Sunday, July 1, 2012

Instagram: Turning Simple Moments into The Extraordinary

It’s easy for everyday to become a routine affair. Pick up the coffee, work, commute home and start the process over again the next day. I recently read a blog post from a friend/colleague on the west coast, where she shared an excerpt from a book called Be The Miracle: 50 Lessons for Making the Impossible Possible by Regina Brett. I was so intrigued by the post that I picked up a copy of the book myself.  A key aspect of the book is focused on turning the everyday moments of your life into something extraordinary.  It’s a philosophy I couldn't agree more with.

The book focuses on celebrating moments as simple as a rain shower in the middle of the day or fresh cookies out of the oven. I spent the past weekend in Michigan, visiting my grandparent’s place that I’ve been going to ever since I can remember.  This is the first time I’ve ever been to Michigan with Instagram and I found myself capturing pictures of everything from the lake to meals.  I quickly realized that the power of Instagram goes well beyond the digital sphere. It’s reshaping how we all look at life.

Instagram turns a simple picture into a memorable image through the power of filters.  Since Instagram does all of the work to make a picture look beautiful, we can focus on taking pictures of the everyday.  Blowing the candles out of a birthday cake, a night in the city or even a fresh flower are all being captured and shared.

There is no doubt that from a digital perspective, Instagram, Pinterest and the like are shifting how we connect and share content.  However, what I find to be the true power of Instagram is that it’s forcing us all to slow down and celebrate the little moments of joy.  To provide a little inspiration here are a few simple moments that I’m celebrating.

  • Sunsets at the beach
  • Farmers Market Fruit
  • Gelato (three days in a row)
  •  A run by the beach
  • Time with family I love
  • Relaxation
  • Morning Coffee
  • Comfy clothes
  • Holiday weeks
  • New music

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Why I Love Once Upon A Time

I read and watched fairy tales growing up the same way every other little girl did. To be honest, I often loved the dog versions (Lady & The Tramp) more than the princess ones.  Nevertheless, I took in the concept of a fairy tale. As children, it’s acceptable to believe in fairy tales; In fact it’s often encouraged. Yet, somewhere down the road we’re expected to lose sight of fairy tales and focus on reality. However, in my mind this world might be a slightly better place if we all took the time to read a fairy tale once in awhile.

The world is a complex place and we don’t have any form of magic to turn to. On a daily basis we confront good and evil. Whether it’s from a specific individual or just the obstacles life throws at us. Yet, how often has that best friend who answers your call at 3 AM or the mom who is always there for you, feel like a fairy godmother? The term fairy tale is often used too loosely to describe a fairy tale wedding, etc. I would love a fairy tale wedding just as much as any girl and believe they happen every single day.  Does that mean I believe in “ And They Lived Happily Ever After?” The answer would be no.  A fairy tale can’t be focused on one event; it has to be focused on the moments that occur every single day.  No one is guaranteed a happily ever after. Yet, what we are guaranteed is the opportunity to live everyday striving and working for what makes us happy. There are going to be ups and downs and plenty of obstacles to achieve our happiness, but sometimes it only takes the perfect pair of shoes, a special note or the favorite song on the radio to make us realize the power of our happiness.  In my mind happiness is the true magic of a fairytale and that is something you don’t need a magic wand to find.

I try to live every day with an optimistic view. However, an optimist can also be a realist.  Being happy is not just about a state of mind; it’s about our actions.  We have to fight for our happiness because otherwise there are plenty of people or events that will gladly try and take it away from you.

I love watching Once Upon A Time, because although it’s completely fiction, it reminds me of the true meaning of a fairy tale every time I watch it and sometimes, just sometimes, it really is the little moments that make all of the difference.

In my world, sometime it just takes a cookie to transform the power of a day and you will never hear me doubt the power of a stick of butter, chocolate, sugar and a little bit of love to put a guaranteed smile on someone’s face.  So to put a smile on your face I’m sharing my current favorite cookie recipe for Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Pretzel Cookies.  I dare you to tell me you didn’t smile just reading that.

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Pretzel Cookies

This cookie recipe takes basic chocolate chip cookie dough and swaps out the chocolate chips with pretzels and peanut butter cups.

