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[special delivery from my valentine]

{I was half in love with her by the time we sat down. That’s the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty, even if they’re not much to look at, or even if they’re sort of stupid, you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are.}

J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

{Love one another and you will be happy. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.}

Michael Leunig

Wishing you a very Happy Valentine’s Day!

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[my mom just sent me this plate in a care package {thanks mom!}. it came with black ribbon but she gave me extra red so i could switch it out for v-day]

[ravioli ..holy cannoli.. my mom made this for my dad last night as an early valentine's day dinner. dad snapped me this pic before he dove in.]

[a pic I sneaked of my sis hard at work during our girls pizzelle night]

[flowers vince sent my mama]


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Love is in the air and, given the barrage of red and pink that’s taken over your local drug store, it’s no secret that Valentine’s Day is around the corner. Some people take the jaded route and scoff at the day, writing it off as a cunning Hallmark scheme, but I’ve always had an unabashed love for the holiday. I love it for the obvious reasons: a sweet card [not always from Hallmark], beautiful flowers, and a romantic dinner with my main squeeze ~ but it doesn’t stop there. My parents always showered us with love on Valentine’s Day and gave us a little something to make the day special [usually a book and candy]. They taught us that it was a day to show your appreciation for the ones you love, be it your family, friends, or significant other. To me it’s a day to be happy and celebrate all the different kinds of love you have in your life.

These are some pretty things that have Valentine’s Day written all over them.

1. Steve Madden Partyy Pump in Fuchsia [$89.95] *helloo date night

2. Ark & Co Elegant Pearl Cocktail Dress [$58] *the pearl details and peak-a-boo back are exquisite

3. Lancôme Juicy Tubes Lip Gloss Set [$29.50] *the original lip gloss

4. Deborah Lippmann Nail Color in Ruby Red Slippers [$18] *va~voom!

5. Michael Kors Watch in Rose Gold [$250] *exudes a strong + feminine air

6. Halston Heritage Deep V Cocktail Dress [$325] *effortless style

7. Schwartz Marshmallow Heart ~ Vanilla with Caramel Bottom [$67.50] *my cousin who lives in New York bought these once for my mom and dad – oh.my.gosh… although the price tag seems steep these are the most delicious, mouth-watering treats + are perfect for a special occasion. my mom got me a box last year for valentine’s day and i about died when i opened the box. {yummmm}

8. Prada Satin Wristlet [$360] *prada is pretty in pink

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[nutella pillows]

You may have noticed navy + cream was out of commission the past week, and I’m pointing my finger at you, Snowmageddon 2011. Below, one of many eerie photos circulating the web that captured the mayhem.

[Lake Shore Drive, a highway that runs through Chicago, as it appeared the morning of February 2nd.]

Although the blizzard threw everyone out of whack, I secretly loved it. We spent the two blustery days holed up at Vince’s sister and husbands house lazing around in our pajamas playing board games, eating junk food and watching movies. The third morning Vince and I felt the twangs of cabin fever and we finally surfaced from their home, only to discover that Vince’s poor car was buried under a miniature Mount Everest. Two hours, a piece of cardboard, a borrowed shovel, and two good samaritans later, we managed to free his car from the snowdrift. That was about the time I started to simultaneously loath the snow and praise the Lord for my heated garage spot.

Blizzard business aside, this past week I discovered a new favorite holiday: World Nutella Day. Music to my ears. On February 5th, chocolate lovers like myself celebrate all of the goodness that is this delicious, sweet, and creamy Italian spread. I came across this yummy-sounding yet simple recipe on Picky Palate and thought it would be the perfect way to ring in Nutella Day.

Nutella Pillows

  • 1 package puff pastry, 2 pastry sheets thawed [you can find it in your freezer aisle]
  • 1 cup Nutella [available at most grocery stores, at Jewel it's located by the peanut butter and jelly]
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 1 egg + 1 tbsp water for egg wash
  • sprinkling of sugar
  • sprinkling of powdered sugar [optional]

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Cut each square of pastry into 4 equal size pieces.  Spread a couple tablespoons of Nutella spread onto the center of each pastry leaving 1/2 inch border around edges.  Top each with about 12-15 mini marshmallows and fold over to form a little triangle.  Crimp edges firmly with the tines of a fork.  Brush with egg white wash then sprinkle with granulated sugar.  Bake for 22-25 minutes or until pastry just turns golden.  Remove and let cool for 5 minutes, sprinkle with powdered sugar then dig in! Yields 8 pillows.

