Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

{Our Jack O'Lantern Bat!}

Nothing says Halloween like...Pumpkin Bread

aking isn't really my forte but lately it seems like it's all I'm doing! Pumpkin pie is my least favorite of all pies but I love pumpkin bread and so does the boyfriend! Via facebook eavesdropping (a friend recommended this recipe to another friend through a wall post) I decided to give this one a shot. I actually improvised quite a bit which may explain why the bread wasn't super pumpkin-ey.
Here are the changes that I made: I didn't use pumpkin pie spice, I used cinnamon (didn't feel the need to spend money on it), I also used some fresh pumpkin gut in addition to Libby's pumpkin filling. We carved a pumpkin earlier on and I saved the insides, microwaved them, then pureed them. I also did not add any cranberries since the boyfriend is not a fan. And lastly, I baked in the oven for 50 minutes instead of 60 to keep it moist.
The bread came out quite yummy and the pumpkin aroma in the air really made me feel like the season was in full swing. I wouldn't say that it's the best I've ever tasted-- it could stand to be a little more moist, and I think if I used the pumpkin pie spice it would be more pumpkin-ey. But all in all, it was a success and I would use this recipe again. Click here for some of Libby's Pumpkin Craneberry Bread goodness!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Good Reads

tarting a new book comes with such a feeling of excitement and hope and even an eagerness to find a spot where I can sit, undisturbed, and dive into my new book. My latest endeavor is a book entitled Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. A friend recommended this book to me many years ago and it's only now that I've gotten around to it as it's about a 900+ page book. So, it's now or never! A good way to stay on top of your reading is to join a book club. I've been a part of (and started) a great many of these, but sometimes they don't always work out. In comes, a site where you can list the books you've read, state your reviews, and list the book(s) you are currently reading or want to read. I really enjoy it. If you do join, add me as your friend and we can compare notes!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Nutella and Hazelnut Biscotti

uesday was definitely a stay-at-home-and-bake-day. After watching Giada over on Food Network bake biscotti after biscotti, I was inspired to give it a little test drive of my own. A visit to my local grocery store and with my sister at hand, we were ready to bake some chocolatey goodness!
I noticed that Giada's Chocolate Biscotti looked more like a cookie. After some discussion, the sister and I decided to nix that idea and find a more traditional biscotti recipe. Surprisingly, baking one of these treats is easier than I thought and with some Nutella, how can you ever go wrong? We were tempted to just eat the dough!

The verdict: A plate full of yummy, chocolatey biscottis that pair well with the coffee we brought from Puerto Rico.

Recipe is as follows:
Ingredients: {makes 2 dozen}
* 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 1/3 tablespoons cocoa
* 1/3 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/3 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/3 teaspoon salt
* 2 large eggs
* 2/3 cup sugar
* 1/3 cup nutella
* 1/3 cup chocolate chips
* 1/3 cup hazelnuts (optional)

First, preheat oven to 350°F. Then sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. If you don't have a sifter, use a fork to make sure all the lumps are gone and dry ingredients are mixed well.

In another large bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Add sugar and continue beating on high for 2 minutes. Stir in Nutella. Then add flour mixture to egg mixture and stir until well combined. Add in the chocolate chips and hazelnuts, if using.

Finally, divide dough into 2 or 3 logs with well floured hands and arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet. Press logs into rectangles approximately 1/2 inch thick. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes. Then remove from oven and turn down oven heat to 300°F. Using a serrated knife, cut logs into 1/3-1/2 inch slices. Arrange on baking sheet and return to oven. Bake for 10-12 minutes, turn biscotti over and bake an additional 10-12 minutes (depending on the thickness of your slices). Remove to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.

I would recommend chopping the nuts into 1/4s if you like the taste of hazelnut. Brew a cup of your favorite coffee or tea and you're good to go!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Home Sweet Home

uerto Rico was amazing! The weather was gorgeous--lots of sun but not blistering heat. Our resort had it's own private beach and hammocks so we did a lot of laying around, but we definitely stuck in a few adventures as well. Horseback riding on the foothills of the Rain Forest, a dip in the river, kayaking in the ocean at night through a mangrove tree forest to the bio bay (if you touch the water it lights up!), and lots of laying out on the beach and seeing Old San Juan.

It was so refreshing being away but as always, I wish I had one more day! Being back home is good too, but I was met with a ton of emails from my new volunteer position. Exciting and interesting, but I wouldn't mind hanging at the beach a little more.

I used my "Recipe for a Comfortable Plane Ride" and it was quite a success! I also downloaded several podcasts and listened to them on the plane. All in all this trip was a great and much needed. I think the picture below captures it all...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Recipe for a Comfortable (and fun) Plane Ride

