Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Bear Valley Springs




Steven and I took a recent mini-roadtrip to the tiny mountain town of Bear Valley Springs, CA. It is beautiful there - I saw more wildlife in two days there than I did in almost a week in Glacier National Park! Deer are everywhere (the same with rabbits, birds & squirrels) and we even saw some giant horse-sized Elk and a bobcat. I wish I had pictures of that!

Despite being just outside of Bakersfield (also known as the hottest dang place in the world) Bear Valley Springs gets a lot of snow. There wasn't any when we were there - in fact it was downright pleasant in the high 50's - but the weather report tells me that now, a few days after the fact, the whole mountain sits buried under a foot of snow.

I love living in a place with so many interesting things to see and do nearby. This mountaintop getaway was less than two hours from where we live! 

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Burghal Girl




I want to take the time today to introduce you to Setarra, the blogger behind The Burghal Girl. I met Setarra several months ago when I created her blog design, and I've hugely enjoyed reading her blog since then. She is vibrant and enthusiastic, writing with joy and honesty about her adventures in a burrow of New York City and anywhere else she might think to go.

I've loved reading her posts about a recent trip to Barbados. In the middle of February, doesn't a Caribbean getaway just sound perfect? It does to me.

Check out Setarra's blog and add another fun read to your list!




Here's what Setarra has to say about her blog:
"This blog is my way of capturing life as it passes me by. I love exploring and learning new things about myself and the world around me. I'm a big fan of positive thinking and making the most out what life gives me. Now that I'm finally settled in the NYC area, I plan exploring as much of the city as possible. Burghal Who??? I know, I know ... I've already been teased a couple times about it sounding like I'm a Burger Gurl haha. And while I DO love me a good burger, the title of this blog means something entirely different in my mind. A burgh/borough is an urban area sitting right outside of an even bigger urban area. I think the technicality behind the definition has something to do with government jurisdiction but ... To tie it all together: I don't live in NYC but I do live in the Bronx Borough area. It's close enough so that I can get a taste of the city whenever I want and far enough when the constant hustle of the city becomes overwhelming. It's the perfect mix of city and suburbia. And that's me. The Burghal Gurl... Living Life to the Fullest in NYC. At least, that's where I am right now :)"

Blog : Bloglovin : Facebook : Instagram

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Evening Hikes


Two years ago on Valentines Day, Steven took me for a hike to watch the sunset. He did a very good job of making it seem like he'd propose at the top of the hill, but then didn't. I was left disappointed, until we reached the bottom of the hill and I saw a gorgeous display of roses waiting for me.

Steven's Proposal to Me, February 2011
 
For Valentines Day, Steven surprised me again by bringing me back to the place he proposed. We had a hilltop picnic and watched the sun set. It was incredibly kind and thoughtful of him and I feel so lucky to have such a romantic for a husband!

 
What did you do for Valentines Day?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Skirts in February



| Shirt: Thrifted via Buffalo Exchange | Necklace: J.Crew (old) | Skirt: Ruche (old) | Ring: Amrita Singh | Bracelets: J.Crew, Oia Jules | Shoes: Fourstar (old) |


This warm weather couldn't be more welcome, especially since the past few weeks have been stressful with a capital S. Cold weather combined with said stress might have sent me into full fledged panic attack mode.

 I feel terrible because I haven't been able to put the time into this blog that I normally do, especially when it comes to corresponding with followers and networking. In Germany I worked very flexible hours...here? Less flexible. Blogger ladies, how do you juggle it all? HOW?!

I've also definitely learned my lesson: NEVER AGAIN will I sign up for 18 units in one semester. I have three tests and an essay due this week....hooray....

Just have to keep reminding myself that it will be over in May. Springtime can't come soon enough!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Gluten Free Chicken Saltimbocca



Italian food is probably my favorite type of food to cook. I love fresh ingredients coming together to create something comforting and delicious. Chicken Saltimbocca is a PERFECT dish that balances a refined look and taste with an easy to make recipe. I made this for a family dinner with my parents, making a few minor substitutions so that my mother, who can't eat gluten, could enjoy it as well.



