1 Year Ago Today!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It's hard to believe that we've been married a year! After 18 months of intense wedding planning, it has been amazing to spend the past 12 months enjoying life, each other, our hopelessly spoiled pup, working on our condo and just living. It's been a wonderful year.

It's amazing how much you learn after saying 'I do.' Even though we lived together before getting married, after the wedding it's been a new level of setting goals together, making plans and figuring out our future. And... compromise. We've worked harder at listening to the other person's side and being more flexible. I feel we've really grown up in our relationship.

However, just because the wedding planning is over, the word 'wedding' is still an every day word for us. With Steve shooting weddings (full time) and me coordinating them (part time), we've gotten to see many, many couples enjoy their own first day of wedded bliss! So far in 2010, we've enjoyed 36 weddings between the two of us - hectic craziness but so much fun. And....still more to come before the 2010 wedding season comes to an end!

So, it's only appropriate that we're heading out to L.A. today so that Steve can shoot a wedding out there tomorrow, and then hop a train down to San Diego for Steve to shoot an engagement session. Our first day of year #2 of marriage will be spent at a wedding!

Thank you to everyone who helped us celebrate last year and those who sent their well wishes - here's to another wonderful year!

Boot Fate

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Remember my last post about those fabulous Ann Taylor Loft boots? After I wrote the post I was emailing with Best Friend D. I knew she had bought an awesome pair of over the knee boots last year, so I asked her for the brand. She told me they were Apepazza and she loved them. So I Googled around. And then I found the beautiful Apepazza "Cagliari" all over the place. Zappos priced them at $283 and the prices just went up from there on various sites.

Umm, no thank you. Lovely but not in my price range. Until I saw a picture of them on Google Shopping for $138.90 on Nordstrom. Yes, please! I clicked over and just saw that they were brown and they only had a size 7.5. I wanted black and size 8. Until I looked more closely...the picture showed brown, but the listing said black. Woo! I gambled on the 7.5 working for me and placed the order immediately. At 50% off, my friends, it was worth the gamble!

They came in at around $160 for tax and 2-day shipping, which is more than I initially wanted to spend but I knew I was getting a quality pair of boots for a great deal. They arrived today and I am in love. The side view is amazing. They're tall but not too tall.

The leather is very soft and feels expensive. Even though they're a half size smaller than my usual size, they fit perfectly. And I feel like, unlike many other boots, I could walk all over in these.

Now, don't get too excited. I'm pretty sure I snagged one of the last pairs at this price - Nordstrom doesn't even have this style listed on their web site anymore.

It was a complete fluke that I found out about this brand right when Nordstrom had this boot on super sale. This, my friends, is what I now like to call boot fate. Weeks of searching led me to the perfect pair at the right time!

Now, I've safely tucked these babies away in the special storage bag they came with, just waiting for the perfectly chilly fall day.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Color me obsessed with fall right now. I have no doubts that Chicago with throw me at least one or two more curveballs with 80-degree days before fall is officially here to stay. And of course Steve and I have that week in California coming up later this month, where I'm sure we'll experience less than fall-like weather.

But still, I'm going to continue to daydream about lovely fall clothes. I've already picked up a couple of a new pair of jeans and that lovely plaid dress from Gap, my fun dresses, sweaters and jeans from J. Crew (all of which fit like a glove!), and a couple of pairs of velvety flats.

What I can't stop thinking about, however, are boots! I desperately want a pair of black riding boots. I thought I wanted just a pair that hit at the knee. That is, until, I laid my eyes on these babies from Ann Taylor Loft yesterday and I had to wipe the drool off of my keyboard.

I would buy them in black.

However, so you get the full effect, here's the model sporting them in brown (which I love, too, but I have more of a need for black right now).

I'll be honest, boots that high might make me look like a midget. Or, they might make me look AMAZING. I think others must agree that they make you look amazing, because they're practically sold out in both colors! So, even if I could afford them (which, for the record, I cannot - $198 on boots is not in the budget, oy), I wouldn't be able to purchase them in my size anyway. Boo to that.

But ever since I've seen these babies, I have been obsessed with them or finding something like them. Unfortunately, any boot that seems comparable but is in my budget (re: $80-$100) looks like a cheap ole' heap of fake leather that will probably make me look like a street walker.

Please tell me you've seen the most amazing boots like those pictured above that I can actually afford. And please tell me where to get them!

Gluten Free Comfort

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A couple of weeks ago I had some girlfriends over for dinner and drinks. I was all set on making some comfort foods when I remembered that my friend Stacey recently had to go gluten-free. Hmm. But, instead of re-writing the menu, I just found some gluten-free recipes for the same comfort foods.

I started off with super cheesy macaroni and cheese modifying this recipe (see recipe at the bottom of the posted. I opted to just use three cheeses - Gruyere, cheddar and Parmesan.

I shredded the Gruyere and the Parmesan. The Gruyere was shredded more finely, and the Parmesan was more finely shredded (below).

And I bought already shredded cheddar because it's cheaper and easier.

I picked up a bag of brown rice elbow macaroni. You wouldn't know the difference between these and "regular" noodles except they take a little longer to cook.

