Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ready for Summer

After several days of chilly weather, the sunshine is back & my sweaters have returned to the back of my closet.

I looked at the end table in my living room & realized I've been unconsciously gearing up for warmer weather. I'm so happy to bring out my red sunnies & other summertime favorites.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Virginia Festival of the Book 2012

One of the many benefits* of living in a university town is that there are always really interesting events going on throughout the year. In the Fall we have the Virginia Film Festival, and in the Spring we have the Virginia Festival of the Book. It's four days of book panels, author readings, publishing advice and all sorts of other goodies that make my little book nerd heart soar.

I was especially excited to see two authors this time, Chard Harbach, who wrote The Art of Fielding, and Lauren Willig, who is the author of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation series. Chad Harbach is a graduate of UVA's MFA program, and Lauren is a hero of mine because she was working on her PhD and JD at Harvard while writing the first few books of the series.

I picked up a several of great books that I'm excited to read including adding two authors to my to-read list. I picked up The Dark Enquiry by Deanna Raybourn. She's a semi-local writer, so I always like to support that.

I also picked up a book of poetry called The Darkroom by Jazzy Danziger, another UVA MFA graduate.

Every year the festival gets bigger and better. I'm excited to see who will be featured next year.

*There are also loads of downsides to living in a university town, like the doofy UVA law school students screaming their lungs out outside my window at 3am on Saturday night. Pink polos, cigars & screaming curse words in my relatively quiet development. I could do without that aspect of university town life.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Things I Love

Every once in a while, I'll stumble across something on the internet that makes me go, "Damn, I wish I had thought of that." The one that did this to me last week was Umba Box. I found out about this service via Elsie Larson's A Beautiful Mess, and instantly fell in love with the idea that you could buy (and get!) a monthly subscription to handmade products as a gift.

I live in a town that lives and breathes the idea of local and handmade, and that's definitely rubbed off on me. Can you imagine anything better than coming home from a bad day and unexpectedly finding a mystery box on your porch? It sounds divine to me.

*Pictures via the Umba Box website and blog.
I'm not sponsored or paid by Umba Box. I just think idea is really cool & should be shared.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Girl on Fire

Tonight I have tickets for the midnight showing of The Hunger Games. I read the books a long time ago at this point, but have since raved about them to everyone I know. Unlike most movies, I was excited to see what Hollywood could do with the material because it lends itself so well to visual effects.

Given the beautiful weather, and my excitement about the movie, I've been planning what I'm going to wear tonight. These were a few of the things I was thinking about.

Hunger Games

Rebecca Minkoff leather tote handbag
$145 -

Argento Vivo lace jewelry
$168 -

Hunger Games
$7.19 -

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Old Lady Gifts

When I was a little girl, I remember watching my older relatives open their gifts on Christmas and birthdays, and being horrified that they were getting such boring gifts as clothes. I remember thinking to myself, "I am never going to ask for anything but toys ever!"

How the times have changed. I love my "old lady" gifts. My family was very generous this year, and gave me some of my favorite things.

My new favorite scent is Jo Malone's French Lime Blossom. I originally bought her Vintage Gardenia scent a few months ago, and the SA threw some samples of various other scents in my bag. When I got home, I opened a few of the samples, and fell in love with French Lime Blossom. It's so fresh without being overly floral.

Just over a month ago, I saw the film Friends with Benefits, and I immediately noticed Mila Kunis's chunky gold watch. I'm not normally a gold person, but I loved how masculine it looked. I may or may not have showed my mom several examples of gold watches and hinted strongly that one would make a good birthday gift.

And the ultimate old lady gift-slippers! At least they are dainty though, right?

*My dress in the top picture was also a birthday gift, purchased at Anthropologie. However, it hardly qualifies as old lady-esque. It's my new favorite dress. I cannot wait for summer to really get here so I can wear it all the time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New York

I grew up right outside of New York City. As a child, weekends meant trips into the city to see Broadway musicals, and visits to the Museum of Natural History to "feed the dinosaurs." I saw almost every major musical of the 80's before I was 10 years old. Christmases meant trips to see the Rockettes and a special toy at FAO Schwartz from my grandparents.

As is true for most things in my childhood, I didn't really appreciate how rare it was to basically have New York as your giant playground. Now as an adult, I relish these trips back. I love visiting the favorite places of my childhood, and discovering new ones.

For my birthday, my boyfriend took me to New York City for two days. We spend the time wandering around the city, and he allowed me to drag him to some of my favorite places both old and new. Browsing books at the pop up stands from The Strand, visiting The Frick, one of my favorite museums anywhere, and taking advantage of the weirdly warm weather with a trip to the Central Park Zoo.

And the food. We spent as much time eating as we did walking. We had to get macarons from Laduree's New York shop, and we ate meals at some of my favorite places like Thalia's and Tolache.

Like all trips, it went by way too quickly. I'm already planning our trip back.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Mixed Weekend

This was a weekend that combined the perfect means of relaxing, and absolutely chaos. The weather has been shockingly beautiful. Even the dreaded two day thunderstorms that were promised this weekend managed to disappear. This meant a few days of walks with the dog, beers in mason jars on the porch, and enjoying a bottle of sparkling rose with my boyfriend and his son (who did not drink rose, of course).*

The chaos came in the form of the 3rd Annual UVA Slavic Conference. Despite having presented at several conferences, I still dread them. I am terrified of public speaking, and even though 5 years of teaching has done a lot to dial back that fear, presenting at conferences is still my nemesis.

