winner of the foto macro giveaway!

The winner of the Foto Macro giveaway is ohkeeka from The Type A Housewife. Please email me at morgan.designblanc{at}gmail{dot}com with your information. Congrats!

me, personally

When I first started this blog, there was nothing focused about it. I never wrote regularly and I wrote about whatever popped into my head.

But as I put more energy into it and more people started to read, it evolved and so did I. I tried to have a more focused approach to this blog so people knew what to expect when they visited. And this seemed to leave less time for personal posts.

But after redesigning my blog header, I have been thinking more about it lately. There is a third word in the subtitle, life. There have been things I have wanted to share: what is going on in my part of the world, what I have been feeling. There are times when I am so excited about something I could burst. Or some days I am feeling blue. Or sometimes I just need advice. But then I second guess myself. Is my excitement really something a reader wants to know about? Do I really want to burden my reader with my problems?

And then I thought about all the blogs I read. I love that people announce when they get engaged. Or that a baby is on the way. Or that they are graduating. It makes me so happy and makes my day a little brighter. I love the blogs that share their weekend activities in pictures (which is why I started doing that) or just share things about their day to day. It is interesting to see how other people live and the cool things they do. I even like when bloggers share their sad times - and I feel honored they felt safe enough to share them. I am reminded that we are not alone in our struggles. And it helps.

When I talk to friends and family who read my blog, they always go back to one of my first posts and tell me it is their favorite. Have you read the one about my first bikini wax? (Well, don't read it if you don't like cussing - or using God's name in vain.) It was the eighth post I had written and even now, friends of friends, who I meet for the first time, tell me "Oh my god! I love your blog! And that one about the bikini wax - so hilarious!" And that post was VERY personal.

I now realize, my blog does not have to be so structured because my blog is a reflection of me. And if you know me, personally, then you know I am all over the place. So maybe, I will make time for more personal posts because, well, I can. They won't be everyday, maybe only a few times a month. And they may be happy. Or sad. Or funny. Or totally random. But they will always be sincere.

Someone I approached to do a giveaway said to me that, although she normally doesn't do giveaways, she was going to make an exception. Why? Because my blog was honest. And I was flattered. When I started my blog, there was one thing it would always be: honest. And I love that about a lot of the blogs I read. Maybe it is because it feels safer...

{image from here}


spring buckwheat risotto

The Hubs and I have been trying to incorporate more grains into our diet. I tried buckwheat groats a few weeks ago and I was surprised at the texture. It has more of the consistency of couscous than a grain. I was determined to use it in more of our meals.

I have been craving risotto lately and I thought it would be interesting to use buckwheat in place of the rice to make it a bit healthier. And with spring here, I thought it would be it would be nice to celebrate by adding some bright spring vegetables.

serves 4 as a side

1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 c. buckwheat groats
2/3 c. dry white wine
4 c. simmering chicken stock (I used low-sodium from the store but homemade is best)
1 lb. asparagus
8 oz. frozen peas, defrosted
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon zest
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, juiced
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3. Tbsp. minced fresh chives

1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a pan over medium heat. Add buckwheat and stir for a minute to coat in the oil and butter. Add white wine and simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until most of the wine is absorbed.
2. Add chicken stock, 1 - 2 ladles at a time, stirring almost constantly. Once chicken stock is absorbed, you will add 1 - 2 more ladles of stock and so on. This will take about 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, cut asparagus in 1 1/2 inch lengths and discard tough ends. Blanch in boiling water for about 3 minutes until they are al dente. Drain and run cold water over them to stop them from cooking. (You can also cool in an ice water bath but I am too lazy to do this most of the time.)
4. When buckwheat has been cooking for 15 minutes, add asparagus, peas, lemon zest, 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper to the risotto. Continue cooking and adding in the stock as explained in #2.
5. Stir lemon juice and mozzarella in a bowl to combine. When buckwheat is done, remove from heat and add in mozzarella, Parmesan, and chives and stir. Cover pan so that the cheese melts. Set aside for a few minutes.
6. Serve with more Parmesan and chives if desired.

Buon appetito!


trash the dress

Remember when I told you that I had won a "trash the dress" session with the photographer who did my engagement photos? Well, I finally have the photos to show you and I am so excited!

We took these the first Saturday morning in November. It was cold. Like 19-degrees-and-windy cold. (Kind of the opposite of my wedding...)

And since I had eaten my life away on my honeymoon, I was so afraid the dress wouldn't fit. The Hubs did have to work the zipper a bit. But it all worked out and they turned out pretty well, I think. Raye is such a talented photographer. I highly recommend her if you are having a wedding in the Maryland area.