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This weekend I got to spend some much-needed quality time with my sister who surprised me with a birthday visit. We had a lovely ladies weekend from start to finish: we got mani/pedis, we ate delicious meals, we sipped some wine, and, of course, we shopped ’til we dropped.

One of my favorite finds was this Itsy Bitsy Bag for just $18 from Francesca’s Collections on Halsted. I love the snazzy gold chain-link strap and the go anywhere, ready for anything crossbody style. Although teeny, it’s just big enough to hold the essentials. The funny thing is, I must have been subconsciously looking for a similar version of this $228 wonder I’d been fawning over from Marc by Marc Jacobs. Can you point out the pricier find?

Aside from the gold chain, you’d have to do a double take to tell these two apart. They even share the trademark Marc by Marc Jacobs turnlock, and yet the one on the left was a staggering $210 cheaper [almost enough for this pretty retro KitchenAid Mixer in a mod shade like pistachio].

I also snagged these little gold bow earrings for a mere $12 [also at Francesca's Collections] that suspiciously mirror these pricier Marc by Marc Jacobs studs [$38]:

[the look...

... for less]

Without meaning to, I landed two charming copycats for a fraction of the price.

PS: I also picked up this pretty bauble from Mint Julep on Armitage [bad news: that location is closing, good news: everything is 20% off, plus their Southport store is alive and well]

Have a lucky day everyone!

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Yippie! Today is my birthday! I know I sound like a twelve year old but birthdays have always been celebrated as a special day in my family. Every birthday growing up, we’d wake up and scurry downstairs to see the kitchen decorated with a big “Happy Birthday” banner and find the kitchen table set with the special birthday tablecloth. We’d eat cake for breakfast and bring giant frosted cookie cakes to school to share with everyone. It was the best.

For the first time ever, this year my birthday has morphed into a birthday :week: ! I celebrated with my family this past weekend while I was home [complete with not one, but two cakes], last night Vince + I went out to dinner, then this weekend my sister planned a surprise visit to Chicago. Maybe everyone feels bad for me because I’m inching towards my late-twenties [which, I know isn't old but it sure feels old]. So tonight I have a work event that I’m looking forward to, and after that am planning on meeting up with some friends in from out of town.

Last night my honey, ahem, + I …

[honey {+honeycomb} purchased at patterson fruit farm in chesterland, oh]

… went to the most amazing restaurant: Browntrout at 4111 N. Lincoln [North Center neighborhood]. The place was perfect for a quiet date night. Dimly lit, good crowd, wonderful service, and best of all – delicious food. Browntrout has a great thing going. They specialize in sustainable, locally farmed, and organic dishes. While I don’t necessarily go out of my way to find restaurants like this, it’s always a major plus when I end up at one.

We opted to have our server pair each dish with a drink, a first for both of us. I was impressed by how well each drink and dish complimented one another; it made each bite taste even better. We shared the Pommes Frites [w/three dipping sauces incl. gruyere fondue...heaven). I had the Wild Burgundy Snails, I can't remember the name of the fish I had for dinner and it's not listed on the site.. eep.. but I think it was bass, yum, and for dessert I had the Butterscotch Creme Brulee. Vince had the Illinois Corn Risotto, Idaho Golden Trout, and Fallen Chocolate Souffle. They pretty much had to roll us out of there.

[ready to dig into the trout]

[bass {i think} w. saffron sauce]

We really enjoyed ourselves. Browntrout, we’ll surely see you again soon.

Thank you loved ones for a star-studded 26th,

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If you’re looking for the easiest roasted chicken recipe around, look no further. I consider myself pretty adventurous in the kitchen. I’ll whip up cakes from scratch and slice ‘n dice with the best of ‘em, but for some reason the idea of roasting a chicken has always scared me [I'm aware of how pathetic this sounds].

if this cute little number doesn't get you into the kitchen, nothing will

I  was doing some casual grocery shopping at Jewel [a Chicago-area chain, also known as da Jewels] when I spotted some medium-sized drumsticks out of the corner of my eye. Normally I wouldn’t have looked twice but these beauties were FOUR DOLLARS for the package, 10 drumsticks per package, in other words less than a dollar per meal! Victory dance [speaking of bargains, the apron above is a steal for $32 from Anthropologie].

So each ‘stick was about the size of a fist and two would be enough for me, four for the bf, who f.y.i. has the metabolism of a 16-year-old . He could probably eat all 10 drumsticks deep-fried in blubber and still not gain an ounce. Some guys have all the luck. Anyways, that was my deal of the day and I had to scoop them up.

