Thursday, March 28, 2013

On using up ingredients

No one likes good food going to waste. So when I have to buy an ingredient that will leave me with surplus, I try to plan another recipe for the week that uses the same ingredient.

Brent has been making homemade pizzas (that are amazing) since Christmas of 2011. My favorite one he makes uses fresh arugula sprinkled on top after baking. It's SO good. But it uses just a handful of arugula...and we can only get arugula here by the plastic-binful. They sure cram a LOT of it into those containers!

What to do with all the leftover arugula?

Thankfully, a friend of ours shared a recipe with us for a warm arugula salad, and it's really yummy. Bacon lovers, get excited.  Brent and I will usually make this salad the day after making pizzas, heating up leftover pizzas for the kiddos. 

Warm Arugula Salad

arugula (around 8-10 oz)
6 strips bacon, diced
2 shallots, finely chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup walnuts 
ground black pepper to taste

1. Place arugula in salad bowl and set aside. 

2. Brown diced bacon in skillet. Add in the shallots and saute with bacon until shallots are translucent.
Add olive oil to bacon/shallots and heat until just warm.  

3. Pour this mixture over arugula, add in vinegar and mix well. The heat from bacon mixture will wilt arugula slightly which is what you want.

4. Add ground black pepper, top with nuts, and serve.

It is surprisingly filling...and we generally eat this as our entire meal. I hope you enjoy!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Remembering the beach on a wintry afternoon...

I grew up with the majority of my spring break weeks falling in April. 

So sometimes it still feels odd to me to hear of March Spring Break plans...but nevertheless, we took our spring break a few weeks early this year, joining my parents, Katy, and Alex at Kiawah Island for a few days around Dad's birthday!

(And since they're calling for some wintry weather tonight and tomorrow, I thought I'd linger on some slightly warmer weather today!)

Here are some favorite places and moments from our recent trip.

I love these palms. As we were driving through South Carolina, Nathanael saw the first palm tree and said "There's a palm tree. We must be at the beach."

We had some chilly, cloudy days at the beach...where I was quite thankful for Uncle Alex who was adventurous enough to set foot in the icy water since I apparently have crazy children. But they love the water, no matter the temperature.

We also had some gorgeous days at the beach...though they were windy ones. The beaches were still pretty deserted. Mainly seagulls, pelicans, and a few people walking dogs.

My favorite Madeleine quote, as she ran towards the water above: "Come on, Hadleigh! Let's be mermaids!"

They were quite pleased with their sandcastles and "wells"! I'll never forget, however, the look of astonishment on Nathanael's face over how quickly the waves erased all signs of his castle.

I think this is my first beach trip where I've been drinking hot chocolate while the kids opt for popsicles.

I love the mix of the spanish moss on the old oaks and palm trees, like they do here on my way to a relaxing morning at the spa for a manicure/pedicure.

This time of year is perfect for the playground at the's really too hot during the summer on the play equipment. We made the most of it with a picnic lunch and bare feet in the sand for Madeleine.

 And oh, the food at the beach. This artisan veggie pizza is one of my very favorites. So yummy.

And you know you're enjoying good southern food when it's harder to choose your side dishes than your entree. I picked grits and tomato pie to accompany my crab cake. Sweet tea, she-crab soup, and blueberry pie rounded out my meal. (Stono Market's Tomato Shed Cafe is not to be missed if you're near John's Island!)

Our last day on the beach was incredibly windy, so instead of playing in the sand, we scoured the beach for treasure and found many. I think the kids finally believe me that taking a walk to look for shells is maybe just as fun as splashing in the water. Maybe. We found so many conch shells...mainly ones that were still alive (and we threw those back in the ocean) but we were able to bring a few home.

Madeleine is convinced that all the broken sand dollar pieces she finds can be glued back together. So we brought back approximately 918349837 sand dollar pieces.

And lastly, I can't see the sky today for the thick blanket of clouds, so I'm going to imagine this sunset again. It was incredible. Sunsets at the beach are right up there with Texas sunsets in my book.

So is it warm or cold where you are today?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Stitch Fix

I first learned about StitchFix several months ago, after seeing a review on a blog. It looked interesting.

A few weeks ago, a couple friends blogged about their experiences with the company...and I decided to try out this "personal stylist-shop-by-mail" company. 

I am SO glad that I did.

If this is all new to you, here's how it works:

1. You sign up (via an invitation link) online, and once your account is created, you complete your style profile. This part is's kind of like a quiz. You fill out size, fit, and style preferences, as well as a price range you prefer to shop within. You can also link to a Pinterest board, so the stylists can get a good sense of your style.

2. There is a wait time currently involved...but between signing up at the end of February and getting approved, I only waited 11 days. 

3. Once you're approved and your style profile is complete, you schedule when you'd like to receive your first order or "fix." A StitchFix stylist handpicks items for you based on your profile; the fee for this service is $20...but you can apply the full $20 towards your purchase.

4. The package ships USPS and include 5 items. When your StitchFix box arrives, you get to try on clothes in the comfort of your own home...and with pieces from your own wardrobe.  This is one of my favorite features of the company. 

5. Within three days, choose what you love and then send back the rest, using the prepaid Priority envelope enclosed. Go online to StitchFix and checkout. You complete a survey for checkout, which further defines your profile and gives good feedback to the stylist for next time. You pay only for what you keep...and if you keep all items sent, you get 25% off the total purchase. 

6. Then, choose to schedule your next StitchFix shipment as frequently or infrequently as you like! I love that you can leave a note for your stylist about an event or season you want kept in mind when selecting items!'s a review of my first experience with StitchFix.

This peek into my box shows the fresh mint green packaging design! I love good packaging!

