Thursday, May 30, 2013

Another reason to do yoga ...

This morning, as I was sweating my ass off in Yogalates, I was really wishing I had some of this sweet arm candy from Charmed Design Handcrafted Jewelry to stare at. It might have made the pain a little more bearable. Might being the operative word.

Via
I came across these bracelets quite by accident last week when I found Lori, the designer, while twittering around, wasting time instead of doing the things I should have been doing (You can find her here: https://twitter.com/charmed1012). Here's her story:
My first bracelets came into being as something constructive and positive to do while recovering from a  sudden and life threatening illness. Although I lost my job, home, and life as I knew it, surviving such a near death experience has made me feel and believe that I am indeed - CHARMED. This jewelry reflects my experience and love for life, which I share with you through each inspired design. 
Send some more love her way. Now, excuse me, while I go place my order (prices range between $20 and $70). Then, we're off to the pool. I just paid an arm and a leg for a pool membership, and I want to make sure we get every last drop out of that sucker. Until tomorrow! ~Alice

**I was not compensated in any way for sharing these with you. I just really like these bracelets:). 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Serendipity...

Serendipity means a "happy accident" or "pleasant surprise"; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful while not specifically searching for it.


Today it was 80 degrees and sunny. Last Friday, however, it was cold, rainy, and miserable, in other words, a typical Spring day here in Pittsburgh. I decided we needed to combat the dreary day outside with something warm and yummy, so we headed over to Peppino's, a local Italian spot that we hadn't tried yet. Turns out, it caught on fire a few weeks ago. No Peppino's. 

I love when life surprises you. Directly across from Peppino's was a new Italian deli, bakery, and market that had just opened (for those of you here in Washington, it's an extension of and just down the block from the Upper Crust, which serves absolutely delicious gourmet and artisanal pizzas). 



Gelato, cannoli, espresso, mortadella, salami, puffy bread. I was salivating over a little slice of heaven, just blocks from my house.  


I also love the exposed brick of the decor and the local art and photography that line the walls. It's a place you want to visit and linger, reading your newspaper and sipping on your cappuccino (if your two-year-old were not climbing all over you trying to feed you Triple Berry gelato; note to self, leave Sophie at home next time). 
If you decide to venture to the Italian Market's Bakery and Deli, the chocolate pizelles were especially good, and I'm still salivating over the salami samples the owner gave us. Enjoy. ~ Alice (aka jess)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Wonderland Hop #11


Welcome to the Wonderland Hop #11!! We had a fabulous round-up of links again last week, all kinds of interesting projects, posts, recipes - ideas galore! I love reading your posts, learning from you, and sharing them via Twitter and Pinterest. Join us again, and link up your favorite posts of the week - the ones that made you laugh, cry, inspired (or pinspired;)).  Every week, we feature our favorites. This week, we were loving the following links:

This project with yardsticks and mason jars at the lovely blog Upcycled Treasures.
She has really great ideas for turning castoffs and simple things into treasures.
Another DIY: This sunburst mirror project from Momma Candy
I love buffalo chicken wings, and this seems like a great casserole for all those
upcoming summer picnics. Pin away!! From Kendra at Kreative Kreationz.
One thing I think I love most about link parties is  discovering new blogs.
Lynet's blog, The New Witty's, is a find.
Great pictures and a fun commentary on motherhood, etc. Stop by and say hello:)! 
If you were featured, feel free to grab a button:

The Owl's Skull
We only have a few pesky rules (the usual suspects): 
  • Follow The Owl's Skull on some platform (GFC, Bloglovin', Twitter, Facebook).
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Follow on Bloglovin
  • Link up our blog in your specific post (grab a button; it's super cute;)).
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  • Drop me a line in the comments to let me know that you dropped by to visit so I can return the favor and follow you back. On that note, please click through the other links, drop the posters a line or two, follow the ones you really want to follow. 
  • Tweet or share the hop on Facebook/Google+ etc.; the more, the merrier!! 
Peace, love, and link-up!! Can't wait to see what you were up to this week! ~Alice

Friday, May 24, 2013

Shine Bright...


Tomorrow is dance recital day. Mags is beyond excited (and so am I). However, we also just got home from dress rehearsal. Mama is having a well-deserved drink. Night all. ~Alice (aka jess)



Thursday, May 23, 2013

On the Nightstand (and in the car, on the end table, etc. etc.)...


I'm one of those readers, anymore, who is reading one book, but cheats on said book with about four or five others on the side. I used to be a monogamous reader, sticking to one book faithfully through and through, even if it was a slow starter (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was like this for me; I found the beginning of that book incredibly boring). In fact, I used to get very annoyed with people who would read more than one book at a time. I always thought, "How can they keep them all straight in their imagination?" Nowadays, I have a book on the nightstand, one in the car to read while I'm waiting at the bus stop, three on the end table next to my reading chair (which one I pick up depends on my mood). It's like a bad episode of Sister Wives.