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cups chopped peanut butter cups (I love the dark chocolate Trader Joe’s variety)
2 cups chopped pretzels

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine butter and sugar and cream until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla to mixture. In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients. Add to the wet ingredients and blend until smooth. Add the chopped peanut butter cups and pretzels and blend in by hand.  

By rounded tablespoon size, place on a prepared baking sheet 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 -13 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool and serve.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Curly Hair and Pinterest

It would look as though I forgot I actually had a blog. The truth is that it’s always in the back of my mind. While I consistently update all of my other social channels, the blog sits in the background. I can’t just sit down to write a blog post, I need a reason. I started my blog back in 2009 as a place to discuss food from my kitchen table to yours. There is no doubt that food has remained my core passion, but over the years I’ve realized that is not the only story to be told. While food will remain the core of this blog I’m expanding it to discuss the little things in life that shape who we are and the minor aspects of the day that make all the difference. Which is why I’m dedicating this post to curly hair (and of course some Pinterest talk.)

I started life with straight hair. Over time my hair gradually started to get wavy, frizzy and just a plain mess. There is no doubt that I despised it. I would dream of having straight hair. It was predictable, neat and it fit into the crowd. Whenever it was straightened it was a few days of glory, but I knew it was never completely real and it was as if I was a different person. Eventually my hair shifted from wavy and frizzy to more defined curls and I slightly began to accept it. However, it’s not until now, about a month away from turning 25, that I can finally say I’m fortunate to have curly hair.

It’s a statement I thought I would never say and I mean NEVER. While it has taken more money than I wish to consider on hair product and different hair stylists, I finally understand why curly hair is part of what makes me who I am. Granted, I’m fairly predictable; however I don’t always do things the way everyone else does. Case in point: When I was three or four my mom asked me to count by twos. It seems like a simple question; however rather than saying 2,4,6,8, I opted for 1,3,5,7 (an odd child that I was.) Even when I get to the same conclusion as someone else, I often take a different path getting there. My style of organization would likely make no sense to anyone else and I’m fine having a consistent knot in my headphones. It’s the differences within each of us that I feel define who we’re meant to be. When I think about it I believe I was meant to have curly hair. It’s another extension of my personality that disappears when my hair is straight. It’s great to have straight hair for a day or two but it’s not me. I know in life there is no such thing as perfection, we just have to work with the cards we are dealt.

Now you might wonder how I’m about to shift this post from curly hair to Pinterest, while I do have a curly hair board, it’s the point of perfection that I want to focus on. I’m loyal to Pinterest and I remain loyal to the site, but it’s far from perfect. Yet, a major attraction of Pinterest is that we spend hours on the site envisioning our perfect life. The perfect wedding, dream home or amazing meal. As I’ve referenced before this is what I love about Pinterest, that it connects our dreams and our reality. While changes were bound to occur to the site, I feel like the layout changes have taken the site a step backwards. I don’t like that boards now focus on the context of the most recent pin to tell the story of that board. The context of a traditional corkboard is that you look at it and immediately grasp a larger picture. Friends, family, hobbies, etc. While I may not be a huge fan yet, I still love the site as much as I always have. Pinterest has altered how they tell their story and it might not be perfect, but I know there is still a future story to be told and I’m looking forward to it optimistically. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Beyond Food

It has happened again. I check my blog to realize it has been several months since my last post. I constantly tell myself I’m going to change this, yet days continue to go by without an update. So with the holiday season upon us I felt it was time for an update.  For those of you who talk to me on any kind of regular basis, you’re more than aware that I love Pinterest. I keep meaning to write a post about my love for the site, and then another day goes by and so on.  I did write a post for my company blog, but I have yet to put down in words what I find to be the heart of the site and the reason I have become addicted to it along with so many others.

I’ve been trying to think of a word to describe my organization style and I believe the best description would be a self –identified as a hybrid organizer completely in between the Type A and Type B. When tasked with a mission, I can store, file and color code down to the last detail.  However, if you’ve ever come across my inbox, desk, or witness my kitchen when I bake or cook you might see a different picture.  I tend to thrive in organized chaos and I have always been this way, no matter how hard I try to keep everything in line from A-Z.  I believe this also falls in line with my personality. I’m a dreamer, believer and individual who is happy to believe in the power of a fairy tale and the impact of a shared voice.  The other half of me is a person who loves the power of facts and concrete information that leaves me with a piece of mind.

