunch living lettuce

1. Cut chicken breasts in strips, place in slow cooker with Frank's hot sauce, minced garlic and butter.  Cook on high for 2 hours, stir, change heat to low and cook for 1-2 more hours until chicken shreds easily. Shred chicken, change heat setting to warm.
2.  Meanwhile, rinse and dry lettuce leaves, cutting from bottom of step.  Place two leaves together to make lettuce cup, making about 8 cups total.
3. Fill cups with shredded chicken and green onions.  Drizzle with 1-2 tbsp of reserved sauce.

Do you like using lettuce as a wrap? 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

See ya real soon....

Hi there!  I'm blogging from a different spot today.  Check out my guest post on Calio for all the gluten free Thanksgiving tips you'll ever need. Whether your the host or the hostess, I've got you covered! 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Finest Comfort Food

Hello again!  On Friday, I promised my new go-to risotto recipe and here it is at last.  What is risotto?  Risotto is a creamy Italian dish made from short grain rice.  While delicious, it is often labor intensive and requires constant stirring to achieve that perfect bite.  Luckily for you, I've identified a secret to making that perfect risotto dish.  A slow cooker.

Arborio rice, chicken broth, sauteed leeks and wine are heated together over the course of three hours.  During the last thirty minutes of cooking, half and half and fresh mozzarella are added.  The risotto comes out perfectly, allowing you the extra time to prepare the rest of your meal.

If my kitchen walls could talk: If you've never cooked with leeks before, the process can seem very daunting.  The key point to remember is that leeks are similar to large versions of green onions.  Just like green onions, they can also be sandy and dirty, something you clearly do not want to end up in your risotto.  Make sure to clean them thoroughly with water prior to making this dish.  Still a little nervous?  Check out this video from Real Simple!

Feeling confident?  Let's start cooking. 

Slow Cooker Mozzarella Leek Risotto


2 cups leeks, chopped
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup chardonnay
1/2 cup water
32 oz chicken broth, low sodium
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup half and half
8 oz fresh mozzarella, diced

1. Spray inside of slow cooker with nonstick spray. Set aside.
2. In large saucepan over medium heat, saute leeks and 2 tbsp grapeseed oil until tender, about five minutes.
3. Add arborio rice, lightly toast, about 2 minutes.  Add wine, stirring until evaporated.  Turn off heat.
4. Add rice mixture, water, chicken broth and salt to the slow cooker. Stir gently to combine.  Heat over high for three hours, lightly stir mixture every hour.
5. Turn slow cooker to low and change time setting to thirty minutes.  Add half and half along with fresh mozzarella, stir until distributed.
6. Once time has passed, turn slow cooker to off, as opposed to warm setting, to prevent further cooking.

Looking for risotto as a main dish?  Top with a protein such as edamame or sliced grilled chicken.  Stir in cooked peas or bacon. 

Wanting to take this side out of the ballpark? Drizzle with truffle oil or balsamic vinegar prior to serving. 

What's your favorite risotto? 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Weekend Recap 11/16/14

Happy Sunday!  I'm here with a recap of my weekend :) It was relaxing and calm, which was just what I needed.  Anyway, here's the run down...

Friday night, I decided to skip the gym and take a rest day.  My husband and I decided to venture out of our house to check out a new sci-fi film that was on our radar. He had mentioned wanting to see Interstellar a few weeks ago and I was totally on board seeing as 2001: A Space Oddessy is one of my favorite movies of all time.  You can watch the trailer below.

Low and behold, imagine my surprise when we found out the movie theater had been renovated to include lounge chairs!!  We picked our seats prior to entering the theater and settled in with our snacks.  The chairs were comfortable and I loved being able to have my feet up for the whole movie without worry about kicking the person in front of me!  The film was fantastic and resulted in much discussion about it's underlying meaning and themes.

Saturday morning was a chilly one!  I was volunteering in the cheer section for Girls on the Run.  GOTR is a youth development program for girls in grades 3-8 that focuses on positivity and team building.  One of the coaches informed our group that they tell the girls during their first session to imagine a negative plug in their head that is feeding them negative messages from society and the media - "you aren't thin enough," "you aren't smart," "you won't ever be anything," "you aren't strong" - and to imagine removing that plug and plugging into GOTR's messages of "you are perfect just the way you are," "you are strong," "you are beautiful," "you matter".  Throughout the 12 week program, the girls train for a 5K which culminates in the run.  It was bitter cold out but an amazing time!  We cheered our hardest and many high fives were given.

After all that, it was time for an actual run at the gym.  My husband and I raced each other side by side, resulting in a higher calorie burn on my heart rate monitor than normal.  Looking to switch up your fitness routine?  I highly recommend racing your workout buddy, if you are into being competitive.  If you couldn't tell, I'm loving our new gym!

After our run, we met Kurt for lunch at Main Bite and enjoyed bacon wrapped goat cheese stuffed dates and buffalo chicken lettuce wraps.  Buffalo chicken in a tender lettuce shell with shredded carrots and cucumbers.  Obviously, I'll be attempting a recreate in the kitchen!  I spent the afternoon visiting my grandma at the skilled nursing facility where she will be doing a few weeks of rehab.  We watched Pretty Woman and discussed the handsomeness of Richard Gere :)  I headed home and decided there was no way I was cooking dinner. My husband and I settled on dinner out where I enjoyed a glass of malbec, blackened salmon, lots of veggies and an early bedtime.  ZzzzZzz.

Sunday is my day for errands, so I made a quick trip to Kroger to stock up on all things grocery related, including holiday Larabars.  I also picked up these beautiful tote bags during my trip out.... perfect for lugging everything around during the work week.  My grandma's caregiver has this bag in purple and after hearing the price and where it was from, I was on a mission.  Clearly, I wanted ALL the colors.

Now, it's time to meal prep my lunches for the week and get ready for my husband's work dinner!  I hope you had a great weekend :)  Can't wait to share more with you this week!

What made your weekend special? 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday Favorites 11/14/14: Week 6

TGIF!!!  Happy Friday everyone.  Can you believe it is already halfway through November?  Where did the time go?  The temperature has dropped, there are flurries outside and soon the holidays will be in full swing.  Friday brings the start of the weekend but also Friday Favorites!!!  Here are the things I'm loving this weekend that have made my life easier... and will hopefully do the same for you!

Housewife Glamour

Finds - Stocking up on all things beauty (great holiday gift ideas by the way!)

  • Foundation - Makeup Forever HD Foundation 
    • This used to be my go-to foundation a few years back and our love affair is back on.  It's perfect in pictures and wears well throughout the day.  Head to your local Sephora to get matched with a shade.
  • Rollerball Perfumes - Juicy Couture 
    • Are you in need of a new perfume?  It can be hard to commit to a whole bottle unless you're 100% certain about the scent.  I ordered this rollerball to test out the fragrance and it's a winner!  It was an inexpensive purchase, less than $20, and the rollerball is pretty large.  Already committed to a fragrance?  A rollerball is perfect for traveling.  
  • Makeup Palettes - Smashbox Master Class III Palette 
    • There's nothing I love more than a palette and the retail value of this is $300, it's a total steal at only $65.  Look at all these eyeshadows!  I can't wait to play around with it this weekend.  It also has 3 blushes and 3 other colors for highlighting/contouring.  Perfect for the beauty junkie in your life - no judgement if that's you!
  • Beauty Blenders - Real Techniques Beauty Sponge
    • I'd heard of beauty blenders before and how they were supposed to be a holy grail beauty item, but for $20 it sounded like a racket.  I heard about this inexpensive alternative and I am so happy that I did. This product is amazing - you simply dampen it and then use it to apply your foundation. $5.99 and your face will look airbrushed.
Find - The Light Between Oceans 

  • I loved this novel!!!  The Light Between Oceans is a definite must read.  Disclaimer: this book does get off to a slow start and it took a few chapters for me to truly get engaged. However, it explores so many themes - concepts of loss - specifically the loss of ones self, the motivation for our decisions, what it truly means to be a parent, the ripple effect of our choices. Once I was pulled in, I couldn't stop reading.  Beautifully written and heart wrenching. A must read.  Find it at your local library or download it onto your tablet!

Food - Risotto

  • A recent discovery of mine - I realized I could make my favorite meal in the slow cooker.  All of the delicious flavor with only a few stirs instead of a few hundred.  I'll be posting the recipe soon, so be sure to check back!
Fitness - Realizing when you've outgrown your old gym... and joining a new one!

  • We were feeling frustrated at our old gym.  There were limited amounts of treadmills as in there were 4 and a lot of times the equipment wouldn't work quite right or was noticeably broken.  It just wasn't working anymore.  I shared these frustrations with my husband and we decided to shop around.  We debated between two gyms but ultimately it came down to what our preferences were.  I wanted group fitness classes and he wanted an early opening time.  We found the perfect fit and are even saving $15 a month! Bonus: it's one minute from our house.  Moral of the story: Know when you've outgrown your gym/group fitness class/current workout routine and don't be afraid to make a change! 

Fun - Starbucks Holiday Cups

  • Holiday cups are back..... andddd did you know a grande skinny peppermint latte is 130 calories and 13 grams of protein?  #christmasinaglass

What are you loving this Friday? 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Easy peasy and oh so cheesy

Hi again!  How's your week been so far?  It's about to get colder here in the midwest with a predicted temperature of 36 degrees for tomorrow morning.  For those of you that are lucky enough to celebrate winter, you know the season is coming for warmer coats, furry boots, snow shovels and gloves you can text in.  I can't complain - winter is always so magical and while  I always love that first snowfall of the year, my fingers crossed that it doesn't come tomorrow.

Something about the cold weather makes me want to hibernate with a warm blanket and Netflix.  Maybe you can relate?  After a long day at the office, the last thing you want to do is burn the midnight oil in the kitchen when it's already dark outside.  I mentioned in another post about my love of the snow cooker, I mean slow cooker, and while we're on the topic of winter, now is the perfect time for more slow cooker meals.  Come home from work, throw everything in the slow cooker, run some errands or go to you favorite workout class, come home to dinner waiting for you and your family.  The perfect avenue for making a meal when all you want to do is burrow in a blanket.

I've heard rumors that macaroni and cheese could be made in the slow cooker, but I was extremely skeptical.  Could that really be true?  Can you really make macaroni and cheese in the slow cooker?  After all, macaroni and cheese is comfort food at it's finest.  I played around in the kitchen and tweaked a few recipes I'd found online.  This recipe isn't the healthiest, but the calories have been lowered by using skim milk and low-fat cheese.  That's comfort food at it's finest.

If my kitchen walls could talk: When stirring the macaroni and cheese mixture, make sure to fully scrape the bottom of your slow cooker to avoid burnt spots.  Not a fan of parmesan?  Top with mild cheddar for a more traditional mac and cheese.

Slow Cooker White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese, adapted from A Whisk and a Prayer


1 1/2 cup skim milk
12 oz can fat-free evaporated milk
3 large eggs
16 oz light sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, melted
16 oz brown rice pasta, uncooked
1/2 cup parmesan, shredded

1. Spray the inside of slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray.  Combine skim milk, evaporated milk, eggs, shredded cheese and butter in the bottom of the slow cooker.
2. Add pasta to slow cooker, stir to combine with sauce mixture, top with parmesan cheese.
3. Set slow cooker to cook on low for 4 hours.  Stir mixture after 45 minutes of cooking to ensure all noodles cook evenly making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan.  After 3 hours, check mixture as it may be finished at this time depending on the temperature of your slow cooker.  Enjoy!

What's your favorite comfort food?