Workshopping

I just have a lot of things to say this morning, so let’s dive right in!

  • I have a new stain remover trick for removing grease stains from clothing!  Actually, this is really not “new” at all, but it was new to me and that means that some of you may not be in the know about this one either.  Last week, I wore one of my new dresses for the first time.  This also meant that this was the day I dropped a nacho right on my stomach.  As you can all imagine, that was a super moment and the nacho left behind a grease stain.  I was really peeved because the dress was not cheap, and I wanted my new dress to look…new.  Generally, I use Spray ‘n Wash when I’m removing stains but it is not 100% successful when it goes up against grease.  So when we got home from dinner, I spent 20 minutes on Google researching grease stain remedies.  The internet informed me that if you use dishsoap (like the kind you would have by your sink) and apply a small amount to the impacted area, rub in, allow to sit for ~5 minutes and rinse out prior to washing, it will remove the stain.  I tried it using clear Palmolive and this is true.  The first time I attempted this trick, I did not let the soap sit and it was only marginally successful.  The second time, I re-tried it on my dress AND another stained piece of clothing, allowed the soap to sit, and it worked!  The stains were gone!
  • I’ve started to sort out what I’ll all be wearing for the High Holidays this year.  Since we’ll be at a wedding for the first night of Rosh Hashanah, that only leaves me with six outfits to arrange.
  • The 19th week of pregnancy starts today and last week I declared that everything was getting harder.  Getting into bed, rolling over in bed, putting on my running shoes, actually running, DIY pedicures.  All getting harder.  I mean, there is just no competing with a baked potato slamming down on your bladder with every stride of your run.  Or breathing for two.  I am so thankful that I’ve made it nearly halfway through this pregnancy without feeling like anything has been hard but it is a big change and we have 21 weeks left to go.
  • We have three trips coming up in the next few months: Chicago, Las Vegas, and New York.  I am busy planning out restaurants for each.  Part of me wonders if I should be looking for the best cheap eats in each city or the nicest.  And then I throw all of that thinking away because we will have a kid at this time next year and what are the odds that we would be in three cities with really superb restaurants before Little Critter is born?  This also means that I need to start making reservations!  So far…
    • Chicago: Girl & the Goat, Au Cheval, Parachute
    • Las Vegas: Jaleo, Bouchon
    • New York: Russ & Daughters, Mission Chinese, El Original Tex Mex
  • I  have realized that I have literally no idea what will be on T.V. this fall and I am badly in need of new shows.  If there is anything coming up that you have deemed to be “good,” please let me know!  I like really awful reality TV (Rock of Love: Bus, Bachelor Pad, Bachelor in Paradise, Rodeo Girls), RHOBH, VanderPump Rules, and Aaron Sorkin-style dramas.

Yet More Cabin Adventures

You guys, I really had the most perfect birthday weekend.  Between the friends I saw on Thursday night, the run I took with Brady and Angie around Lake Harriet on Friday morning, and my trip Up North, I could not imagine a better start to my 28th year.

This weekend at the cabin was another Mom, Dad, Billy and Me retreat and it was really lovely.

I neglected to mention this last time, but the cabin has been painted!  And the sea foam green trim has been replaced with barn red.  Why is this update necessary you are wondering?  I am not entirely sure.  But it seems important.

CabinI will say the sea foam green was sort of excellent in a weird retro way, but this red is much more…modern?  Put together?

Shockingly/not shockingly, Billy and I went fishing.  A lot.  And we caught a lot of fish.  And because I now have one of those photo collage thingies on my phone, you can now see many photos in one frame instead of looking at 800 fishing photos!  You are welcome!

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Billy actually caught more fish than I did but he has at least one outing worth of photos on his phone, so you’ll just have to use your imagination.

On Saturday, Billy and I drove up to Lake Itasca.

Itasca 1

One of my darling friends asked me if that is where our cabin is (bless), so for those who are not in the know, Lake Itasca is the headwaters of the Mississippi River.  I’ve sort of wanted to go visit all summer (the last time I visited was age 5) and this was the right weekend to do it.  The drive is about 1:40 from our cabin so it isn’t exactly next door but it is MUCH closer than if we were to just drive there independently of a cabin trip.