I had a navy cardigan but Raye made me take it off. The photos with it on were not nearly as good. Instead of wearing my turquoise heels that I had worn for the wedding, I wore my riding boots that I have had for years. I am glad that I was given the opportunity to take some pictures in my wedding dress closer to home. Thanks Raye!

Would you do a trash the dress session? Or have you already done one?


monday giveaway: foto macro (NOW CLOSED)

Today's giveaway is from the Etsy shop, Foto Macro. This shop has a beautiful selection of photographs that get up close and personal with nature. I love how each picture gives a new and unique perspective.

Angie, the shop owner, says, "I am a passionate artist who loves nature and likes to show nature's beauty by getting into the nitty-gritty details of the natural world. I enjoy tromping through my yard, local parks, city streets, etc. looking for that perfect macro shot that will show nature in all of its perfect and jaw-dropping glory. I hope you enjoy my photography as much as I love taking the photos. My wish is that it will inspire you to not only make a purchase of one of my prints, but to see nature in a new and exciting way--a way you never have before.

All prints come on Fujicolor Crystal Archive photographic paper, which will last a lifetime if stored properly. They are also available in either glossy or luster finish."

Angie sent me a beautiful photograph. I love how the little red ladybug pops against the green around it. I think I may hang it in my craft room which is in desperate need of some color. This picture really doesn't do it justice:

Angie is giving away one 8x10 photograph of your choice to one lucky winner!

To be eligible, you must be a follower of my blog so, if you aren't yet, please sign up! (And if your "follower" name is different than your "comment" name, be sure to let me know.)

To enter, please visit the Foto Macro Etsy shop and the Foto Macro Facebook page (since there are more pictures to choose from there) and leave a comment below with your favorite photo.

For more chances to win:
1. "Like" Foto Macro on Facebook and leave a second comment below telling us you did so.
2. Write about this giveaway on your blog and leave another comment below with a link to your post.

This giveaway ends Thursday, March 31st at 7 pm Eastern Time. This is open to US residents only. A winner will be chosen at random.


weekend: weather confused

a wheat apple turnover at northside social for breakfast saturday morning . . . my first dim sum experience at ping pong for lunch . . . a little bit of spring in arlington . . . our snowy sunday morning view
a little inspiration for the coming week:

i think i am going to buy myself a castle

i wish i had known about this place when i was in france

my SIL is married to a twin. i feel like she would appreciate this.

i want a painting like this for our living room

another dream home

I had a great weekend visiting my friend, Alissa, who lives in Arlington. We went out Friday night, shopped in Chinatown on Saturday, and then I had a lazy day with the Hubs back in Salisbury today. Loves, how were your weekends?


francophile friday: poilâne

I was watching an episode of Giada at Home and she creating a French meal for her and her husband inspired by a recent trip to Paris. On the menu was a steak and cheese croissant sandwich, mushroom and parsley salad, and, for dessert, raspberry rose pots de creme. However, what really peaked my interest was the fact that she ordered a fresh French loaf - from Paris!

Poilâne is famous for their sourdough miche. And they have an online shop so you can order worldwide. I immediately went online. I thought that the prices had to be astronomical which they were and they weren't. For a regular miche, it really isn't that much. But for a decorated miche, it is going to cost you. And, if you are ordering from the states like me, you are going to be charged more for shipping then you will for the actually amount of bread you buy.

However, I think if I was ever having a dinner party with people who would really, really appreciate a sourdough miche from Paris, I may break down and splurge. But I think I would probably be more likely to just go make friends with Giada...

Bon week-end!

{image from here}


diy "vintage" french tablecloth

I started to search for a tablecloth for our dining room table. I soon found that I loved the vintage linen striped tablecloths but they were ridiculously expensive. I started to search for striped linen to make my own but that was a little out of my budget as well. So I looked for alternatives to linen and came across many projects using canvas drop cloths. Yes - drop cloths!

What a genius idea! They are super inexpensive and very durable. I immediately went to my local hardware store to pick one up. Unfortunately for me, they only came in packs of two but I decided I would make a tablecloth with one and a runner for our buffet.

What You Need
natural-colored canvas drop cloth
masking tape/grout tape/painting tape
soft fabric paint

1. Wash and tumble dry the drop cloth. This is to prevent it from being stiff.
2. Iron the tablecloth so you have a flat service to work with. Just don't use any starch so it prevents your paint from sticking.
3. Lay the cloth flat. (I had extra fabric underneath where I was going to paint since some went through.) Run the tape lengthwise or widthwise (whichever you prefer) along the middle of your fabric. Once you find the desired width of what will be your painted stripe, run another strip of tape down the middle of the fabric. For three stripes, you will have four strips of tape.
4. Squirt some fabric paint onto a paper plate and dip your brush into it. Dab off any extra paint - you don't want your brush sopping wet. Lightly brush in between the taped areas.
5. Remove the tape once the paint has completely dried.