Gluten Free Chicken Saltimbocca 

Ingredients: 
  • boneless, skinless chicken breasts 
  • 1 egg 
  • large, fresh sage leaves 
  • prosciutto ham (you will need one slice per chicken breast)
  • gluten free all purpose flour (or regular flour, for gluten eaters) 
  • 1 tablespoon butter 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt/pepper to taste 
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine 
  • 3-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • chicken stock 



Step 1:
Cover chicken breasts with a sheet of plastic wrap and hammer to 1/4 inch thickness with a meat mallet. Remove plastic wrap, sprinkle each breast with salt and pepper.

Step 2:
Press 2-3 fresh sage leaves flat onto the top of each chicken breast so they are adheared to them.

Step 3:
Press one slice of prosciutto ham to the top of each chicken breast, trapping the sage leaves underneath. Dip both sides of each breast in egg and flower.



Step 4: Heat olive oil, butter and a splash of white wine in a hot skillet. Add breasts to the pan, prosciutto side down. Cook 4 minutes. Turn chicken over and cook until just cooked through, 3-4 minutes.

Step 5: Make the sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining wine and 2 teaspoons flour. Add chicken broth and lemon juice to the skillet used for the chicken and stir until boiling. Add wine mixture. Whisk until the sauce thickens, about 30 seconds to a minute.

Step 6: Serve with pasta (I used brown rice pasta but you can use what you like), spooning the lemon sauce over the top of both.





Friday, February 15, 2013

Valentines Surprises!


Hi everyone! 

How was your Valentines day? Steven surprised me with something romantic and wonderful. 



Today we're out enjoying an extended Valentines day as I surprise him with a Valentines-date of my own. 

Don't worry, detailed blog posts about both days are coming soon! Until then, take a look at these amazing bloggers and add them to your weekend reading list! They're AWESOME! :D 




Jamey @ Simply Animated
Hi there! My blog is what I consider a "happiness lifestyle blog" filled with my thoughts and experiences as a young wife and mother trying to finish up my college degree, experiment with new recipes, develop my yoga skills, and run an Etsy shop all while finding time to snuggle my sweet baby boy and husband. I love living a creative, fun filled life full of clever words, new ideas, and beautiful things. I'm big on frugal living, thrift shopping, and DIY, so keep an eye out for tips and tricks. I am adamant about seeking the good and spreading the love, especially when it comes to marriage, motherhood, and family life. So come on by and see what happiness is all about!
---------------


Casey @ True Colors
I'm Casey from True Colours (yes, spelled the European way as I love all things Europe!). I grew up as an expat kid in Saudi Arabia and fell in love with the traveling lifestyle, the inspiration of other cultures and the draw of a plane headed somewhere far away. My blog is a journal of as much travel as I can fit in my life, of my thoughts and my crazy journey in this lovely life.
---------------


Kaity @ {Bee}autiful Blessings
My blog began in 2009 as I chronicled four months spent in Uganda. I took a brief hiatus in the years to follow, but found that I missed the heck out of writing! I decided that I would reinvent my little travel blog into a written testimony of all the blessings in my life. As my life has changed, so has my story. I evolved from a gypsy spirit with serious commitment issues, to the happily married wife of one small-town man. Follow along, as I share my life as a blissfully married, former marriage skeptic, an idealist with plans to feed the world and a firm believer in counting your {Bee}autiful Blessings.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sparkle: Day to Night

DAY LOOK:


 

| Chambray Top: Thrifted via Buffalo Exchange | White top: Thrifted via Buffalo Exchange | Gold Undershirt: Forever 21 (old) | Jeans: 7 For All Mankind |  Shoes: H&M (old) | Bracelets: J.Crew, Oia Jules |

Night Look: 























| Shoes: Bucco via Hautelook | Ring: Amrita Singh | Purse: Forever 21 (similar here) |


Here's a simple way I switched up an outfit to transition from day wear to evening wear with only very minor changes.  During the day, I wore flats and toned down the sparkle by adding a comfy, accessible chambray top over the layered glittery tops. The look was cute and a little glam while still being down to earth enough for a day at school.