Itasca 2

We were both traumatized by the number of small children running amok at the headwaters, but as soon as we waded down the river like, ~15 feet, all of the people disappeared entirely and it was our own personal Mississippi River.

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Billy found some wild rice on our nature hike/wade.

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We both agreed that based on the color of the grains, it was not quite ready for harvest.

I also felt it important to show you our very fashionable footwear choices.

Itasca 5

If wearing water shoes is wrong, I don’t want to be right.  I also want you to know that we have a very extensive collection of water shoes, circa 1998 at the cabin, always waiting to be pressed into service.

Once we got back to the cabin, we revisited the issue of catching crayfish.  Since trapping went so poorly, armed with butterfly nets and a sand pail like a couple of five-year olds, we headed back down to the Pine River to hunt up some of the Miniature Lobsters Of The North.

We only ended up successfully catching…7?  So, not exactly enough to fashion into any sort of meal.  While Billy was digging through the bucket to show me the red crayfish that is an invasive species, it pince-d him and latched on and proceeded to do that thing where it dangled from his finger.  This was simultaneously hilarious and awful to witness as he waved his hand around trying to wave the crayfish off.

Even though summer doesn’t “officially” end until mid-September, it’s crazy to think that for practical purposes, the season is over.  We’re really only able to hang on to it for another week because Labor Day is the latest it possibly can be this year.  It has been such a good run this year – I’m looking forward to our final trip of the season next weekend, but peak relaxation has been achieved and I am so thankful for that.

Sunset

Friday Food Round-Up!

Most importantly: it is my golden birthday today, so happy birthday to me!  Surprise surprise, I am going Up North this weekend.

In honor of this birthday (and the spirit of nesting that overtook this week), I think we have one of the more prolific Friday Food Round-Ups in history.

Miscellaneous – Spicy Crockpot Chex Mix  IMG_2871I was cleaning out the pantry this weekend.  The two half-full bags of Chex cereal (from our last chex mix foray) and the nearly-empty box of Cheez-Its screamed Make Me Into Chex Mix Or Else!  So I did, and then I shared a bag full of it with a sorority sister because even though I could eat a crockpot full of Chex Mix, we all know that doesn’t mean that I need to try.

Miscellaneous – Chocolate Chunk Granola Bars

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What drove me to make granola bars from scratch?  I have been eating everything in sight and I thought it might be more virtuous to make them at home.  The reality: they are delicious, but they are crumbly as all get out and really cannot be eaten “on the go.”  Actually, they can only be eaten when you are sitting stock-still and when you have an attentive eye for errant bits of granola bar.

Miscellaneous – Favorite Three Bean Salad

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Bruce, our handyman was doing some projects for us this week and as it turns out, Bruce and his wife have a huge garden.  He brought us a bag full of green beans on the second day of his project.   Since we were done with our proper dinner cooking for the week, I whipped up some three bean salad because I thought it would make a nice work lunch for me/snack for Marcus while I am at the cabin this weekend.

Saturday – Parsley, Lemon, and Cannellini Bean Salad from Plenty More

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No, we don’t own this cookbook.  But when I saw it on the main display shelves at the Plymouth Library, I decided to check it out and figure out whether or not the book would be worth owning.  Gorgeous pictures, impractical salads for the life I live.  But I did take a photo of this recipe because it looked like something that would be “me.”  Sure it was tasty, but the point where lemon juice shot into my eye as I was separating lemon pulp from rind was not really a day maker.  Probably not making this again.

Sunday – Perfect Instant Ramen

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I remember when the NYT first ran this recipe and I was FASCINATED!  It has always been on the mean to try list and then when I was grocery shopping, it occurred to me that we would need a Sunday lunch and this was a great opportunity.

Marcus and I both agreed that it tasted much fancier than regular ramen (we used chicken flavor for obvious reasons, but if I were you I would go pork or beef flavor) and Marcus believes this is a meal that he could make for us in a pinch.  Total time (including prep and cooking) = 10 minutes.  Not too bad!

