Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend + Recipe for Grilled Vegetable, Black Rice Salad

We are still in the throws of finishing up the school year (final projects, picnics and a graduation ceremony for Andrew) but it feels like summer arrived this weekend and in its honor, I toted my camera around (on Monday at least) and snapped a few pictures.  I feel like as the boys have gotten older, I'm less apt to lug my big camera around than I used to be.  Crazy because before I had strollers and diaper bags and emergency snacks to contend with, so if anything, I should be more likely to grab my good camera than I used to be.  Maybe it's because no one is still long enough to capture on film?   Anyways, I'm always grateful when I do make the effort to snap a few shots here and there.  Here are a few from our weekend..   Summer. Bring it on!

On Saturday the pool opened and Charlie spent about 4 hours in the water.  It was bitterly cold and he had the time of his life.  He was right back at it on Sunday.  It's fun because he has so many more little friends from school this year and they all just run around in a big group together.  I did a lot of magazine reading and chit chatting with other Mamas.  As soon as I saw the roasted veggie grain salad in Bon Appetit, I was craving it.  I made it on Monday and will share the recipe at the end of this post.  Might just be my new favorite summer salad.  Sunday evening we went to a cookout at a friend's house and let Charlie stay up past his bedtime.  It's weekends like these, with every home waving an American flag, the smell of charcoal filling the streets at dinner time, the sound of kids playing outside all hours of the day, that make me so grateful to live where we do.  It's classic Americana at its very best.  A good reminder to give thanks to all those that have sacrificed their lives in order to protect it.

^^After the parade, shockingly, all jerseys still tucked in!^^

^^Our Town Crier^^

^^The smallest of all small town parades^^

^^Paying respect to our fallen soldiers^^

^^ Despite rather threatening skies, the rain held off, and we made a trip downtown to check out the new Smale Park on the river.  So, so nice.  It's so pretty to have the Roebling Bridge as the backdrop. It's my favorite Cincinnati bridge, designed by the same architect that designed the Brooklyn Bridge^^


^^We crossed the street to explore the new carousel.  Doesn't Jimmy look manly carrying my straw tote? haha.^^

^^Such a gorgeous carousel, filled with Cincinnati themed characters and art.^^

^^The highlight was playing in the many  fountains.^^

^^Luckily (thanks to the advice of a friend!) we brought a change of clothes!!^^

^^C didn't get the memo to wear patriotic colors...^^
^^We came home for a late dinner.  Grilled flank steak and the amazing salad below.  And of course what would a patriotic holiday be without a few pyrotechnics?!^^


^^This grill pan from Ikea is worth adding to your kitchen, handle folds for easy storage. I've had fancier grill pans before and they were a nightmare to clean up, I've had this one for a year and use it often.  I did the grape tomatoes in the grill pan because we don't have the right equipment to grill them on the grill without falling through the grates.^^

^^Fresh mint, one of my favorite herbs!^^


^^So filling, so healthy, so deeee-lish.  I skipped the steak altogether.  My boys, however...skipped the salad altogether.  I try.^^

Recipe | Grilled Vegetable + Grain Salad
(inspired by Bon Appetit, Letter to the Editor, June 2015)

1 cup black rice (I found the black rice at Trader Joe's)
1.5 cups grape tomatoes
1 bunch of scallions
1-2 ears of corn
1 bunch of mint, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1/2 cup chopped pistachios
Lemon Vinaigrette, see below

Cook the black rice, set aside to cool, then place in a large serving bowl.  Grill tomatoes, corn and scallions either on outdoor grill or indoors, on grill pan.  We grilled the scallions and corn outside. We grilled the tomatoes on an indoor grill pan, I tossed them with a little olive oil prior to cooking.   The scallions only take about a minute so don't go far.  Also, I like to brush the corn with mayo before grilling to make it extra sweet and tasty.  Remove veggies from the grill.  Chop scallions and remove kernels from corn. Add tomatoes, scallions, corn, mint, avocado and pistachios to the bowl.  Drizzle with vinaigrette and lightly toss all the ingredients together. Enjoy!