This one goes out to all my I just wanted to say that. So this weekend the boyfriend and I are getting away from the city to our long long (long) awaited vacation to Puerto Rico! I'm very excited because I have never been to a beachy vacation and we are going ALL out here. I'm also excited because I have been patiently waiting since the third grade to visit the Rain Forest! My dreams are all coming true this weekend and I am giddy as a kid in a candy shop!
So the one thing I absolute hate about vacations is the plane ride. I can't stand them, the air pressure goes straight to my head and I get an instant headache. Right now I've been struggling with a very bad case of chronic tension headache that has been going on for about 2 months and getting on a plane is the last thing I want to do. But, I vow to be prepared. Here is a check list for what I hope to be a comfortable and happy plane ride.
1. Bring your own headphones. Don't forget this!
2. Ipod with your music set to go
3. A good book
4. A magazine
5. A journal
6. Soft, fluffy and warm socks that you can change into on the plane (also, wear shoes that are easy to slip in and out of. And try not to wear jeans, they're uncomfortable).
7. Once you get on the plane, ask for a pillow and blanket ASAP. The plane runs out very quickly and if you ask even right before take off they are out.
8. Bring a snack. I am usually starving mid plane ride and sometimes those tiny snacks just won't do!
9. Eye mask. One of those night mask things. I know you can just close your eyes, but having a night mask really makes a huge difference.
10. An airplane pillow is a really good alternative to the regular pillows the plane provides. Gives proper neck support
11. Remember to bring a pill case with advil, pepto, tums, etc.
12. I bring girly things like makeup, tweezer, etc just to do some tedious beauty things that normally are time consuming.

Mon ami and I are both flying this weekend (her to LA and me to PR) so I thought this would be good for both of us. Don't forget to check your flight and make sure you have good seats!

The Thing About Fall Is...

Fall is absolutely my most favorite season of the year. Here in NY fall lasts about 1.5 months, much too short to really really enjoy it. I already feel it slipping away and I'm trying very hard to hold on to as much of it as I can. Fall reminds of that line in "You've Got Mail" where Meg Ryan is walking through the streets of the Upper West Side, proclaiming to Tom Hanks (via email) that fall smells like newly sharpened pencils and books. That's how I feel. Fall smells like my something new and something fresh and something warm and cozy. Mmm. Here is my list (unfinished....just too many things to add) of things I love about fall:
1. Warm, hot, and spicy apple cider with a little bit of whip cream
2. Apple picking
3. Crisp air
4. Hiking outdoors
5. Foliage
6. Halloween!
7. Carving pumpkins
8. Fall clothes (sweaters, boots, scarves, anything tweed and wool!)
9. Fall scents like cinnamon, ginger, pumpkin, etc.
10. New beginnings

Anything else?

Monday, October 19, 2009

I Heart All Things Paper!

I have an obsession with stationary and all things paper. Ever since I was a little girl I loved paper and pens and labels and stickers and and and....sigh. But I don't often indulge in them because I am also a terrible hoarder and I almost never ever use anything. All my pens end up drying out, or my stationary yellowing or getting lost, or worst yet, a cup of coffee accidentally spills all over everything. I never learn my lesson and instead continue to save everything as if I will never see stationary again. This would make a great children's book with a moral at the end.
I love letterpress stationary and one day dream of owning a letterpress machine of my very own (highly unlikely). And I also get really really excited when I come across something that I just think is so pretty and want to make my own one day. Below are a few that I saw today.

Beach Bunny Beauty

Over at Cupcakes and Cashmere the beautiful, adorable, and creative Emily has added (or maybe I only just discovered?) a "how to" section to her blog helping the lost (such as I) get back on the right path. I can't begin to tell you the woes of my hair and to attain a beachy wave look is really difficult since I just have so MUCH hair. I really just look like I have an afro when I try to curl my tresses. But with the help of Emily's tutorial maybe I can attain a much softer and gentler look. I'll give it a try. Til then I'll leave you in her hands.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hydrangea Heaven

Every once in a while I'll run across something that will inspire me to build upon and add to my own home, decor, or even wedding! I've been to so many weddings in the last 2 years and the one thing I really want for my own is that intimate feeling--sort of hard to explain but I'm sure you all know what I mean. This is really hard to do since you, the bride (or groom) may know the sweat and tears poured into this very special day but your guests may not.

I've never put a lot of thought into floral arrangements or center pieces but I really love these hydrangeas. Don't they just make you happy? They make me happy. They're so poofy and pretty!

Peonies make gorgeous centerpieces as well. So feminine and pretty!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bicycle Beauty

After running across littlebrownpen's post entitled Bicycle + Wood = Cool Wood Bike, I couldn't stop myself from posting two times in a row and risk seeming like a blog obsessed....blogger. Once I saw these photos I was dying to tell somebody, anybody, of my love for bicycles, vintage ones with baskets in the front. And I love riding them. Something about the feeling of gliding with the wind blowing, almost escaping. Oddly enough I only ride on vacation. My sister, who also loves bikes, has accumulated and given away about 6 bikes over the years and she has graciously given me one. But something about riding in NYC on my really dirty and old bike doesn't seem as romantic. It's just not as satisfying. Regardless I have a love of bicycles, it makes me feel peaceful somewhere deep inside.

Anyway, this is great shot of a beautiful and unique bike that littlebrownpen took on the upper west side in NYC. It's nice to know that this one is riding around somewhere in my city. Maybe I'll run into it someday and we'll meet and can say hello properly instead of me just...obsessing over a photo.

Thank you, littlebrownpen, for taking such beautiful photographs that inspire me and make me happy.

Lovely Labels

One of my favorite sites and daily reads often posts free pdfs of gorgeous stationary with unique patterns. Believe you me, I take full advantage of this and have a file stored away for days when I feel like dressing up a boring ole package or envelope. This freebie is a goodie! Visit Love.Obsess.Inspire. to download your own! And if you haven't got one already, start a crafts file for occasions such as these because I'll be sending a lot more your way!

And...I just love these labels. I just do. They're simple, clean and beautiful.