Sunday – Corn Cakes with Soft-Fried Eggs, and  Corn and Avocado Salad

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Corn season is still going strong, so it made sense to rotate this dish back onto our menu, plus, I wanted to do at least one meatless meal this week that still had a summer feel to it!

Monday – Grilled BBQ Chicken Thighs, Oven Fries, Garlic Green Beans and Elote

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Have we ever grilled chicken basted with BBQ sauce?  Actually, I don’t think so.  It’s always so exciting to try new things, right?

Some Projects We Couldn’t Do Ourselves

Since Little Critter is on the way, Marcus and I are doing some projects that we know we will not want to do with an infant in the house.  So we called Bruce and this week, he set-up camp in our house to solve all of our problems.  For those of you who are wondering, Who is Bruce, exactly?  He is the contractor/handyman that Mom hired when I was probably five or six and we have known him ever since.

He is also the brilliant mind behind the new tile in our shower that I am still frighteningly pleased by.

Anyway, first and most boring project, when the old owners created the cutout window in our kitchen and removed the standard-issue closet, they failed at fixing the ceiling correctly.

Ceiling Before

Not okay.

Now?

Ceiling After

Much better.

To further understand these people and how they operate, you should know they are the kind of people who put white carpet in front of the doorway to the garage.

Basement Before

As you can see, we never even bothered attacking the spots on the carpet because white carpet +  garage + Minnesota Winter/slush = WHAT IS THE POINT EVEN.

So we had the carpet ripped out and the entryway tiled with Travertine so that it would match the tile in the kitchen and main entryway.

Basement After

Again, much better.

Our next (and final project) before Critter arrives (besides doing the nursery) is to tile the bathroom floor and rip out The Weirdest And Least Appropriate Vanity On Earth.  We will then possess the Barbie Dream Bathroom.  Of course, I’ll be sure to update you once that is complete!

What I’ve Been Reading

I don’t want it to seem like I’m reading ALL THE TIME since I only posted a list of books I read last week.  At the time that post went up, one of these books was already done, but I will also say that these four books are extremely fast reads.  I would also have to admit that I have been reading pretty much all the time as of late, so this isn’t wrong, either.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

The Royal We

The Seven Good Years by Etgar Keret

The Seven Good Years

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Water Knife

Night Flying Woman by Ignatia Broker

Night Flying Woman

 

Italy: The Food

Hi friends.  Remember that one time we went to Italy five months ago and I did a post per city we visited and then never spoke of the trip again?

Well, there are just a few more posts I never wrote but wanted to, so there’s no time like the present to get those up on the old blog!  Plus, if you are going to Italy, maybe you are of the same travel planning school that I am (read some blogs, read some guidebooks, read some Trip Advisor) and this will be helpful.

So, here are the restaurants we ate at that we would visit again, if we were in Italy.  I wish I had some suggestions for Venice, but honestly my favorite food memories there were picking up some pastries to snack on as we were walking back to our hotel on our first afternoon in the city after visiting the Jewish Quarter.  The other place we loved was a very local wine bar stationed near the gondola repair yard.  The food was passable but the vibe was great.  So there is that.

Florence

As I mentioned in my previous post about Florence, this is the point where we got to Italy and I wasn’t even really sure why we were specifically in Florence besides to Eat Food and See Old Things That Are Probably Religious.

We were supremely aided in all things food during this leg of the trip by Sally.  Her daughter has some friends that visit all the time and they sent us their best recommendations for what to eat while we were in town.

Mercato Central

For our friends in the states, this is set-up like one of the many public markets we have scattered in hip cities across the country.  What we didn’t know (and what took us 10 minutes to figure out) is that all of the restaurants, etc. are upstairs.  So find the staircase and go up.  It is 100% not obvious until you are in the building and you are at the actual staircase.  Everything we ate there was great, so you really wont make a bad choice.

