December 24, 2010

last minute gift idea...

If anyone out there wants to get me a (really nice) Christmas gift, I have a suggestion for you:


Aren't they gorgeous? I first noticed them on {this is glamorous}. They're from Chloe's 2011 Spring collection. Every year, there is a pair of shoes that I completely obsess over - last year were the cat print Miu Miu maryjanes (which I was able to find knock-offs of), the year before were the YSL cage heels (and I'm still kicking myself for not getting them when they went on sale). I think these Chloe pumps might be my shoe obsession for 2011. When I think of acrylic heels, the first thing that comes to mind are stripper shoes. But there's nothing cheap or stripper-y about these. They're very clean and modern, very Chloe. I love them because they're so versatile - they're funky enough to wear for an evening out and sophisticated enough to wear to work. They're perfect. Has anyone seen these for sale anywhere?

Hope everyone gets everything they wish for tomorrow! Merry Christmas!

December 23, 2010


I finished my Christmas shopping yesterday and started on my wrapping. Wrapping gifts might be one of my favorite things to do and I tend to go overboard when it comes to buying wrapping supplies...except for this year:( Being on a budget is NOT fun. Luckily, I have plenty of leftover ribbon, paper and other goodies to dress up my gifts. Here are a few I finished last night:


I love kraft paper - it comes in handy for so many things and great for wrapping. Add a pretty ribbon and you have a great looking gift, but I thought I'd try something a little different. I took a sharpie and wrote a note on the kraft paper (replaces the need for a card) - although it got a bit tricky because the box was fairly big and I started blabbing about random things. On the second box, I just wrote lyrics to Christmas songs (which also proved to be difficult since I'm terrible with remembering song lyrics).

I also opened my first Christmas gift of the holiday! And it was a good one from Jonathan Adler...




A vase! Isn't it so cute? Can't wait to use it. BTW - how nice is Jonathan Adler's packaging?! Thanks Eric:)

December 22, 2010



Last night a friend brought over a bottle of Lillet and it's now become my new favorite thing to drink. It's a French appertif wine, so it's sweet and a bit stronger than regular wine. Apparently it was very popular in the 50's and 60's and often served with gin. I loved it plain without being mixed with anything else, but I found this Martha Stewart Lillet-Basil cocktail recipe that sounds delicious:



Makes 1

1 cup ice, plus more for serving
1/2 cup Lillet Blanc
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) gin
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
Splash of tonic water
1 cucumber spear, for garnish
1 cinnamon stick, for garnish


Put ice, Lillet, gin, orange juice, and basil in a cocktail shaker; shake well. Fill a glass with ice; strain mixture into glass. Add tonic water. Garnish with cucumber spear, cinnamon stick, and basil sprigs.

Can't wait to give it a try!

December 21, 2010

christmas baking

This weekend was full of a lot of friends, a lot of eating/drinking and a lot cookies...and, in my case, cupcakes. I like sweets. No, I love sweets. But I do tend to crave savory over sweet, and this weekend was sweets overload. The thought of eating another cookie makes me a little sick (at least for today, we'll see how I feel tomorrow).

Friday was our annual cookie bake/Christmas Vacation movie night at Tina and Michael's. The tradition started with Eric, TIna and our friend Mike who were college classmates and used to get together and watch Christmas Vacation every Christmas - sometimes 3x in one night. And sometimes with the volume muted so they could try to recite all the lines. I think there was a lot of Jagermeister involved. Ours only involves one viewing of Christmas Vacation and no Jager, but still a lot of fun. We baked a ton of cookies:


My contribution were roasted chestnut cookies - I found the recipe on Smitten Kitchen. They were good, but not amazing - which is surprising because every recipe I've tried from Smitten Kitchen has been awesome:



On Sunday was Karen's annual cookie exchange and instead of cookies I made Ina Garten's coconut cupcakes. I made them a couple years ago and absolutely loved them, so I decided to make them again. I follow the recipe pretty closely except that instead of using almond extract, I use lemon extract - although I don't put lemon extract (or almond) in the frosting. They're so yummy and so pretty too!