Come evening time, all I had to do was take off the denim shirt, slip on a pair of heels and grab an oversized clutch and I was ready for date night!

I hope everyone's week is going great so far. What have you been up to and what have you been wearing? ;) 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My Favorite European Restaurants

To me, travel isn't travel without good, local food. I've eaten at quite a few restaurants all over Europe, but some rose high above the rest. Here are my top picks: 

1. Chartier | Paris, France



Paris did not steal my heart the way I hoped it would, however the Boullion Chartier restaurant stole it in ways I'd never expected. The seating area of the restaurant used to be a ballroom - dinner in an old Parisian ballroom? Why yes! The prices are unusually low for the city and it is always packed to the brim, dare I say with more locals than tourists. Check out this charming video to see the restaurant in action.

2. Les Quinze Nits | Barcelona, Spain



My father (who has passed down to me his love of food and has travelled so much he needed to have pages added to his passport) once told me that if you're having trouble choosing a restaurant, pick the one with the longer line. His mentality is that if this many people are waiting, whatever they are waiting for has to be good, right? This idea proved itself to be true when we came across the very long line for Les Quinze Nits in the Placa Reial in Barcelona. After waiting forty five minutes (on a hot, beautiful summer night...we really didn't mind waiting at all) we were seated at about 9:45 PM. The great Spanish food, location, and service all came together for a fantastic eating experience. I'd recommend this place to anyone!

3. Catalana | Barcelona, Spain




Barcelona gets two thumbs up from me when it comes to food. Catalana was right down the street from our apartment in fab neighborhood of Xiemple. Its convenient location to us and out of this world Tapas resulted in us eating there three different times. One of those nights was so crowded that we actually just stood at the bar to eat! It's that good!

4.  Lokal | Prague, Czech Republic



I have this weird obsession with eastern European food. I love it! It is hearty and greasy and terrible for you and I would probably be on my knees begging for vegetables after a week or so, but man is it good. I sat at the Lokal with my new Australian hostel mates and enjoyed some really awesome Czech food - and it's CHEAP, guys. REALLY CHEAP, and traditional as it gets; they didn't even have an English menu!

5. Aux Deux Fondue - Montpellier, France



Aux Deux Fondues is definitely the most bizarre and memorable restaurant I've ever been to. There is lingerie hanging from the ceiling, and the drinks are served out of baby bottles, waiters were passing out free shots all night, and when they serve ice cream they may use a banana and awkwardly placed whipped cream to make your desert resemble something...private. I don't understand this place. I just don't get it, and that is precisely what makes it SO AWESOME. The fondue is good and fun and moderately priced (for France, at least) considering the amount of food you get. Go with a large group of friends, be loud, be crazy and drink your wine (or in my case, coke zero) out of baby bottles until you can't drink no mo'. Just embrace the weirdness, it makes everything more fun.

6. Elaia - Athens, Greece



Hands down, the best Moussaka I've ever had. The atmosphere at Elaia only made it better: In the heart of the plaka, you climb up to the roof and have a view of the acropolis in one direction and a stunning view of Mount Lycabettus in the other. We were there in late October and it was warm and breezy. I'd go back in an instant!

7. Wagner | Frankfurt, Germany



Just looking at this photo makes me miss Frankfurt so much. If you're looking for traditional German food, Wagner is the place to go. It's always packed to the brim, waiters carrying glasses of Frankfurt's famous "Apfelwein" (Apple Wine) out to the tables four and even five at a time.