Luckily, I was able to put my (crushing) fear aside long enough to enjoy the conference, and to get over myself. I had some of my colleagues from out of town stay with me for the conference, including a classmate from my undergrad years. It's surreal to think we're both still pursuing something that grabbed us at such a young age. The evening ended with a Saint Patrick's Day dinner with friends. My boyfriend and I cooked the corned beef, and they brought the black & tans. All in all, a great weekend.

*I can tell when I've been visiting a winery too much when the pourer asks me how classes were that day.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Signs of Spring

I woke up this morning to perfect dog walking weather, and was pleasantly surprised at how green the grass has turned already. It's astounding that Charlottesville received 8 inches of snow last week, and now our temperature is climbing up to the 80s.

I love all of the signs of Spring popping up--from the flowers in bloom on my drive to grounds to weather just warm enough for an outdoor game of checkers with my favorite littles.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cooking into the Spring

Ever since I returned from my Winter Break, I have been cooking up a storm. Since I live by myself, I often resort to quick (but still homemade) meals. Often they're pretty generic--simple pasta dishes from my childhood, but not exactly a balanced meal.

However, thanks to the wonderfully addictive world of Pinterest my love of cooking has been renewed. I've found so many delicious, yet easy to make dishes. Here have been a few of my favorite.

This is Coconut Chicken with a Fruit Salsa. I first made this for my friends who have just had a baby so that they would have a healthy meal without having to cook it for themselves. I liked this dish so much that I've made it three times since then. The combination of the hot jalepeno with sweet coconut works so well.

Another new favorite is Salmon with Hoisin Glaze and spicy vegetables (I toss in sliced peppers & whatever other veggies I have on hand). Honestly, I don't even really like salmon, but this recipe is perfect.

This is a picture of my breakfast salad. This recipe was so good that I had it for dinner three nights in a row. I doctored the original recipe a bit--adding in grape tomatoes, avocado, shaved Parmesan cheese and topped it with a bit of lemon juice and olive oil.

Of course, no meal would be complete without dessert. I've been keeping it simple (and maybe vaguely healthy?) with lemon sorbet topped with a homemade raspberry and strawberry puree.

I cannot wait for the local market to get started again soon. I'm looking forward to cooking with fresh local fruits and veggies.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Today is my 31st birthday, which for some reason feels more significant than my 30th birthday. It places me firmly in my 30s, I guess. My birthday celebration started this weekend with a birthday party/good-bye party at my grandparents' house. Today my mom is taking me to lunch at her favorite new restaurant & then I'm heading up to North Jersey so that my best friend can cook me dinner. Tomorrow and Friday my boyfriend and I will be in New York City for a quick, but fun getaway.

I'm so excited to spend time with the people I love the most.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Three Ways

Sitting here in New Jersey for my Spring Break, I realized I never had the chance to write about how I spent New Year's Day. On New Year's Day, I got the chance to celebrate the same event in 3 very unique ways.

The big New Year's Day event in Philadelphia, is the Mummer's Parade. If you ever want to see grown (and drunk) men prance around Philadelphia in outfits that seem more fit for Mardi Gras, this is the day to do it.

The day started out at the Union League with my boyfriend and his family. The beautiful building was turned into a gigantic buffet and perfect viewing spot for the parade. We drank mimosas and helped ourselves to the gigantic dessert table way too many times.

Afterwards, we headed down Broad Street to meet my family at my stepfather's former firehouse. Here we were at the heart of the parade. The barrier between the crowd and the parade blurred, and everyone rushed to take pictures with the performers. As majestic as the Union League was, the parade at the firehouse was chaotic and wild.

As the sun began to set, and the official parts of the parade ended, we head to South Philly to be with my stepfather's family to celebrate the New Year. His family's house is at the heart of the after party for the parade. Loud? Oh yes. Completely hectic? Absolutely. A great time? Definitely.

All in all it was a wonderful, whirlwind of a day, and I think a pretty good indication of how my year has gone so far.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Family Affair

The love of cooking is something that I've inherited from my mom's side of the family. My grandparents have owned and been involved in the restaurant world their entire lives, and family dinner on Sunday afternoons is one of my favorite childhood memories.

One of my favorite grown up activities is cooking with my mom. We find some brand new recipes we want to try, and make a night of it. We typically try to find something out of our comfort zone in the kitchen, and it becomes a challenge that we nearly always master. For New Year's Eve, we went to town in the kitchen. It was my mom's and stepfather's last New Year's Eve in New Jersey so we prepared a massive feast: shrimp cocktail, gruyere and rosemary popovers, a surf-n-turf that involved garlic stuffed prime rib served with lobsters, and finally raspberry panna cotta with a dark chocolate sauce.

While it wasn't the crazy New Year's Eves that I've had for the past few years of Miami, New York and Australia, it was still definitely one of my favorites.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


I'm full of energy today. March is one of my favorite months (the other being October), and today my birthday present to myself arrived. I'm going to save talking about it for later. One of the things I love about March is how it signals the arrival of Spring. Although the weather early in the month is usually terrible, this year our March 1st is absolutely perfect. It's nearly 70 degrees open & I have my porch door open to let in the fresh air.

The only real winter weather I've seen this season has been in Zurich, where it was so bitterly cold it hurt to breathe.

Whereas Paris had been unseasonably warm, Zurich required multiple layers and many stops into cafes for hot chocolate to thaw out.

Despite the cold, the city was absolutely beautiful. There was something so perfect about walking around this quiet city eating roasted chestnut that we bought off of street vendors.

Even though it was freezing, there were still so many people out doing the extra same thing we were doing; wandering around and just enjoying the city. And there were certainly a lot of things to enjoy.

Of course, when it got too cold to bear, we were able to indulge in one of my favorite things about Switzerland-the fondue,

with a side of beer: