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Posts Tagged ‘Ina Garten’

We had the best time this weekend with our besties, Ethan and Allison. The weekend started off with Ethan and Allison rolling up to their old townhome (now rental property) to discover that their small back yard had become a small jungle. So, we packed up the lunch I had prepared and brought it to them.

Sitting in their empty kitchen on their countertops cracking open some Coors Lights in the afternoon was actually a lot more fun than sitting around a table. We had sandwiches, fruit salad, five-cheese chips (the best!), and chocolate chip cookies. Yum!

Oh, and I made a little welcome basket for E&A to make them feel a little but more at home— since we have a one bedroom, anybody that stays over has to sleep in our living room (not the best accommodations). I packaged up some of the chocolate chip cookies I had made the day before, threw in some fresh towels and some soap (I always seem to forget soap/ body wash when traveling), and it seemed to make the living room a bit homier.

We had a fantastic time just shootin’ the breeze, sitting out on the porch under a fan for most of the afternoon. We eventually headed inside where we had dinner. Because it was graduation weekend at U.Va., we knew it would be virtually impossible to go anywhere without a reservation. And, the absolute, best place you could possibly want to go in Cville on graduation weekend would be C&O. And because there was no hope of us going to C&O, we decided to create a C&O menu inspired by their to-die-for steak chinoise. We had sesame-ginger grilled flank steak; basil mashed potatoes; roasted broccoli; and of course, chocolate chip cookies for dessert. I have to say, I don’t think anyone was missing C&O…. the dinner was bangin’!!!

This morning we just lounged, had brunch at Cafe Cubano, and strolled the mall— it just doesn’t get old for us. Then, we lounged some more and finally packed E&A up for their trip home. I thought I would use this time to exercise my new photography knowledge but I totally failed by forgetting the most important rule— if you’re lighting sucks, move your subjects! Unfortunately, this occurred to me as the Dodsons were pulling out of the drive way. Bummer. At least we got to capture a bit of the weekend. Hope everybody else’s weekends were filled with as much love and laughter.

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Okay, okay… I admit. I have a problem. It’s only October and I’m already obsessed with the holidays. Call it “having too much time on my hands” or a “newlywed nesting fetish”, or what have you, but whatever it is, I’m obsessed. But, I’m not willing to accept all the blame here. I think a lot of people share my illness.

It seems every year, the holiday decorations come out earlier and earlier, don’t they? And, I used to hate it! I was one of the critics mocking the Wal-Mart and Michael’s “Winter Wonderland” displays in September, complaining of mindless Western consumerism. Now, look at me, I’m a convert! I have to say, I have two theories on the matter: one general and one personal.

1) Let’s go back to the 90’s. Ahhhhh. What a great time. Back then, holidays were still in check. There were some holiday decorations out in September, but they were mainly confined to craft stores and, within those stores, the Christmas decor was limited to the silk flower section, mainly so that cat ladies could get an early start on their wreath making, bow tying, and sweatshirt puffy-painting. Then, 911 happened. That fall was so bleak. The whole country was in a state of bereavement. We were victims of war, we were mourning, and we didn’t feel comfortable orĀ  appropriate celebrating anything. Events, gatherings, plans, projects— canceled out of respect for those who lost their lives. But by the time Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled around, people were ready to feel happy again. We needed to feel happy so badly. And, add to that another side effect of 911, many families were appreciating their families and traditions in ways that they hadn’t in years. Ever since the 2001 holidays, our society has increasingly used the holidays as our annual pick-me-up and it gets bigger and starts earlier every year.

2) But, why have I, resistant to this landslide for so many years, now converted? I think it’s because last year, Ryan and I were so busy planning the wedding (wait, did I just say “Ryan and I”?, I meant I was planning the wedding) that the holidays just kind of washed over us. We knew they were happening, we were present in body, we just weren’t really able to enjoy them to the fullest extent.

So, that brings me to this Christmas. You ask me how far gone am I? Very. I’ve already started planning our 1st Gall family Christmas card, thought about our tree (btw- in Cville Whole Foods has the best trees for the best price), and I’ve already started Christmas shopping! And, I am pleased to announce that when Alli and I were at Michael’s on Saturday I was able to buy a partial Christmas present for 32 cents! Look!