1. The drop cloth was a little big for my table so I had to hem it. If my table wasn't oval, the larger one probably would have worked. I also didn't worry about sewing it in an oval. I kind of like the way my rectangular tablecloth drapes over my oval table.
2. My hardware store didn't have a great selection of tape so I used masking tape and I didn't have really clean edges for my lines. This doesn't bother me but if it will bother you, some other tapes might work better.

Peyton is very pleased with the new tablecloth.

What do you think? Would you do a DIY tablecloth?


Blanc et Caramel

I am pleased to introduce you to Blanc et Caramel as our newest blog sponsor. This Etsy shop boasts a great selection of shabby chic and vintage inspired items (made in Paris!) And isn't the photography beautiful as well? Go have a look!

Would you like to advertise on La Chapstick Fanatique? My ad spaces are priced with small businesses and Etsy shops in mind and, right now, my introductory rates are very low. Email me at morgan.designblanc{at}gmail{dot}com for prices and details.


pasta e fagioli (or pasta and bean soup)

I have been making this for years and it is, by far, one of my favorite soups to make in the winter. I know it is officially spring but I kept forgetting to take pictures when I made this and don't want to wait until next winter to share it with you. So go out and get the ingredients and make it NOW! You will be glad you did.

I really think it is the pancetta that makes this soup. It gives it a salty yet almost sweet flavor while the rosemary and bay leaf make it earthy. And I love a great (almost) vegetarian soup. I normally make a big pot of this on a Sunday night, have it for dinner, and then take it for a few days for lunch. A filling and healthy meal!

from the Tastes of the Mediterranean cookbook
serves 4

7 oz. dried borlotti beans (roman beans)
1/4 c. olive oil
3 1/4 oz. piece pancetta, finely diced
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 celery stick, thinly sliced
1 carrot, diced
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 spring fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
14 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
6 1/2 c. vegetable stock
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh leaf Italian parsley
5 1/2 oz. ditalini
freshly grated Parmesan, to serve

1. Place beans in large bowl, cover with cold water and leave to soak overnight. Drain and rinse.
2. Heat oil in large saucepan, add pancetta, onion, garlic, celery, and carrot, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until golden.
3. Season with pepper. Add bay leaf, rosemary, parsley, tomato, stock, and beans and bring to a boil.
4. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, or until beans are tender. Add more boiling water if necessary to maintain liquid level.
5. Discard bay leave, rosemary, and parsley sprigs. Scoop out 1 cup of bean mixture and puree in food processor or blender.* Return to pan, season with salt and ground pepper and add parsley and pasta.
6. Simmer for 6 minutes or until pasta is al dente.
7. Garnish with parmesan.

Note: I used to put some of the bean mixture in a food processor but then I got a hand emulsion blender (which I highly recommend for making soups.) I just put that in the soup and pulse it until I get a thicker consistency. Just remember that the soup with thicken up a bit more as it cooks a little longer.


the buffet: before & after

In our dining room, we have a beautiful vintage buffet. The Hubs says it is beat up and old. I think it has a lot of character. But the one thing we do agree on is the top needs to be covered because there are drink stains. We had a table runner on there for awhile but it really darkens the room. And the vase with the orchids just look out of place.
I made a new table runner with a single navy stripe down the middle. I thought it was neutral enough that it could work throughout the year. I also found some apothecary jars two months ago and decided to put in "winter white" items. I am going to change the items inside with the seasons. I guess I need to start working on finding spring items.
What do you guys think?


weekend: food, food, food

friday night dinner at sushi de kanpai . . . saturday night appetizer at green hill . . . sunday morning breakfast by the Hubs . . . celebrating the first day of spring with a free italian ice from rita's
some inspiration for the coming week:

this looks like peyton's kind of place

i don't even know how to react to this

light as air

maybe i should get the Hubs some of these clothes
Loves, how were your weekends?


winner of the sheanicole designs giveaway!

I am pleased to announce that the winner of the SheaNicole Designs giveaway is Taylor from Taylor Made! Congratulations Taylor! Please email me at morgan.designblanc{at}gmail{dot}com.

{image via here}

for japan, with love

I just wanted to let you know, there will not be a francophile friday post tomorrow. I will be participating in the Bloggers Day of Silence for those who have been affected by the disaster in Japan.

After seeing the footage of cars on top of buildings and homes being swept away by fast waters, we all felt helpless. But we are not. Even if you are half a world away, you can help by donating to one of the many relief efforts available. I understand in these economic times a lot of us are struggling financially but even $1 can help. I donated to this effort which will provide emergency shelter and lifesaving supplies to victims in Japan.