My Favorite Lemon Vinaigrette:
Whisk together the juice of one lemon, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, and olive oil (use about the same amount of olive oil as you had lemon juice.  If is tastes too lemony, add more olive oil.  If it tastes too oily, add more lemon.  It's not an exact science.  I like mine pretty lemony.).  Add kosher salt and fresh black pepper.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Life Lately + Recipe For Our Favorite Chocolate Muffins

^^ Andrew had his first theater performance in Oliver, their 6th grade play last weekend^^
^^He played the role of the Gent and was an orphan in the opening scene. He LOVED it! And did so well. ^^

^^Charlie is loving coach pitch baseball this year!^^

Spring has flown by, first was April, which was filled with lots of angst over making a big life decision.  We were almost moving, then decided to stay, and I struggled with what each choice required giving up.  It was the first time in life that the right choice wasn't apparent and it was tough.  I'm pretty sure there was no right choice, we just had to decide and know with each option we gained and lost something.  I learned a lot about myself and the incredible man I married through the process and it reaffirmed what we ultimately value above all else.  So that was April. Did. me. in.  May has been its own, typical, end of the year whirlwind of activities, between baseball, the 6th grade play, teacher appreciation, end of year celebrations, and new client projects, my to-do list is pages long and my meal planning has been an after thought.  It has me day dreaming of slow summer mornings (not too far off now), hence the muffins....

One of the things I enjoy most about summer are the unhurried mornings, and slow mornings mean indulging special breakfast requests.  I have a feeling these chocolate muffins will be on regular rotation.  It is a simple recipe, like all muffins, but feels a little more indulgent than a bran and flaxseed muffin. Not necessarily healthier, but hey, you got to live a little. :)





Recipe | Buttermilk Double Chocolate Muffins
(adapted from epicurious.com)
3/4 of a stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
2 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon fluer de sel (or kosher salt)
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 large egg
2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups.  Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.
Melt the butter and the bittersweet chocolate chips together in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water; or do this in a microwave. Remove from the heat.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, egg and vanilla together until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients and the melted butter and chocolate over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don't worry about being thorough—a few lumps are better than overmixing the batter. Stir in the remaining semi sweet chocolate chips. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin molds (I like to use an ice cream scoop).
Bake for 15- 20 minutes (do not overcook because they will get too dry, mine are are perfect at 15 minutes), or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.



Thursday, April 30, 2015

My Work | A Charming California Cottage Before + After

I'm so excited to share a little glimpse into this lovely home with you!  This home belongs to the precious Matsumoto family in San Diego, CA and it has been a true pleasure to work with Karen, the wife and mother, and such a joy to watch her take the ideas and make them come to life.  She has done such a beautiful job!!

(Hi Owen, Hi Everett!! :))

The Matsumoto's moved back to San Diego after eight years of living in DC and Northern Virginia to be closer to their families.  As much as they love the area where they live, they miss the charm and classic East Coast architecture found in DC and they have been on a mission to bring a little of that to the West Coast.  They transformed the exterior of their home and came to me looking for help with the interior, starting with their living room and master bedroom.  Karen knew what she wanted but needed some inspiration to get going and a fresh perspective on what could be possible in her rooms.  Today, I'm going to share how the living room is coming together - it's so cozy and pretty, even though there are still finishing touches, like drapes and details in the foyer area, that will happen over time.

Here is the room before:



Here is the inspiration board I put together for the room.
(Sources and details are withheld from the blog post out of respect to the client. Thanks for understanding.)


One of the biggest recommendations was to add architectural interest in the form of built-ins, classic  millwork in the fireplace/hearth area and raised paneling or wainscoting in the foyer.  Whenever I can, this is one of the first places I suggest investing in, since it adds a level of character you can't achieve with furniture and fabrics alone.  Some homes have it to start (lucky ducks), but lots of newer construction homes need a little push in this area.  The idea Karen was most excited about was adding the built-in bookcases and "window" seat.  Here were some inspiration images I used to get her wheels turning...

adding sconces was a must!



^^I originally suggested painting them a darker gray blue like the above, but I love how fresh the white turned out.  Perfect for a home with so much natural southern California sunlight!^^ 

All of these are great examples of how to add the coziness of a window seat, even when there isn't a window. :)

Now here are the afters (or durings, since there is still more to come!): 
^Amazing, right??!! And how great do the old wingbacks look slipcovered?  And the new fireplace too!  The bookcase and reading spot steal the show though.^


It really does feel good to play a small role in such a transformation.  This is exactly what I had hoped for when I began my consulting business.  Thank you, Karen, for trusting me and for making it even lovelier than I imagined - you are one talented lady!!