I cannot yet reveal who the very lucky recipient of my extreme generosity will be, but I can say that person will be very happy, regardless of the price tag, and I’ll reveal the mystery item in a later post.

Now, myself, my wallet and my bff’s are not the only ones who will benefit from my early Christmas shopping. I’m also planning a blog post for you, anonymous reader, sometime in November that will feature my best Christmas gift finds… I’ll do all the leg work for you and then you can simply steal the ideas and apply them to your own shopping list.

But, just so I don’t leave you hanging today, here are a few of my favorite things that I’ve seen so far to get you in the holiday mood, too.

Look at these fantastic holiday cards available from Frank and Frida on etsy for the mere design price of $14. These are so much better than those stock Snapfish cards (not that I’m knocking those, those are great for the price), these are just infinitely more personal!

And, I’m loving these Pottery Barn monogrammed ornaments. They’re both rustic and elegant, and, provided you don’t let a small child handle them and you position them high enough on the tree so that cats can’t swat them, they could last you a lifetime. They’ll never go out of style.

And, for those of you who might be in the market for a gift for perhaps… moi… or really any lovely lady in your life. I am coveting these clutches from Sew Lola, available via etsy.

They are handmade and $34 and $54, respectively. How can you go wrong? Or, as Ina Garten would say, “now who wouldn’t love that?”.

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It seems to be a rare weekend that Ryan and I get a whole weekend to ourselves— no visitors, no dinner dates, no obligations— just us, alone in Charlottesville. This happened to be one of those weekends… and it’s been glorious! Yesterday we had breakfast at Bluegrass Grill, went to the market, putzed around in the afternoon (okay, I putzed around and Ryan “went into work” a.k.a. was playing on his new ipad for 4 hours outside of the house) and then we rounded out the evening by going to see Inception (it is as amazing as everyone says it is). I also tried out a new recipe last night: Ina Garten’s Pastitsio.

It’s a Greek lasagna that uses small shells instead of flat noodles. It was absolutely delicious and I would highly recommend trying it. I followed the recipe exactly, whole milk and heavy cream and all, and it turned out perfectly. It’s basically just a baked pasta in a meat sauce but the lamb and cinnamon give it an interesting twist that’s a welcome change from plain Italian red sauces.

Today, Ryan and I made a trip to Gordonsville— a small town that is a little north east of Charlottesville. I’ve been wanting to go to Gordonsville for a while just for the beautiful drive through Keswick and to walk around the little shops. But, when we heard that the chef at Fossett’s had opened a BBQ joint in downtown Gordonsville, it really “lit a fire under us” (pun very much intended) to get there. Here’s a few pics of me and Ry sampling the 3-meat platter at the BBQ Exchange.

Here are a few more pics of our stroll through the town. Unfortunately, most of the cute boutiques were closed because it was Sunday.

I finally finished the day by hanging some wall art that I’d made a week or so ago with some fabric that I’d found at a new local fabric store in town: u-fab. This store is amazing! They mainly sell close-out fabric, which is why their prices are so low, but I saw some really pricey fabrics in there that Calico Corners sells for $25-$35/ yd. and I even saw a really pricey designer fabric that Caroline Manzo has in her house! I’m guessing she didn’t pay $9.99/ yd. for it! After a productive weekend like this there’s only one thing left to do… sit around and wait for entourage to come on!

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Guacamole!

I just had to have some guacamole today after watching Ina Garten make it a few days ago. Here are some pics and quick tips:

1. Avocados- I bought a “bag” of avocados… something I had never done before and was very skeptical of. But, I was very pleasantly surprised. All four of the avocados were perfectly ripe and none of them were bruised.

2. Onions/ Garlic- I’m not really a fan of either of these two things when they’re not cooked and in big chunks, but my friend Allison Dodson taught me a great trick for them. I throw them into my mini food processor attachment (that came with my immersion blender- my most favoritest kitchen gadget!) with a few tablespoons of lemon juice and the result is very fine mincing that looks sort of like a slushy.

3. Lemons- A word about lemons: They are so much better in guac than limes!!!

4. Mashing- A tip from Ina: Instead of mashing the guac with a fork, use a knife to slice through the avocados. It’s easier and cleaner!

5. Cilantro/ Seeded Tomates/ Red Pepper Flakes- Finish off the dish! Yum!

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