December 17, 2010


(fabrics via Spoonflower: geometry octagon, green and blue flowers, orange chevron)

I have to say that the hardest thing for me to select when working on an interior renovation is fabric - especially when you have a budget. I always have an idea of what I want in my head but can never seem to find it when I'm looking! Well I found the solution (via Martha Stewart!): Spoonflower. Spoonflower is an online fabric store that has hundreds of already designed fabrics, but if you still can't find what you're looking for, you can design something and have it made! How cool is that? There are no minimums and at $18 - $32/yard (depending on the type of fabric you want the pattern printed on) - its very affordable. Very excited to give them a try!

December 16, 2010

spare ribs

One of my favorite meals growing up was my mom's pork spare ribs. I don't have her recipe yet - it's not easy getting a recipe from her because they're all in her head and nothing is ever exact. If I want to learn how to make something I basically need to shadow her and take notes. I found this recipe on Epicurious a while ago and it's become one of my favorite things to make.





Marinated Thai Style Pork Spare Ribs


1 cup sliced shallots
10 scallions, coarsely chopped
One 3-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced
8 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro including thin stems (and roots, if possible)
6 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc mam)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
4 pounds pork spare ribs, cut by your butcher across the bone into 2- to 3-inch "racks," each rack cut between the bones into individual 2- to 3-inch-long riblets (I always eat this as a meal, so I don't have them cut across the bone)


1. Put the shallots, scallions, ginger, garlic, cilantro, soy sauce, fish sauce, salt, pepper, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Process to a loose, finely chopped paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice.

2. Place pork ribs in a large bowl or a pair of heavy resealable plastic bags. Thoroughly coat the ribs with the marinade, massaging the paste into the flesh for a minute or so. Cover and marinate at room temperature for 2 hours or up to 5 hours in the refrigerator, tossing the ribs once or twice during this time.

3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread the ribs out, bone-side down, on two large, parchment-lined baking sheets and bake until ribs are deeply colored and very tender but not yet falling from the bone, about 11/2 hours, occasionally rotating the pans to encourage even cooking. Remove from the oven and serve with small bowls of Thai Chile Herb Dipping Sauce

Thai Chile Herb Dipping Sauce


1 tablespoon jasmine or other long-grain rice
6 to 8 dried whole Thai chiles (each about 2-inches long)
1 heaping tablespoon finely chopped scallion
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 teaspoons sugar
3 tablespoons Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc mam)
1/3 cup fresh lime juice


1. Place the rice in a small skillet over medium heat and cook, shaking the pan, until fragrant and lightly toasted, less than 1 minute. Transfer rice to a spice or coffee grinder and let cool. Process cooled rice until almost powdered, transfer to a small bowl, and reserve.

2. Place the chiles in the same skillet and cook over medium heat until lightly toasted, 30 to 45 seconds, shaking the skillet to avoid burning. Transfer the chiles to a spice or coffee grinder and let cool. Pulse the grinder until the chiles are coarsely chopped. Transfer the chilies to the bowl with the rice (the rice and the chiles can also be ground separately with a mortar and pestle).

3. Add the scallion, mint, cilantro, sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice to the bowl, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cover and reserve (the sauce can be made a few hours ahead and kept at room temperature). May be stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week; however, the bright colors will fade.

**I've always eaten these as a meal with rice and the dipping sauce poured over top. YUMMMMMMMMMMMM.

December 15, 2010


I've been trying to stay away from Anthropologie so that I won't be tempted to buy anything...but I had to make a stop there yesterday to pick up a Christmas gift. They always have such cool window displays and I loved what they did for the holidays:




This one is my favorite. Made to look like the art museum:


December 14, 2010

holiday party 2010

Every year, my friends and I host a holiday party at my house and this year's was this past Saturday night. We had a blast - lots of great friends, good food, good wine, and of course a dance party at the end of the night. Didn't take many pictures during the party but Eric took a few before people started showing up:




I had to include a picture of these cookies - aren't they so pretty? They were made by Tina.

