Friday, July 29, 2011

Cool Girls in Head Scarves

When it comes to style, I'm drawn to classic, understated looks that are also playful and quirky. I remember in my freshmen year of college, a really stylish girl named Danielle lived on my dorm floor who always looked so pulled together. Occasionally, I'd see her in the study lounge or standing in line at the dining hall wearing a simple t-shirt and rocking a head scarf, and I always thought she looked so cool! I love how it's such a simple piece that makes a big statement. Keiko Lynn has a great head scarf tutorial on her blog on how to get the look. (p.s. isn't she adorable?)

(Top image of Oleysa Senchenko via Caroline Gault; bottom image via Keiko Lynn)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

How To Create a Simple Ergonomic Workspace

When I first had the idea to create a "home office" space (really, just putting a desk next to Alan's in a nook in our living room), I had grand ideas about what tchotchkes I'd put on my desk and how I'd decorate it. Soon after I got my West Elm Parsons desk though, I quickly realized that what was most important was getting it ergonomically set up. Pretty geeky, I know, but when you spend as much time as I do on the computer, it really matters! Because your forearms should create right angles with your upper arms when you type, I knew I needed some kind of sliding keyboard tray underneath my desk. The problem with the Parsons desk is that it already has sliding drawers. My solution: the Ikea Dave desk. For just $19.99, this little desk fits perfectly underneath my desk and is big enough to comfortably fit a wireless keyboard and mouse. Since it has its own leg to stand on, there was no drilling or installation required. I love it!

{my desk chair is from the alameda flea}

{a mini terrarium sits on my desk as a long lasting alternative to fresh cut flowers}

{a pink and white chevron striped trash can adds a happy pop of color}

{a simple ergonomic set up}

Monday, July 25, 2011

Cheesy Chivy Buttermilk Biscuits

Lately I've been obsessed with the chives growing in a planter in our front yard. It's the only herb I've managed to keep alive of all the ones I planted a few months ago and it's thriving! I like to snip a few leaves and add them to everything as a garnish, but I also like to incorporate them into recipes whenever I can for their wonderful subtle flavor. Like these beautiful cheesy chivy buttermilk biscuits adapted from this recipe. They're light and fluffy and full of flavor. Alan says they remind him of the cheddar biscuits at Red Lobster, but I think these are way better since you can add whatever you want to them. We had leftover gruyere and asiago in the fridge, so that's what I used, and I wouldn't do it any other way. They're crazy rich, but in a good hearty way. Originally I thought about serving these at brunch alongside bacon and eggs and other heavy items, but on second thought, they'd probably be just as good with a simple green salad or for afternoon tea.

Cheesy Chivy Buttermilk Biscuits

Makes 10-12 large biscuits

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
9 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon cold unsalted butter
1 cup grated asiago
1 cup grated gruyere
1 3/4 buttermilk
a handful of chives, roughly chopped
1 large egg

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and put it in the fridge for 20 to 30 minutes. In the meantime, cut the butter into chunks and leave out at room temperature (you want it malleable, but not soft).

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat it to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine the chilled dry ingredients, the cheese, and the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed for a few minutes, until the chunks of butter are no bigger than a large pea or a small bean. (In the oven, the water in the chunks of butter creates steam, which in turn will create lovely pockets of air within the biscuits.) Since I don't have a standing mixer, I used two knives to combine/cut up the butter chunks.

Add the buttermilk and chives to the bowl and mix on low just until the dough comes together. (I used a spoon.) Turn the dough out onto a floured board, dust your fingers with flour and gently knead it a few times. Quickly and carefully pat the dough into a large rectangle about 1/2 an inch thick.

Dip a 3-inch round cutter with sharp edges in flour and then cut the biscuits using an even downward motion, without twisting the cutter. Transfer the rounds of dough to the baking sheets, leaving an inch or two of space between them. When you've cut the first batch of biscuits, gently pat the dough into another rectangle and cut a few more -- discard the dough or add the funky leftover shapes to the baking sheets after the second batch is cut (if you shape the dough a third time, the biscuits will be tough).