Café Rivoire

I didn’t take a snap of this one, but they have a really killer cioccolate con panna (hot chocolate with whipped cream) that is the consistency of chocolate sauce that you will die for.  Go for an afternoon treat, go for dessert, just be sure to try it.

Alla Vecchia Bettola

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This is a 20 minute walk from the Piazza della Signoria (so basically the Ponte Vecchio area) and it is on the old side of the river.  You are going to walk through neighborhoods for a really long time and basically wonder if you are ever going to get there.  You will.  It is not touristy at all and the staff are very friendly. This is also one of those places with all you can drink house wine for like $5 (does not suck).  Their big dish is the Penne alla Bettola so that’s a good one to order along with anything else.

Il Bufalo Trippone

IMG_1299 IMG_1243This is my five-star, one dollar sign contribution from Trip Advisor.  Marcus and I visited this little sandwich shop as one of our stops dinner hopping on our night out alone.  We were so impressed that we dragged Mom, Dad, and Sally back the next night to dine on the same pull-out counters that we did the night before.  They do sandwiches, charcuterie boards, and have wine for like $1.50/glass and it is all just so beyond killer even though the restaurant/shop is probably the size of a medium-sized galley kitchen.

Cinque Terre

Trattoria dal Billy

Billys 2 Billys

Billys 1

This restaurant is located in Manarola and after our first hike, we were starved to death and ready for a hearty lunch.  This was my first pesto on pasta experience of the trip (delightful).

Gambero Rosso

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This meal might have tasted the best because we had been hiking all morning and it was like 2:00 PM when we arrived.  Or it might have tasted the best because it just was.  What I do know is that people were falling out of the door to get a table and that everything we ate was just perfect.  It was also the fortification we needed in order to make our next assault on the trail from Vernazza to Corniglia.

La Lanterna

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Riomaggiore is not the hoppin’ town in Cinque Terre.  I think it is actually in a competition with Corniglia for quietest/least travelled.  Our guest house owner suggested that we would enjoy a nice meal here and it was Quite Fancy in terms of atmosphere and price compared to the other restaurants we visited.  It was also a great welcome to the town.  If we were in Riomaggiore just a month later, most of the “seasonal” restaurants would be open and we would likely have a different go-to, but this was certainly lovely and obviously the locals are keeping it in business if they’re operating year round.

Mama Mia!

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This is a little takeaway shop in Riomaggiore.  What we were here for (and what I was dying to try because of some NYT article about how to do Cinque Terre on the cheap) was the fried seafood.  So we ordered two of the mixed calamaris and feasted on literal troughs of small fried fish and squid and whatnot for a grand total of $15 or so.

Rome

Taverna dei Monti

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We were really tired after our first day in Rome and we were so glad when our hotel recommended this down-the-street restaurant.  I had some minestrone to start and Marcus had some sort of cream of onion soup and those were hardcore restorative after our day out and about.  We actually ended up eating here twice because it was just so easy and we were just so tired.  The night we ventured out to a different (recommended) restaurant, we just wished we had eaten here.

Sorpasso

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I think that either this was listed in bon appetit or really, I have no idea where this suggestion came from but this was definitely our “nice” meal out in Rome and if you are checking out the Vatican then it is probably a 15 minute walk away.

Naples

Here is the deal.  Even though Rick Steves (and everyone else on the earth basically) is down on Naples, if you have any love of Neapolitan pizza in your heart, you should go for at least 24 hours.  But really, you could probably do 48.  We ate pizza for six meals and even though neither of us even thought about pizza in the states for several months afterward, it was I think the best eating experience we had in Italy.  Partially because These People Know What They Are Doing and also because it is the only time that we ever ate one style of food exclusively for that amount of time.  I think it gave us a better read on what was great versus what was good.  Big struggles, I know.  One pizza meal was Marcus bringing us carry-in because I got massive food poisoning (or possibly exhaustion) on our first evening in Naples.  The other pizzeria, I really 100% cannot remember the name of.  It might have been Sorbillo but according to The Google that is closed forever now, and even though the Pizza was good, I wouldn’t have ranked it as The Best, so we’ll live.  Here are some snaps of the “good” pizza, just in case.