Have you eaten at any of these places? What are your favorite European eateries?? Please share!!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sweetheart Red Velvet Brownie Trifle




So there's something you should know about me: I'm a terrible baker. Like, really bad. Cooking is probably one of my favorite activities, because it's a creative endeavor where I'm tasting food, throwing in a spice here and a sauce there at my heart's content, doing whatever I want to create something delicious. You can't really do that with baking; you have to follow the instructions exactly or else things will go horribly, irreversably wrong. Such is the case with me and baking about 99% of the the time.

Saturday was no different. I thought I'd make red velvet brownies. I looked up a recipe, threw some ingredients together and stuck them in the oven. Surprise surprise, they fell in almost immediately after removing them from the oven. They didn't taste terrible, but the collapsed brownies looked really unsightly. Thus the idea for a brownie trifle was born:



INGREDIENTS:

For the brownies:

  • 1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 ½ cups white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 oz red food coloring or 3-4 drops red gel color
  • 3Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the trifle:
  • Whipped cream or cool whip
  • Raspberries, halved
  • Strawberries, chopped
  • Champagne glasses, wine glasses, mason jars or other cute containers.



Step One: Make the Brownies

Preheat oven to 350 F°. Spray an 8x8 inch square pan with cooking spray or grease with canola oil. 

In a saucepan, melt the butter but be careful not to burn. Remove from heat, stirring in vanilla, eggs, sugar and red food coloring until thoroughly combined. Mix in cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and salt until well blended.
Pour batter into prepared pan, spread with a spatula to smooth out top.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees, or until a toothpick is inserted and comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes before removing. 

Step Two: Chop up the Brownies into Bite Sized Pieces
Step Three: Build your trifle.

Start by taking a champagne glass and tossing in a few brownie chunks. Using a small wooden spoon or a pestle, press the brownie chunks into the bottom of the champagne glass. Add a dollop of whipped cream on top. Add a layer of strawberry or raspberry chunks (or both at once.)


 Continue layering fruit, brownie, and whipped cream until finishing with the cream at the top. Garnish as desired.

Step Four: Enjoy the heck out of them. I may have eaten two. 


This is a fun, romantic, totally delicious desert which is perfect for valentines day. I'm sure your sweetheart will love it. Mine did! 

 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Hidden Gems: Strathearn Historical Park



Strathearn Park in Simi Valley, California sits in a very nondescript location behind a super-target. In fact, many people in Simi Valley or surrounding areas actually have no idea that it exists. Strathearn isn't your typical grass and playground sort of park - it's a historical park where many of the city's historic buildings have been preserved.

Basically, instead of tearing down lovely old buildings from Simi Valley's "pioneer" period, many of them were moved here to be preserved and maintained by the county.

I love this park. You drive right past a giant Target, fast food joints and parking lot after parking lot to get there and then you suddenly step back in time when you arrive. So when I was scouting locations for a vintage style bridal shoot, this place ended up being the perfect spot. I can't wait to share the photos with you!

What hidden gems exist in your city? 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Awkward Fashion Blogging, Deconstructed

 
 
| Blazer: H&M (old, love this one, or this one for fashionistas on a budget) | Top: Anthropologie | Jeans: J.Brand (same cut, different wash here) | Shoes: Thrifted via Buffalo Exchange | Sunglasses: American Eagle | Bag: Aldo (love this one) |

My thoughts as Steven and I are struggling to take these photographs: 

1.  UGH, I am so hungry. Let's just go to dinner. But I haven't done an outfit post in a week - we should probably take pictures. 

2. It is very obvious Steven is just as annoyed as I am. 

3. Crap, why is it starting to rain a little bit?

4. What level of narcissism must I possess to make my husband take pictures of me for my blog? I'm guessing a high level. 