Beat the egg with a splash of water (if you're feeling fancy, you can then pass it through a fine mesh sieve to get rid of any clumps of egg white that might burn). Brush the tops of the biscuits lightly with egg wash and bake for about 20 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the biscuits are a deep golden brown. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheets but serve them while still warm!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Colorful Summer Picks

I'm naturally drawn to neutrals--mushrooms, creams, blush pinks, you name it--but since summer is my favorite season, it's definitely a time when I embrace dressing as colorfully as I feel. This week I went on three lunchtime walks with Alan and even though we came back to the office an hour later a hot and sweaty mess, I realized how great it is to be able to spend time together, in the middle of the day, out in the sun, most days of the week--a really fun perk to working together (not to mention the carpooling!) These bright pieces are perfect for soaking in sunshine and sipping iced tea on leisurely summer walks.

(Odille blouse $49.95, Kate Spade necklace $148, Urban Outfitters sunglasses $14, cropped Miu Miu pants $350, Schutz peep toes $100, nail color image via pinterest)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Blueberry Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling

{round 2 muffins}

Sometimes I'll have a craving for something really specific that can't be ignored. (A few weeks ago I was craving fried eggs over easy with chives, green onions, and soy sauce over brown rice for dinner--random). This weekend it was blueberry muffins with cream cheese filling. I knew exactly what I wanted the muffins to taste like--moist, berry-filled, and dense--and so when I found this recipe I rejoiced. I decided it'd be fun to whip them up on Sunday morning to bring along as a snack after hiking with our friends Stacy and Robbie. Since we were running out the door to meet them, and because the muffins were still cooling, I didn't get a chance to taste them until after the hike. For having an entire stick of butter in them, these muffins were pretty lackluster*. They were dry and boring, and I was even a little embarrassed to be serving them to my hungry friends. Not to mention that my craving for decadent muffins had yet to be fulfilled.

{*In this recipe's defense, the problem could have simply been that I had over-baked the muffins. The recipe calls for baking 18-22 minutes and even though I baked them for exactly 18, I should have checked them a few minutes sooner.}

That night I quietly sulked about the failed muffins and ate two more to make sure they wouldn't hit the spot (they didn't). Then I remembered the blueberry muffin recipe I had used once in college (my muffin baking sure went on hiatus, didn't it?) They were really moist and so good that I still remember them fondly to this day, so I did a little digging through my recipe file and found it! Combining the best of both recipes, I made another batch of muffins the following night. They were exactly what I wanted, and after eating just one, I finally felt satisfied. So here, if the craving ever strikes, is my recipe for the perfect cream cheese-filled blueberry muffin that also doubles really well as an after-dinner dessert.

Blueberry Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling
Adapted from this recipe and this recipe

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I used olive oil which added a strong flavor, but I love olive oil and so I didn't mind. Next time, I think I might try using butter)
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 cup fresh blueberries (I used frozen and the muffins still came out great)

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar, optional (I left this out since I thought the muffins would be sweet enough without this extra sugar and was glad I did)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line muffin tin with muffin liners.
Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Place vegetable oil into a 1-cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups right to the top.
To make filling, mix cream cheese and sugar in a small bowl at medium speed with a hand mixer until well combined and creamy, about 2 minutes. With two teaspoons (like the ones that you use at the dinner table) create a well in the center of a muffin and place a heaping spoonful of cream cheese in that well. Be sure not to go to the bottom of the muffin. (This "creating a well" business was trickier than it sounded. My wells always caved in on themselves so that I ended up with less of a cream cheese well and more of a cream cheese dollop floating on top, but I'm sure they taste equally as good.) Lightly sprinkle just a bit of brown sugar over each muffin if you'd like.
Bake for 18-22 minutes or until done (a toothpick inserted in the cake part of the muffin will come out clean.)

Makes 8 muffins.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sally Hansen Nail Polish Strips

I didn't know I wanted glittery nails until I was at Target one day and walked by these Salon Effects nail polish strips by Sally Hansen. I'd heard really great things about them (even my sister who is a bona fide beauty expert says they're awesome) so I decided to try them out. They were super easy to apply--just peel the backing off to reveal the adhesive side, press the strips on your nails, and then file away the excess. My cousin Nat put some on 10 minutes before a party, and since you don't have to wait for them to dry (my favorite part) they were perfect! They are definitely eye-catching and they come in lots of different prints and neon shades. Would you try them?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Vanilla Mayo Cake

I'm a firm believer that no birthday is complete without lots of sweets, so for my cousin Nathalie's birthday this weekend, I made these vanilla cupcakes with buttercream frosting. They were a big hit, thanks to my friend Deanna's vanilla mayo cake recipe. It's one of my all-time favorites because it makes crazy moist cupcakes and is super easy to follow. (I used the chocolate mayo cake version for these diamond cupcakes which also tasted amazing). Doesn't pink frosting make all baked goods look ten times more fun?

Vanilla Mayo Cake

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp instant vanilla pudding powder
1 cup cold water
1 cup mayo
1 tsp vanilla
zest of 1 lemon

Sift together the dry ingredients. Add 1 cup cold water, 1 cup mayonnaise and 1 tsp vanilla. Beat until well combined. Stir in lemon zest. Bake at 350 for about 18 minutes, rotating pan half way through.
Makes about 12 cupcakes.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Colorful Stripes

{Splendid top, Anthropologie belt and skirt, Indigo by Clark shoes, vintage watch}

I found this shirt on sale at Anthropologie, and although I was unsure about it at first, it's since become one of my favorites. It has great stripes and adds lots of color to my summer wardrobe, but it also seemed rather boxy and somewhat shapeless. But then, when tucked into just about anything, it's a dream. It's light and billowy and bright. All good things for keeping cool on hot summer days.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Modern Home Office Inspiration

After spending 8+ hours sitting at a desk for my day job, I never thought I'd want to come home to yet another desk to do more work on in the evenings. But since I've been blogging and wanting to get more serious about writing my short stories, I've definitely reconsidered. There's something comforting about having a designated place to sit and do work I love, and so lately I've been obsessed with creating a home office space that's uncluttered, inspiring, and fun (perhaps the complete opposite of my office desk). Whereas I'm normally drawn to rustic vintage decor, I'm loving the idea of a sleek modern workspace. Regardless of style, I think every home office needs a great roomy desk, a chair, a lamp, a place to stash papers and notebooks, and a pretty little something just because. Here are a few of my dream office essentials.

(Wegner Wishbone chair $855, pomegranate box $55, scoutandgrace mid-century modern chrome lamp $250, West Elm Parsons desk $299, wire baskets $68)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Splash Cafe

Alan and I spent the Fourth of July at Pismo Beach. It was a long drive there and back, but it was worth it because I finally got to eat at Splash Cafe after a failed attempt last July. Splash is famous for their clam chowder, which, I'll admit, was impressively creamy and rich, but what I really loved were their steamed clams. They came in some sort of tomato/butter/wine sauce that I couldn't stop dipping my extra bread into. We also got an order of sea scallops and chips to share, but I ate most of those since Alan's not a big scallop fan. They were well-seasoned and definitely tasty, but were overshadowed by my love connection with the clams. I need to find a recipe for that sauce ASAP.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Have a Cool Fourth of July!

{whale watching}

Happy Fourth of July, friends! Wishing you the best watermelon-eating, fireworks-watching, BBQ-tasting, sunscreeny kind of day :) We're going to try and make it to Pismo Beach for some beach lounging and clam chowder. And to help ease us all into the heat today, here are some pictures to help you stay cool just a little bit longer. (If you couldn't tell, I have a major case of wanderlust this weekend!)

{Brigerbad, Switzerland}

{Santorini, Greece}

(All images from via JB, Sarah, and Barbara on Pinterest)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Perfect White Summer Dress

I am always on the lookout for a really great white summer dress. With its clean, simple lines and tiered skirt, this silk number by Petiole is just about perfect. When paired with patriotic blue wedges, this dress would be fun to watch fireworks in on the Fourth of July. Wouldn't it also be so pretty as a wedding dress for a non-fussy bride?

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