Here are the books that are currently in rotation:

On the End Table #1: I just started this book last night, after finding it at Goodwill (actually, all of the books I'm reading I found at Goodwill - paperbacks $0.99; hardbacks $1.99).  I'm always a sucker for packaging, and the cover of this book was so lovely I couldn't resist it. I had to open its pages and dive in. So far, so good. I always love a mystery steeped in history.
On the End Table #2: I'm fascinated by Warhol's ability to seem both esoteric and simple-minded at the very same time. As this book demonstrates, his responses to interviewers' questions were often banal, but so banal, they seemed genius, ground-breaking. A thorough, but fun read. Plus, I have to be in the mood for Warhol; he's like a very strong martini. 
On the End Table #3: My reaction to this book: "meh." I started it over a month ago, and I am having a really hard time getting into it. Like, I often want to tell this book, "I have a headache." Now that I started it, however, I feel obligated to finish. I know many, many people have loved it, but I can't get past the creep factor of the naked dude hanging around the childhood version of his wife. I did love Niffenegger's book Her Fearful Symmetry, however, even though I found it completely frustrating. 
In the Car: Via (Hey, it's in the car). I also just started this book, which I find pretty damn funny so far. I appreciate the snarkiness of the narrator and the cultural critique being offered up on the rich beyond rich.  Probably because I'm not, nor will I ever be one of them. 
On the Nightstand: Last, but most definitely not least, this book. When I saw it on the shelves at Goodwill a few weeks ago, I almost squealed with glee. I read it for the first time when I was 8, and then subsequently read it twice more because I thought it was so funny. I remember finding it in an end table at my friend's house where I spent a good part of the summer, watching West Side Story about 900 times. I was the kind of kid who would read anything that was laying around, even if it was entirely inappropriate. I still chuckle at the book today, and, now, I totally get where Erma was coming from. 
OK. That's it for now. I think. Oh, one more thing, how stinking cute is this picture? Snow cones = happiness (at any age, I enjoyed the hell out of a Red Raspberry one myself).


~ Alice (AKA jess)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

An Unfussy Strawberry Rhubarb Galette ...

I am absolutely obsessed with the A Beautiful Mess app. $0.99 worth of endless fun. 
My mom, when summer rolls around, always tells me about how much she loved rhubarb when she was a kid. Her neighbors grew it in the backyard, and she would always sneak over to their house, cut herself a few stalks, clean them (she also always warns me that the leaves are poisonous), and then cook them with sugar. I was thinking of her this past Thursday when I picked up a few stalks for myself from the Farmer's Market. Warning: Do not take a bite of them raw, just to see what they taste like. They taste awful.

I wanted to get a little more highfallutin' than my mom's version cooked up with sugar (also, after tasting those little buggers raw, I figured they needed some serious help in the strawberry department;)).  Here's what I made, adapted from a recipe for Peach Raspberry Galette in the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living.


The Dough
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (I used the equivalent of fresh butter from my local dairy market and think the results were better)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of course salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup ice water
  1. Lay roughly three quarters of butter on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until hard, at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, refrigerate remaining butter.
  2. Combine flour, salt, and sugar in food processor. Add refrigerated butter and pulse to combine, about 10 times. Add frozen butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with some blueberry-sized clumps. 
  3. Add ice water and immediately pulse until just incorporated, about 10 times more. Squeeze a small amount of dough to make sure it holds together. Pulse a few more times, if necessary.
  4. Empty dough onto a piece of floured parchment paper. Bring edges together to gather dough, pressing it so it comes together into a mass. Form dough into a disk and wrap in plastic. Press dough into a flat disk, about 1/2 inch think. I refrigerated mine for about an hour before I started work on the galette itself to give the dough time to set. 

The Galette
If you read my post yesterday (about my Celebrity Chef Crushes), you'll know that one thing I dislike about Martha Stewart is her fussiness. Here's my unfussy version of her super-fussy recipe (see this past month's magazine p. 119). 
  1. Preheat oven to 425. Chop two rhubarb stalks into small chunks, and quarter one small package of strawberries and place in a medium-sized bowl. 
  2. Add about a 1/2 cup of sugar to the berries and rhubarb and a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice. I also add a dash of cinnamon, clove, and salt. Mix to combine and set aside.  
  3. On the floured parchment you wrapped the galette in, roll out the dough into a fairly large circle (the dough should be about 1/4 inch thickness when you are done). I also use a marble rolling pin that I cool under cold water before I start to keep the dough cold. 
  4. Transfer the dough on the parchment paper to a rimmed baking sheet and pour the berries into the center of the dough. Fold up the edges of the dough to partially cover the fruit and pinch together loose edges. 
  5. Beat one egg and brush the top of the dough with the egg wash. 
  6. Bake galette for 30 minutes at 425. Turn the heat down to 375 and bake another 10-15 minutes. I also had to turn my heat down to 325 and bake another 10 minutes to keep the galette from burning. You really have to watch your oven here. 
Enjoy! The feasts of summer are upon us! Don't blame me for ruining your diet though. Rhubarb has fiber in it. Just overlook the two sticks of butter;). ~Alice

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My Dirty Little Secret: Food Crushes

I'm going to admit something to you. One of my dirty little secrets. Over the past several years, I have harbored some rather serious crushes on celebrity chefs.