December 12, 2010

hot pot

Hot pot is one of the my favorite meals - not only is it delicious but it brings back good memories of long dinners with my family. Now that I no longer live with my parents, I don't get to have it as often...until recently when I figured out how easy it is to prepare! The first time I made it myself was last year during one of the bad snowstorms we had. I woke up to about 2' of snow and the first thing that popped into my head was, "I want to have hot pot." My roommate and I trekked through the snow to the Asian grocery store which was an adventure - but so cool to see the city completely covered in white and be so still. We had Eric and some friends over and we ate hot pot and drank wine all night long. It was so much fun.

If you're not familiar with hot pot, its basically a broth that you bring to a boil in a "hot pot" which is similar to a slow cooker but gets a lot hotter. You can get one at an Asian grocery store - or you can just use a larger pot and cook everything on your stove, which is what I do. The only nice thing about having a real hot pot is that you can bring it to the dining table and everyone can participate in the cooking. So, you have a boiling broth, some raw veggies and seafood, drop them into the broth and cook them. You eat everything with rice and a little bit of soy sauce with chilli flakes. Sounds good? It is!!








- water
- bottle of Asian barbeque sauce - I use the Bull Head Brand - it comes in a 4.5 oz bottle with a silver label (can be found at an Asian grocery store)
- unsalted peanuts
- fish sauce
- sugar
- veggies - suggestions: bok choy, chinese broccoli, watercress (my favorite), mushrooms
- seafood/meat - suggestions: shrimp, fish balls, shrimp balls, scallops, sliced beef
- soy sauce
- chilli pepper flakes


- take about a handful of peanuts and cook in a skillet on the stove until browned
- fill a large pot or hot pot with water - make sure you don't fill it up too high since you want to have enough room for the seafood and veggies
- the peanuts, bbq sauce all go in the pot of water along with some fish sauce and sugar to taste
- bring to a boil and you're ready to go!
- fill a small bowl with soy sauce and add the chilli pepper flakes - I pour this sauce over everything but its not necessary - I don't make the broth that salty so this adds a lot of flavor and heat which I love!

December 10, 2010

December 9, 2010

pantone credit cards

These days, there are so many different credit cards out there that you can pretty much find a credit card to fit your personal style...even if your style is, say, the Kardashian sisters (yes, they have their own Mastercard). I never thought I'd care about what my credit card looked like until I saw this....


I like the lavender and honeysuckle colors the best. I don't currently need anymore credit cards, but if I did, this would be my #1 choice. Go here for more info.

December 7, 2010

french onion soup

I fell in love with Julia Child after watching Julia and Julia last year, so Eric bought me Mastering the Art of French Cooking (mostly in hopes that I would give him a break occasionally and cook more!). I've been craving French onion soup lately and decided to break open the book and make Julia Child's version. It's actually really simple - just requires a lot of time cooking the onions.





Soupe a l'Oignon


1 1/2 pounds (about 5 cups of thinly sliced yellow onions)
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
A heavy-bottomed 4-quart covered saucepan
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar (helps the onions to brown)
3 tablespoons flour
2 quarts boiling brown stock, canned beef bouillon, or 1 quart of boiling water and 1 quart of stock or bouillon
1/2 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons cognac
Rounds of hard-toasted French bread (see following recipe)
1 to 2 cups grated Swiss or Parmesan cheese


Cook the onions slowly with the butter and oil in the covered saucepan for 15 minutes.

Uncover, raise heat to moderate, and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep, golden brown.

Sprinkle the flour and stir for three minutes.

Off heat, blend in the boiling liquid. Add the wine and season to taste. Simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes of more, skimming occasionally. Correct seasoning.
(*) Set aside uncovered until ready to serve. Then reheat to the simmer.

Just before serving, stir in the cognac. Pour into a soup tureen or soup cups over the round of bread and pass the cheese separately. (Or, use the instructions below for a baked cheese top -
Soupe a’ L’Oignon Gratinee)

Croutes - hard-toasted French Bread


12-16 slices of French bread cut 3/4 to 1 inch thick
Olive oil or beef drippings
A cut clove of garlic


Place the bread in one layer in a roasting pan and bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for about half an hour, until it is thoroughly dried out and lightly browned.