5. Narcissism's an unhappy word. I'll just call it confidence - yeah, confidence. 



 

6. Is my outfit even cute enough to photograph? 

7. What do you mean the focus isn't working? IT'S EASY TO USE. 

8.  This is way more awkward than all them fashion bloggers make it out to be. 

9.  Do the fashion bloggers with 5+ outfit posts a week REALLY get their husbands to take their pictures that much? Or do they do the tripod/camera remote thing? How awkward would it look if they set up a tripod up on the sidewalk to get that I'm so cool look at this urban street scene and my cute outfit look?  

10. What's the point of taking these pictures if 99% of them will end up looking like THIS MADNESS:



11. Clearly I'm doing something wrong here. I don't care anymore - let's go eat food. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

February Check Up: Resolutions






We've all done it: We've made resolutions at the start of the new year and then broken them, time and time again. This had grown into a tradition of sorts for me. In November of 2012 I accidentally stumbled upon the piece of notebook paper where my husband and I had written our New Years resolutions. I'd forgotten about most of the ones I made, reminded only by the words I was now seeing on the page. We had both failed miserably. 

That was a wake up call to me: Do I really want to be the kind of person who makes goals and never achieves them? The girl who makes promises only to break them. HECK NO.  I thought about the goals I usually made: things like run more, eat healthier, do better in school. But isn't that all relative? Run more....run more than what? Eat healthier....than what? Being so general didn't set a bar anywhere so I never felt motivated enough to really push. 

So this year, I tried something different. I created goals I could measure. "Run more" became "Run a half marathon" and "read more" became "read 24 books."  I made the list pretty and printed it out so I could see it all the time to remind me of what I needed to do. Now a frequent question I ask myself is "Did I do anything to day to help accomplish my goals? Am I doing enough?"

I think it's working out wonderfully so far. 


Daryl's Monthly Resolution Checkup: 

Run a Half Marathon:  This one could probably be going better than it is. I've been weight training several times a week with my husband and doing cardio very often, so I do feel my body and endurance level getting stronger. However, I know I need to incorporate longer runs into my workout schedule to be able to build up the strength for a half marathon. 

Become Comfortable in Vinyasa Flow: I'm pretty comfortable in Hatha Yoga Classes, for those of you who know what that means. However I went to Vinyasa flow and it was way out of my element and in many ways much more advanced. I'd like to be feeling comfortable with Vinyasa Flow by the end of the year. As far as progress for this goes, I haven't been doing much yoga in January but that's because the Yoga Studio in my town hasn't been open. It opens today! Wish me luck on my first class. 

Read the Four Gospels by Easter:  I was doing very well with this up until this past week where I let time get away from me. Luckily, this post wil embarrass me enough to get me right back on track! I've mapped out how many chapters I need to read a day to make this happen.

Get a 4.0 this Semester:  I'm at the end of my 3rd week back at school and things are going very well. I  know I have straight A's so far! I'm enjoying all of my classes so I feel I'll be able to keep it up.

Invent 5 new recipes and photograph them:  This goal will hopefully help me squash my fear of food photography. I LOVE FOOD and want to blog more about my cooking adventures, but I don't feel comfortable posting many recipes unless they have awesome photographs to go with them. So far I've been playing with a couple recipes and reading a book on food photography. I have plans to start playing with the actual photography part on Saturday. 

Get Paid to Photograph a Wedding: Check! I've booked a wedding for the summer. I've shot weddings before, but they've always been as gifts for my close friends or family. This will my first wedding as a "professional."

Have my blog featured in a major publication: This can be online or print, though online definitely seems more likely! Though it's not "my blog," I've recently had an amazing opportunity to have some photography of mine featured in a bridal magazine which will be issued this spring :) More on that later! 

Read 24 books:  I barely read last year. 24 books in a year still isn't a hugely impressive number, but two a month seems realistic for me. I've just finished my second book which puts me right on track.

That's how I'm doing so far. What were your resolutions? How are you faring? I'd love to get a discussion going!







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