Here are the five items I received, reviewed below. I was excited about each piece...and I think that my stylist did a great job in selecting a variety of items for me.
1. Rocco Faux Wrap Tank Dress. I was excited but doubtful when trying this on. I always like the look of wrap dresses, but they are usually a bit low-cut for me.  This was a faux wrap, and it surprised me. The color and fabric and style were gorgeous. The bodice fit beautifully and the neckline was camisole needed! The fit from the front looked great...but sadly, it was quite snug in the back.  Sadly, not keeping this one.

2. Stanley Hi-Lo Jersey Loose Tee. I loved the design of this shirt (especially the keyhole back), and it is really comfortable. It is shorter in the front, longer in back...which normally would be great for me, but the front of this was a bit "tent-ish" and didn't look very flattering. It was better tucked into a skirt...but for the price, I'd want it to work both ways. I'm returning this one.

3. Abrianna Longsleeve Knit Cardigan. I'm a cardigan girl. In every season, you can find me wearing one. This cardigan is so fits well...and hangs beautifully. I would never pick this color up in a store...but I was surprised at how well this shade of purple works with my coloring. I'm keeping this one for sure. (And wore it yesterday, as you can see below!)

4. Marci Dot Stripe Tabsleeve Blouse. This is another great example of something that I would probably pass by in the store...but when I tried it on, I really liked the design. But I love the pairing of blue and green SO much...and the striped pattern is fun and definitely different than anything I currently own. The sleeves can be worn long or buttoned up like shown...I like versatile pieces. Unfortunately, the upper part of the sleeve was really snug...which was disappointing, as it fit well everywhere else. Another return.

5. Wavy Chevron Bangle Set. This set of five bangles is fun. I liked them immediately. Gold and light turquoise. They fit nicely. But I don't wear bracelets all the time...and since I already have some in a similar color, I decided to return these as well.

A few other things to note:

Each item includes an attached style card, styling the item two different ways. (One of the cards is pictured above.) The card that accompanied my cardigan suggested a navy shirt and long turquoise statement necklace. I had similar pieces already in my closet...and when I tried them together, I liked the combination!  I have a summer outfit it will also pair well with...and loved the other suggestion of a striped maxi dress. I want the pieces I keep to be ones that are unique and versatile.

I have a tendency to buy similar items. My closet has a section full of neutral-colored sweaters! So the fact that someone sends me a variety of items, including some that might push me slightly out of my comfort zone excites me!

I have to admit that while I still enjoy the traditional method of shopping, it is harder for me to manage lately. Shopping with three school-aged children in tow is not easy...and I find that I will often buy a shirt or scarf or skirt hoping that it will match well with something I already own. Sometimes it does...but quite often, the shade or fabrics don't work well together. And then I have to make a trip for returns. These days, I don't want to use my spare time on those kinds of errands. So I love the ability to easily drop a package in the mail to return.

And as far as price goes, my least expensive item was $38 (the bracelets) and the most expensive item was $78 (the dress). I selected the "least expensive" options for accessories, jewelry, and tops and the "$50-100" range for dresses, bottoms, and outer layers. (This is fairly typical of the pre-sale prices of items I buy traditionally.) The price ranges increase in $50 increments up to $200+.

One last thing. This is not a sponsored post. I am receiving no compensation for this review from StitchFix. However, much like other online retailers (like Zulily, One Kings Lane, Sole Society, etc.), StitchFix promotes their brand through referral links. So if you sign up through the links I've given here, I earn a one-time credit with StitchFix if you purchase. (And once you sign up, if you share your referral code with your friends, YOU earn credit! Win-win!)

Have you tried StitchFix? I'd love to hear about your own experience! And if you have any questions, ask in the comments, and I will reply there!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Simply Lovely, No. 17

The seaside in March has a simple and striking and bare beauty.
Tall stalks of beach grass--old, yet strong--stretch to the sky.
And the lovely sun warms your face, even as the end of the winter wind blows cold.

(The kids and I took our spring break trip last week to Kiawah Island with my parents, sister, and brother-in-law. It was a simply lovely time. More to come.)

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Snow days and comfort food

Today has been beautiful. We fell asleep last night, knowing that the snow had begun to fall...and knowing that we would have some happy children in the morning.

We watched the snow fall all we did we read we cut out snowflakes. The children drew next to the french doors by our deck, all too often distracted from the pencil in their hand because of all the magical white scene before them. 

Brent had a snow day (those are the best kind!) but went into town to do some studying; he brought back soup & bread from Panera for lunch. Yum.

And then all four of them went outside. By lunchtime, it was really slushy. But that doesn't stop my kiddos in the least. That girl is definitely in her element outside.

The snow on the deck was best for packing, so Nathanael began a snow fort behind that chair...and lots of snowball fights took place here...with my couch as the perfect vantage spot! I just love that grin.

Snow days are perfect for baking comfort foods. We chose banana bread today.

I love this recipe. It always turns out perfectly...nice & toasted on the outside and perfectly done in the center. This banana bread never fails me. (To make preparing banana bread easy, I peel any uneaten ripe bananas and store them in the freezer in a Ziploc freezer bag.)

Banana Pecan Bread

1 1/3 cup flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
5 1/3 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed banana, about 2-3 ripe bananas
3/4 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray loaf pan with baking spray.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar over medium speed for 2 minutes.

3. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. In a small bowl, lightly beat eggs.

4. Add flour mixture slowly to butter mixture, mixing well after each addition. After all of flour is added, pour in the eggs and mix until combined.  Add banana, mixing on low until batter is uniform. Stir in pecans.

5. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 50 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in pan on wire rack, then remove from pan and cool completely.

This recipe is easily doubled, as I did today! It also freezes well.

Make sure to serve alongside a cup of hot's the perfect after-snow treat!

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