I was oddly excited about my new bounty. I’d never cooked drumsticks before and there’s just something about them that seems so rustic and filling, yet undeniably simple.

Behold, the most delicious [and easy] drumstick recipe.

[photo via we heart it]

Mediterranean Chicken Drumsticks

  • 4 medium-sized drumsticks
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil [this is for the rub only - doesn't include oil for searing chicken or drizzling on top of chicken. Normally I don't pay attention to oil measurements in recipes but I followed this exactly because you want the right balance of flavor for the rub]
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt [ditto]
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper [if you don't have a 1/8 tsp measurement, just fill half of 1/4 tsp with black pepper]
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper [if you don't have white pepper just use black pepper, so it'd be 1/4 tsp black pepper total]
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning mix [if you have none on hand, use oregano]

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper over chicken. Drizzle some olive oil in saute pan over medium-high heat. Wait until oil is nice and hot and sear chicken on all sides in pan. In a shallow baking dish [I used a pie tin], grate peel from lemon, squeeze out juice from 1/2 lemon, and add garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Stir until mixed.

The recipe I was borrowing from said to take the skin off the chicken but I left it on for added flavor. Coat chicken in mixture and arrange, bone-side up, in pan. Cover dish and bake for 30 minutes. Turn and baste chicken and drizzle a bit more olive oil and squeeze more lemon juice on top. Lower oven to 400 degrees, bake uncovered for 10 more minutes, then broil for 5 minutes.

[adapted from recipe found at allrecipes]

I served it with mashed potatoes and spicy corn [added cayenne pepper, salt + pepper to corn]. This one was a winner!

To full bellies and wallets,


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Perfection in a few words:

  • The delicious smell of a pot roast plugging away in the crock pot [recipe below]
  • The triumphant feeling of finding a pumpkin patch not too far from Chicago [Bengston's is only an hour drive... totally worth it] – I had to post some photos from our outing:

who doesn't love a good goat on a roof sighting?

bengston's, our patch of choice, + the tiny head of my wonderful bf

  • Homemade salted caramel hot cocoa [recipe below]
  • A great glass [or two] of rich red wine
  • Going to a football game with a thick sweater and a cozy scarf wrapped around my neck
  • Taking a long walk with my mom while watching the leaves fall
  • Catching up on some good books indoors under a soft blanket
  • Hearty homemade chili in front of a roaring fire

What are your ideas of fall bliss?

my darling niece + her pumpkin

Easy-as-Pie Pot Roast for Two [+leftovers]

  • 2.5 lb. pot roast
  • 1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup [if possible get low-sodium, that makes it easier to control the sodium content in this dish as it's prone to over-saltiness]
  • 1 package of dry onion soup mix [ditto]
  • 1 can of diet coke [or use regular... diet was just what I had on hand]
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • garlic powder
  • carrots [as much as you'd like]
  • mushrooms [ditto]

Rub roast with salt, pepper, and garlic powder [it's okay if roast is frozen]. Drizzle some olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, drop in garlic cloves. After several minutes remove garlic cloves and add roast to pan. Sear on both sides.

While roast browns up, pour diet coke in crock pot. It sounds bizarre, but trust me this is the secret ingredient that no one, absolutely no one, will be able to put a finger on… I think the carbonation tenderizes the meat and the sweetness lends additional flavor. Okay now where were we - Line bottom of crock pot with onion slices, mushrooms, and carrots [I will say this is the first time I've used carrots and mushrooms in my pot roast recipe and they add such a depth of flavor - they're an absolute must from now on]. In a bowl, mix mushroom soup with onion soup mix. Remove roast from pan and coat in mushroom soup mixture. Place in crock pot with a layer of onions on top. Throw in garlic cloves and the rest of your mushrooms and carrots. Fill the [now empty] mushroom soup can with water and pour around roast.

Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-7 hours. Pour over brown rice or mashed potatoes and dig on in.

Homemade Salted Caramel Hot Cocoa

  • chewy caramel candies [2 per cup o'cocoa]
  • 2 cups milk [use your favorite kind of milk]
  • 1.5 tablespoons sugar
  • vanilla extract
  • handful milk chocolate chips
  • marshmallows
  • kosher salt

In a saute pan simmer milk, sugar, and dash of vanilla extract. Add chocolate chips, a couple marshmallows, and one piece of caramel, stir to melt all. In separate pan melt one piece of caramel with dash of water. Add to chocolate mixture. Pour into a nice, big mug and add a pinch of kosher salt on top. Yum!

Wishing you the coziest of fall nights,

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