I made the cheese sauce with some of the cheddar and Gruyere. The thickening agent used for the sauce varied from recipe to recipe that I looked at. I opted for a glutenfree flour.

I then put half the noodles into my buttered souffle dish, poured in half the sauce and sprinkled shredded cheddar and some Parmesan, then added the rest of the noodles, sauce, and cheese on top.

It came out of the oven super duper cheesy and incredibly delicious.

I also made up a fresh spinach salad with sliced granny smith apples, dried cranberries and walnuts with a balsamic dressing. The only thing I had to be conscious of was the dressing being gluten free. Not only is the Annie's Naturals brand fantastic, but most (or all?) of their dressings are already gluten free! (There would be pictures of the salad but, umm, they were all blurry. Doh!)

I finished everything with dark goddess cake from Gluten-Free Goddess. I was TO DIE FOR.

I melted up some dark chocolate and butter. Umm, yum.

Finished combining the rest of the ingredients and poured into my lined spring form pan. The recipe called for a 9-inch pan and mine is 10 inches, but I still ended up with a perfect cake.

The smell fresh from the oven was amazing.

After it cooled, I took it out of the pan, flipped it onto a cake stand and dusted it with powdered sugar.

And voila! Topped with some home made vanilla whipped cream. It was chocolatey, dense and delicious. And even better the next day left over!

I was excited to make some food that was gluten-free and yummy. However, wasn't quite calorie free, ha!

Gluten Free Macaroni and Cheese
(adapted from About.com)

7 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons gluten-free flour
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, or to taste
8 ounces freshly grated cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)
4 ounces freshly grated gruyere OR Swiss cheese (about 1 cup)
4 ounces freshly grated parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
16 ounces, al dente cooked GF macaroni noodles

  1. Preheat oven to 350° Put 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a 3-quart baking dish. Set aside. Fill a large stockpot half full with water. Cover and bring water to boil over high heat. Add one pound of gluten-free macaroni (elbow) noodles and a pinch of salt and return water to a boil. Cook according to package directions, until al dente (beginning to soften but still somewhat firm to the bite).
  2. While pasta is cooking shred cheeses and make the cheese sauce (Mornay). Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Whisk in 4 tablespoons of gluten-free flour and cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Slowly whisk in milk. Increase heat to medium and whisk until mixture thickens. Remove from heat. Add salt, pepper, 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, ½ cup Parmesan and all of the Gruyere.Stir until cheeses melt and mixture is smooth and creamy.
  3. Put the baking dish with butter in the preheated oven and leave just until butter melts. Remove and coat bottom and sides of the dish with butter using a pastry brush. Drain, rinse and pat dry cooked pasta. Pour half of the pasta in the baking dish and cover with about 1/2 of the cheese sauce and shredded cheese.
  4. Distribute remaining pasta on top and evenly cover with remaining cheese sauce and remaining shredded cheese. Lightly salt and pepper and bake for 45 minutes or until top is golden and bubbling.
  5. Cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Chocolate Goddess Cake
(from Gluten-Free Goddess)

12 ounces bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces (6 oz. butter)
1 tablespoon bourbon vanilla extract
7 large organic free-range eggs
1 cup organic light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup organic white cane sugar
1/4 cup organic unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup almond flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  1. Line the bottom of a 9-inch or 10-inch springform pan with a circle of parchment paper; tenderly butter the paper.
  2. Place the chocolate and butter in a medium to smallish saucepan, and set the pan into a slightly larger sauce pan filled with two inches of hot water; bring the water to a simmer and slowly melt the chocolate and butter together. Stir with an old beloved wooden spoon until the chocolate and butter are melted together. Remove the pans from the heat, and set aside the pan of chocolate and allow it to cool a bit (to warmish). Stir it often to keep it smooth.
  3. On to the eggs. Using an electric mixer, beat the heck out of the eggs until they appear light colored and frothy; add the sugar and beat it all again until the mixture is thick and flows in ribbons, about 5-6 minutes.
  4. Slowly - very slowly - pour about half of the warm chocolate into the egg-sugar mixture (to gently temper it). Beat on low to combine. At this point I switch over to my trusty wooden spoon, and blend in the remaining chocolate by hand. Add the vanilla.
  5. Sift the cocoa into the batter and gently mix. If you're adding the almond flour, do the same. Lightly combine.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and bake at 350 degrees F. for about 50 minutes. Ovens vary! Err on the near side if you like a fudgier texture; bake it longer and it becomes drier, more cake-like.

    Note: the top of the cake may be cracked - that's fine. A toothpick inserted into the cake’s center will emerge clean with a few moist crumbs when done.

  7. Cool the cake in the pan, on a wire rack. Loosen the cake from the edges of the pan with a small flexible spatula, and release the spring clasp.
  8. You may serve the cake right side up or invert it onto a 9-inch serving plate and peel off the parchment. I you like the shape of it as is, and serve it upright.
  9. Dust the cake with powdered sugar and garnish with some home made whipped cream.
Serves 10.

In September, anything can happen...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

...including pigs dressing up as Peter Pan and flying through the sky!

This month's playful pig knows how to have a good time, completely with his little elf shoes and jaunty hat.

Happy September!