I first fell for Nigella Lawson, and her cooking show Nigella Bites when I was in graduate school. I would sit and watch Nigella cook when I was supposed to be writing papers, reading books, doing all kinds of important "grad-schooly-stuff." Escaping into her world felt as naughty as her midnight trips to the refrigerator to snack on  the leftovers of whatever she had made on that day's show. I would pine over her cookbook during my escapes from studying into the aisles at Barnes and Noble, a pining made all the keener due to the fact that, as a poor grad student, I couldn't afford it.

Via
As much as I loved Nigella, and the style of her show, I never felt all that connected to her food. It seemed somehow removed from the world in my little apartment. Furthermore, I wanted her pot rack so badly for my own kitchen but I had nowhere to put it. I guess you could say our relationship fell apart because my jealousy got in the way.

From Nigella, I moved onto Martha. My Martha obsession began when I ordered Martha Stewart Living one day out of the blue because I really wanted the little blue and white canvas tote that they were giving away as a a signing bonus. After I got sucked in by the magazine, I ordered every single Martha Stewart cookbook/lifestyle book I could get my hands on. The Best Martha recipes for every year. Martha Stewart Halloween. Martha Gardens. It got completely out of hand. One of those obsessive relationships. You know.
(I love this video of Martha with Seth Meyers. It totally captures her fussiness: "What makes you think you can't look?" LOL.) 

The problem I've found with many of Martha's recipes over the years is that they don't turn out quite right (or maybe I'm just not fussy enough in following all of Martha's rules). Sadly, we fell out of love a few years ago. I could never live up to her expectations, and then she went to jail. I have to say I got a little satisfaction out of her slip-up (at least her cookbooks still look pretty on my bookshelves). 

By far, the Food Network star I fell hardest for over the years is the Barefoot Contessa. First of all, every time I watch her show, I commit a terrible sin, because I covet everything in the damn episode. Her kitchen garden. Her kitchen itself. Her quiet house slathered in white. Her liquor cabinet. All of it. 

Via @DrunkInaGarten
When I turn on Ina's show, I instantly feel calmer and richer. I ride shotgun in her convertible (cause Jeffrey is out of town until Friday; we're scooting around town buying the ingredients for his roasted chicken). We drop by TR's for cocktails. We linger over our prepared sandwiches wrapped in wax paper and some special brownies along the ocean (although Ina doesn't really like the shore because it makes her sweaty in her blue oxford). I haven't fallen out of love with Ina just yet. Her cookbooks haven't let me down. I'm also staying tuned for the day when Jeffrey goes ballistic, throws the chicken out the window, and says, "For f*#%'s sake Ina, can we please just order a goddamn pizza?" Night all. ~Alice

PS For the record, I have never had a food crush on Giada de Laurentiis. I can't stand the way she pronounces Italian words. Also, she gives new meaning to the term boob tube. Step away from the V-necks, Giada.  

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Wonderland Hop #10


Welcome to the Wonderland Hop #10!! We had such a fabulous round-up of links last week, all kinds of interesting projects, posts, recipes - ideas galore! Join us again, and link up your favorite posts of the week - the ones that made you laugh, cry, inspired (or pinspired;)).  Every week, we feature our favorites. This week, it was very hard to choose, since we had so many wonderful posts, but we were loving the following links:
This hilarious post about totally screwing up a chocolate cake from Mommy A-Z. How many of us have been there??!!
I absolutely love doing these summer fun lists.
My kids wake up excited every day about what we are going to check off next.
 Free Summer Printables via Some of the Best Things in Life are Mistakes.
Apparently, I have cake on the brain today.
I am a huge sucker for cake for breakfast.
This recipe from A Peek into My Paradise looks like a winner.
To go with that cake, how about some iced coffee via Momasaurus.
And last, but not least, these DIY Ribbon Bookmarks from Color.Paint.Create.
You know I love that owl. Put this project on your Summer Fun List;).
If you were featured, feel free to grab a button:):

The Owl's Skull
We only have a few pesky rules (the usual suspects): 
  • Follow The Owl's Skull on some platform (GFC, Bloglovin', Twitter, Facebook).
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Follow on Bloglovin
  • Link up our blog in your specific post (grab a button; it's super cute;)).
The Owl's Skull

  • Drop me a line in the comments to let me know that you dropped by to visit so I can return the favor and follow you back. On that note, please click through the other links, drop the posters a line or two, follow the ones you really want to follow. 
  • Tweet or share the hop on Facebook/Google+ etc.; the more, the merrier!! I also tweet each post throughout the week as they are linked up. 
Peace, love, and link-up!! ~Alice