Halfway through the baking, each side may be basted with a teaspoon of olive oil or beef drippings; and after baking, each piece may be rubbed with cut garlic.

Soupe a l'Oignon Gratinee


The preceeding onion soup
A fireproof tureen or casserole or individual onion soup pots
2 ounces Swiss cheese cut into very thin slivers
1 tablespoon grated raw onion
12 to 16 rounds of hard toasted French bread
1/2 cups grated Swiss, or Swiss and Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Bring the soup to the boil and pour into the tureen or soup pots. Stir in the slivered cheese and grated onion. Float the rounds of toast on top of the soup, and spread the grated cheese over it. Sprinkle with the oil or butter. Bake for 20 minutes in the oven, then set for a minute or two under a preheated broiler to brown the top lightly. Serve immediately.

**I was HUNGRY and couldn't wait another 20 minutes to eat, so I just added some cheese to the soup, floated one or two rounds of toast on top, added more cheese on top, put it in the broiler for a minute or two and voila! Delicieux! Also, please note that the recipe is supposed to be good for 6-8 servings. I had 6 people over for dinner and it only allowed for one serving each (and there were 2 people who had extra small servings) - I would 1 1/2x or 2x the recipe next time.

I had a ton of cranberries leftover from Thanksgiving as well as some apples from our CSA, so I made a cranberry apple crisp for dessert.





1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
2/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature


5 large Jonathan apples (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, sliced
4 Granny Smith apples (about 2 pounds), peeled, sliced
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Caramel Sauce

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces


To prepare the topping:Mix first 3 ingredients in bowl. Add butter; rub with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.

To prepare the fruit:Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Mix apples, cranberries, sugar, flour and cinnamon in large bowl. Add 6 tablespoons butter and toss. Transfer to dish.

Crumble topping over fruit. Bake until apples are tender, about 1 1/4 hours. Cool slightly. Serve with sauce.

To prepare the caramel sauce:Stir sugar and water in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring until syrup turns deep amber, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with brush dipped into water and swirling pan. Remove from heat. Gradually add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Stir over low heat until caramel melts. Add butter and stir until melted. Let cool slightly. Serve Caramel Sauce warm.

**I didn't make the caramel sauce - just served it with some ice cream and it was very tasty!

date night pt.2

image via

Elfreth's Alley was home to 18th century Philadelphians and is known as "our nation's oldest residential street". There are 32 beautiful homes that line the alley, including a museum and a gift shop. Every year, they do a little event called "Deck the Alley" where you can tour some of the homes, have refreshments and be entertained by carollers and Ben Franklin. I love going on house tours, so Eric and I decided to check it out before heading to dinner. The photo above is the street during the daytime, but it looked more like this when we got there on Saturday night:



It would be nice to come back and walk around during the day and take some photos, but there was also something nice about being there with the lights on, trying to stay warm with hot cocoa, and listening to the carollers:



Unfortunately, they asked us not to take photos inside the homes:( So we were only able to take outdoor photos which was difficult since it was so dark. The homes were beautifully maintained and very traditionally decorated - not my personal style but very appropriate. There were some that were tiny - we toured one that was only 9' wide! But most were 16' wide and pretty deep with decent yards (decent for city standards). My favorite thing was this sort of hidden alley that extended from the street that was lined by trees which created a natural canopy:


Along that alley were a couple more homes and at the end was a communal courtyard. I LOVED it! It's like living in your own little private world. There are some drawbacks though - moving or even just getting groceries home would be a pain - you wouldn't be able to get a car though the alley.

If you're interested in visiting or just learning more about Elfreth's Alley, you can find more information here. It's definitely worth checking out!

December 6, 2010

date night

Eric and I decided to have a date night on Saturday and it had two parts. For the first part, we went to the Elfreth's Alley annual holiday open house - you'll hear more about that tomorrow. Today, I'll tell you about the second part of our date, which was the eating and drinking portion (the most important/fun part of the date in my opinion). We wanted to go to a byob and wanted it to be in Rittenhouse Square because I wanted to be able to get drinks at Snackbar at some point during the evening. It had been a while since I had been to Audrey Claire and Eric had never been there, so that's where we went. Like most byo's in the city, Audrey Claire is teeny tiny. That coupled with the fact that they don't take reservations AND the food is really really good - there's usually a long wait to get in (especially on a Saturday night) and this weekend was no exception. During our hour wait, we went to Snackbar and got some drinks and a little pre-dinner snack.