Out of all the sites and apps out there, Pinterest fits my personality like a glove.  It allows you to pin ideas of realistic value, a recipe I will actually make for dinner or a DIY that I can actually handle. More importantly, it allows you to dream.  Whether close to being engaged or not, I along with millions of other girls have pinned wedding ideas, future dream homes and places I want to visit.  In my mind bringing reality and dreams together is a gift that few other sites have accomplished in such a unique way along with a social connection.

I wouldn’t say the site is currently perfect but it has the foundation to get there.  I have been told my eyes literally light up revolving around Pinterest discussions and frankly I just can’t help but talk about this site with excitement.  

Are you on Pinterest?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Numbers Game

I’ve never been very good with numbers. I could never wrap my head around the formulas, and I can’t remember ever enjoying the process behind math. There is a part of me that should love math. I hate not knowing what’s going to happen next and I grasp on to reliability as often as I can.  When it comes to math you can’t get more reliable. No matter how many different ways you look at two plus two it will always equal four and that will never change.  Numbers provide a guide  - something that we can turn to and rely on.  However, I realize now that the reason I never grasped on to math was because I need more than numbers.

I know numbers are not perfect and they can fail us just like anything else – but they are one part of an entire process.  Numbers can’t tell a story alone, but without them we’re bound to tell an incomplete story.  This process is part of the reason I love telling stories through food.  When it comes to food the recipe is our numbers and guide. It lays the foundation, but it’s how you create that recipe and bring it to life that you discover the story.

Look at a recipe and follow it measurement for measurement – without straying away from one detail.  Next time look at that recipe as a guide for your own interpretation.  I’ve created meals both ways, and the truth is that I’ve succeeded and failed both ways. Other factors always play a role outside of the numbers.  Ingredients, oven temperature and the process can all affect the outcome of the final product.  When it comes to food every recipe can bring to life a different memory. For instance, when I see a recipe for Matzoth Ball Soup, my mind is instantly at the family table I grew up at and when I look at my favorite recipe for Banana Cake I recall when my love of food took off.  When it comes to my banana cake I’ve never strayed from the exact numbers once. I rely on them because they set the foundation, but it’s the ripe bananas on the table and the smell of comfort as it’s pulled out of the oven that paints the picture in my head.

Below is a recipe I discovered on my latest social media obsession, Pinterest (check it out if you’re not on it yet, seriously.) I was immediately drawn to the recipe, because obviously it involved pumpkin.  I followed this recipe exactly as I found it, and I was pleased, but I felt like something was missing.  I might play around with it to find my perfect balance and I encourage you to do the same.  The numbers will always be there, but it’s how you tell the story or create the meal that get’s remembered.

Pumpkin Nutella Cheesecake Muffins

Recipe from

For the Muffins:

 4 Whole large eggs
1 ½ cups Sugar
1 Can of Pumpkin puree
1 ½ cup Vegetable oil
3 cups All-purpose flour
2 teaspoons Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Nutmeg
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt

For Nutella Filling:
8 oz. Cream Cheese, Softened
½ cup Nutella
1 Large Egg


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, beat eggs slightly. Add in sugar, pumpkin and oil. Beat thoroughly. Add in remaining dry ingredients and mix until smooth.

In a separate small bowl beat together the Nutella, cream cheese and egg.

Place liners in a muffin tin.  Place about 2 tablespoons of pumpkin batter into the bottom of each liner. Top that with a tablespoon of the Nutella mixture, then top with an additional tablespoon of pumpkin batter.

Bake for 18- 22 or until done in the center.

Makes around 20 muffins.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

An Impromptu Meal

Last Saturday I went to Green City Market for the first time.  I approached this market in the same way shopaholics approach Nordstrom’s.  I have always been of those crazy people that never minds grocery shopping, but being at an outdoor market is an entirely different experience. It brings another level of connection to the food and the hands that have touched it and put their heart into it.   I left the market with an arm full of sunflowers, Ciabatta Bread and produce, that I simply couldn’t wait to bring the flavors to life.