Plus everything listed here (and closed Sorbillo) is on Italy’s list of top 15 pizzerias (they were actually all in the top 10) so, clearly life is not hard.

L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele

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This is The Best Neapolitan Pizza.  They are The Winners.  There are like all of two ways you can order a pizza (margherita or not) and two sizes you can order (giant or more giant).  They serve water and beer.  I think two pizzas and two beers cost us $17.

Di Matteo

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I think this was the most underwhelming experience for Marcus but I was pretty jazzed because we got to try calzones here as well as some other crescent shaped pizza.  You know, change it up a bit.

Il Pizzaiolo del Presidente

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This recommendation actually came from someone I follow on Instagram who has spent a lot of time in Naples.  The fried things were great (that was her big recommendation) and I was especially tickled when the waitress asked us if we wanted red tomatoes or yellow on our pizza.  Yellow, obviously.  I also want you to know that our waitress was exceptionally proud of herself for providing us with that opportunity to choose.  During our meal we learned that she was from Ukraine and a potpourri of other facts, usually delivered with an exceptionally intense stare.

L’Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba

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This was our first pizza meal in Naples and the moment we ordered I was all We Have Arrived In The Land Of Plenty.

 

 

 

Maternity Dresses (I know).

Oh, friends.  Two weeks ago I was buying more maxi skirts because my rotation of maxi dresses was getting tired.  Last week I confronted the reality that I am getting bigger and there is no way that I will be getting smaller for the forseeable future.

This is now the point in the show where I would like us all to light a candle at the altar of Our Patron Saint HRH The Duchess Of Cambridge Who Guides Us In All Things.

I feel like it’s no secret that I am a massive fan of hers, and that I am especially a fan of her style.  It’s classic, but more importantly, if I had to pick a practical word to describe Kate’s wardrobe, it is Appropriate.   I can’t wear what Kim Kardashian wears, nor would I want to for a host of reasons.  I love what Taylor Swift wears, but her style wouldn’t really suit me.  Kate’s style = wearable and suitable.

As I flipped through the maternity sections of GAP, Old Navy, Target, and LOFT, I found the experience to be…distressing.  I didn’t love any of the styles, and they’re not things that I felt I would wear were I Not Pregnant.  I am not terrifically concerned about what to wear casually, but being well-dressed for work is important to me, and I have also needed to confront the issue of What To Wear For The High Holidays.

So while I already knew about Kate’s love of Seraphine, after Googling “Kate Middleton Maternity Dress,” I found another frock she had worn from Asos and I was completely sold.

Frankly, all of the dresses I ordered cost more than any other dress I would consider ordering were I not pregnant.  There is a tiny part of me that cares about that (AKA the budget-minded side of me that is sort of dying inside).  But there is a bigger part of me that realizes that I will probably be wearing a number of these post-partum because you don’t magically lose all of the weight after you have the baby and that they will definitely be wheeled out for when Little Critter gets a sibling.  All of which is to say, that I’d rather buy some things that I really love once instead of a bunch of mediocre stuff that I’m not terrifically jazzed about.

Asos – Maternity Nursing Kate Wrap Skater Dress in Spot Print with 3/4 Sleeve

Asos

Seraphine – Polka Dot Mock Wrap Maternity Dress

Seraphine 1

Seraphine – Green Knot Front Maternity Dress

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Kate wore this one in fuchsia and also in a floral print.  I still have some feelings about the floral print and might end up sourcing it later, but I decided that the green would be a more practical color for what’s all in my wardrobe at the current moment.

Seraphine – Black  Knot Front Maternity Dress

Seraphine 2

Kate didn’t wear this one, but I felt like getting a longer-sleeved version of the dress (and in black!) would be a smart buy.

Unfortunately, now that Princess Charlotte has been born, I will be left to fend for myself.  Thankfully it will be fall sooner than later, which means that at least when I’m NOT at work, I can start to wheel out the leggings and cardigans.

Mama friends, what were/are your favorite maternity brands?  I’m guessing I’m going to need more than four dresses to get me through this thing.