I've been wanting to go to Snackbar for a really long time but just never got around to it. It's also very small inside but I love it because it feels cozy - and perfect for cold winter nights because of the fireplace. We both ordered the Paris Manhattan...and to be honest I'm not sure what made it Parisian and different than a regular Manhattan. But it was good. Really good.


We also ordered the calamari which was dressed with some citrus-thyme aoli. Yummy. It didn't come with any extra lemon to squeeze over top which I usually want, but it didn't need it. It was perfect. Delicious.


Unfortunately I didn't take any photos at Audrey Claire. There was literally no space between us and our neighbors - we were so close I felt like we should've introduced ourselves because we were basically sitting at the same table. I was slightly annoyed at first because I like having that extra foot of "privacy"...but I quickly got over it - but was still too embarrassed to be take photographs of everything we ate. Sorry guys. Here are some photos of the restaurant that I found online:



My favorite part of the meal was our appetizer dish - we got the antipasta sampler which included seared brussel sprouts, grilled portobello mushrooms, roasted asparagus, grilled baby artichokes, olives with wild pickled cucumbers, and salted beets and pumpkin. I could've just eaten that as my meal - which says a lot because although I like vegetables, all veggie dishes are not usually my favorite. I got the maple brined pork chop with wild boar bacon as my entree and Eric got the skate wing which was one of the specials. Mine was very good - the pork was juicy and the bacon delicious and Eric loved his. For dessert we split a warm chocolate cake which was SO GOOD. I could go for some right now. Hoping to go back soon! Great meal, great date night.

December 2, 2010

homemade turkey stock... so easy to make that it would be silly not to make it. It's the best way to use your leftover turkey carcass and veggies from Thanksgiving dinner. And even if you don't have a lot of leftover vegetables, you only need a few things from the grocery store and I'm sure you can find a lot of the spices/seasonings in your pantry. The only thing is that it does take some time - most of it is just spent waiting while it simmers - but you'll have to plan to make it on a day when you'll be home for most of the day. I made stock for the first time last year and it was so nice to be able to just reach into my freezer and grab a container of homemade stock whenever I needed it. I ran out of the homemade stuff months ago, so I'm excited to "stock" up! HA! Get it, "stock" up? ANYWAYS....


I used 3 carrots, 2 onions, 4 stalks of celery and I just roughly chopped them up. In addition to those veggies, I added 2 bay leaves, a few sprigs of parsley from about 6 stems, and a head of garlic that I cut in half. I put about 1/4 tsp of dried thyme leaves, oregano leaves and basil leaves each as well as 1 tsp of cracked black peppercorns and 1 tbsp of kosher salt in a metal tea ball - but I don't think you need to do that if you don't have a tea ball, just dump it all in the pot. Once you get everything into a pot, add some water - enough to cover everything by about an inch - and heat the water until it is just simmering - try not to let it boil. Then comes the waiting around. You want it to simmer for about 4 hours and you really don't need to do anything - no stirring, just check on the water level every so often.


The most finicky part of this recipe is the process you have to go through to store it properly. There are recipes out there that say to do this to avoid contamination of bacteria and then there are also recipes that don't say to do anything I don't know if it's really necessary to do the following, but I do it anyways to be safe. First, fill your sink with ice cubes and water. Get a stainless steel bowl and using a ladle, pour the stock thru a strainer into the bowl. Put the bowl into the ice water, stir for a few minutes and let rest for about 10 minutes. Once it's lukewarm, pour into containers and freeze. Not too bad, pretty simple.


And it makes a good amount of stock too...look how many containers I filled:


Now I'm ready to make some soup!

BTW - I don't add a whole lot of salt to the stock, so it may taste a bit bland. I just figure that I'd rather have too little salt and add more while I'm cooking than to have it be too salty.