I often feel obligated to show up to these markets with recipes in mind, otherwise I fear I will buy something that simply goes to waste.  Despite several attempts, I’ve never been good at planning that way.  I don’t know exactly why, but following a recipe often leaves me feeling less connected to the food. I love the feeling of adding a dash of this and that and watching it coming together. Sure this can often lead to some less than perfect meals, but I learn and revise. I still believe recipes are important (since I have followed plenty), but I feel it’s so important to put your own personal touch into every meal.

Tonight I came home from work without a clue of what I would make. I didn’t want to go to the grocery store or get something from take out so I forced myself to use whatever I had and put a meal together. I had pasta and with that you can pretty much do anything.  At the market I bought garlic snape for the first time and the flavor it brings to a dish is so powerful you only need a tiny bit.  With those two ingredients and a few staples I managed to put a meal together.   I didn’t create something that has never been done before; it was simple and basic pasta.  It was that little touch of something unexpected that made it feel like my own.

A Basic Buttered Pasta

1 Pkg of Pasta, any variety
2 Tbsp. butter, add more to taste if necessary
2 Tbsp. olive oil (I just went with a few glugs, but if you prefer measurements I would start with 2 Tbsp. and adjust for taste beyond that.)
Salt and Pepper
1 stalk of garlic snape, diced thin
1 cup shredded cheese (I used mozzarella, but you could try different flavors)

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and place into a serving bowl. Immediately add the butter and olive oil so that the butter melts and the olive oil sticks to the warm pasta.  Add the cheese and stir to blend. Top off with the salt, pepper and garlic snape.

Serve and enjoy

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Reminder of Summer

Throughout my life summer has always represented a break. In elementary school through college that symbolic last day has always been an adventure where you feel free of the rules and structure that has defined you the past nine months.  For the first time in my life I didn’t have that last day this summer.  I entered the “real world” as you might say, and summer no longer carries the same sense of departure.  This is not to say I’m not thankful for the job I have, and the wonderful opportunities and events it has led to this summer, but for the first time summer has just blended in to the rest of life.

This summer was a new experience for me in many ways.  It represented the start of a new job, a move to the city and a few business trips along the way.  As a person who adjusts to change more gradually than others, I was startled by this “new” summer” that entered with less flexibility and less time.  As I sit here with more than half of summer gone by, I began to realize that the idea of summer is never defined by one year.  It’s defined by the simple moments that take you right to the heart of the season.  Whether it’s late-night Dairy Queen, a run along the beach, or an outdoor farmer’s market, the essence of summer can be captured in a single night. I’m sure this summer is one of many that will be filled with new experiences and I will continue to adapt.   Yet, even during the busiest of summers, when time seems to be going a mile a minute, it only takes a night of catching lightning bugs to remind you of what summer is all about.

When all else fails I turn to the one thing that seems to always connects me to something bigger than what lies in front of me, and that is food.  Whenever I drink an ice cold glass of lemonade or an ice cream cone at night I’m not only reconnected with the current season, but I’m reminded of the comfort of my childhood summers, when life was care free and a worry did not exist beyond the day in front of you.

If there is one food that is an epitome of summer, the classic s’more always tops the list.  I would even go as far as saying it’s impossible to eat a s’more angry.  Whether you’re 5 or 75 the first bite of a s’more is pure happiness. 

If you’re facing my dilemma of a rushed summer with less time for bon fires and camping trips, you have to try this recipe for s’more cookie bars.  It combines the reminder of a s’more with the addition of a chocolate chip cookie for good measure.

Summers are always going to change, but sometimes it’s as simple a s’more to remind you that summer is truly here.

S’more Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

11 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar packed
½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 ½ cups flour
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup mini marshmallows
3 regular chocolate bars, broken into pieces
1-2 packages of graham crackers, broken into square pieces


 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease baking pan or line with parchment paper. Any size-baking sheet will work. 

Lay out graham crackers on the pan as close as possible (they should be touching.) Set the pan aside.

Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon and set aside.

Cream together the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla until light and fluffy. Mix in dry ingredients just until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and marshmallows.  Chill in the refrigerator for one hour or over night.

Place 1 Tbsp. – 1 1/2 Tbsp. of dough per graham cracker. Press down very slightly with fingertips. Bake for 5 minutes and then remove from oven to place part of the chocolate bar on top. Bake for an additional 5- 7 minutes or until dough turns golden brown.

Let cool slightly and remove from pan.

Enjoy your new version of a s’more J