I only hope that if faced with great tragedy, I would handle myself with the same grace and civility that I has been demonstrated by the people of Japan. They will be in my thoughts...

a lazy day

The past week has been emotionally draining. I need a day to just relax, forget about chores and sad news, and just breath. I am hoping that day comes soon - this Saturday perhaps?

{all images via here}


a bump in vegas

Today, my friend, Ashley, is 13 weeks into her pregnancy. I have been bursting to do baby posts for her but I had to wait until last week when she made it public. This weekend, she went in search of some cute maternity clothes and she expressed that it was nothing short of frustrating. She wasn't exactly ready for the amount of frumpiness a lot of the maternity stores possessed - I can only imagine! And it is even more frustrating because she isn't quite big enough for maternity pants yet but her current pants are uncomfortable.

A few weeks ago, she found out she was going to Vegas for her husband's business trip in April. Ashley's sister-in-law will be going with them so she will have lots of company while her husband is in meetings during the day. So I have been helping her find some non-frumpy maternity clothes for her trip. Being as maternity clothes are new to me, it was a bit of a challenge at first. But I soon found that a lot more stores have maternity items than I thought.

Jewel Tones {blouse, cardigan, capris, flats, bracelet}
Sailing Away {necklace, dress, cardigan, flats}

For the plane ride, I was thinking all about comfort and layers. I always travel in layers because it can get so cold on planes. It also helps if you are going from a chilly climate to a warmer one. I also focused on bright colors since that is more Ashley's style. You will notice I pulled a maternity cardigan for the first outfit but for the second outfit I found a boyfriend cardigan from her favorite store, Anthropologie. I figured she probably wouldn't button this anyway so it won't need to go over the belly and it can take her into the fall, post-pregnancy.

Pink & Pretty {tankini, sunglasses, dress, sandals}
A Little Prep {tankini, cover-up, sandals, sunscreen}

I couldn't resist these swimsuits in my two favorite patterns. So fun! It was a little difficult to find cute maternity cover-ups, but cotton spring dresses will do just fine.

Shopping Trip {tee, fedora, shorts, watch, sandals}
Lunch Date {
dress, headband, sandals}

For a few hours spent shopping, comfort is definitely the key. However, adding a few statement pieces to an otherwise basic tee and jean shorts combo can give a more put-together look. A lunch time date gives way to a comfortable but cute patterned dress - Ashley loves patterns! I was sure to adds pops of color with yellow so it doesn't get boring.

A Little Sparkle {dress, earrings, cardigan, pumps}
Wild And Feminine {blouse, pants, pumps}

For a potential work cocktail hour, I went with a basic black dress but added a little Vegas sparkle with a gold cardigan, sparkly pumps, and some rhinestone earrings. For a night going to see a show, I added a flowy feminine top but gave it a wild side with a snake skin pump.

{For more ideas, here are some shops that carry maternity lines: Topshop, Gap, Old Navy, Dorothy Perkins, Debenhams, Asos, Ann Taylor Loft, Zappos, Nordstrom, Shabby Apple}

How did I do? I have never been to Vegas so I had a little bit of a handicap on what is appropriate. Any pregnancy clothing suggestions for Ashley?


italian wedding soup

This is a recipe from the Italian side of my family. The above picture is from a middle school project. I spent hours and hours collecting and typing up recipes from various people in my family. You will see many variations of Italian Wedding Soup but I really like this version with spinach. The original recipe calls for ground beef and ground pork but since I only had ground beef, that is what I used.

serves 8

For the meatballs:
1 lb. lean ground pork
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 c. breadcrumbs
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1/2 c. finely chopped parsley
1 tsp. nutmeg
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped

1. Mix the meat with the chopped onion and garlic.
2. Add the egg, cheese, parsley, breadcrumbs, and nutmeg. Mix well.
3. Shape into small meatballs.

To make soup:
olive oil
3 q. chicken stock
2 c. frozen spinach, defrosted
1/2 c. Parmesan
2 eggs, beaten
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
pre-made meatballs

1. Heat a thin layer of olive oil in pot. Saute onions and celery until translucent.
2. Add stock and boil for 20 minutes.
3. Add spinach and drop meatballs in a few at a time.
4. Before serving, whisk eggs into soup.
5. Garnish with cheese.



monday giveaway: SheaNicole Designs (NOW CLOSED)

I am so excited about today's giveaway. I know, as a recent bride, it is tough to find those perfect accessories to accent your dress. Enter the Etsy shop, SheaNicole Designs. Shea will work with you to create the perfect look for your special day. And you don't have to be a bride to enjoy her shop either. I have been eyeing her headbands to add a little glam to my LBDs.

Shea says, "SheaNichole Designs is located in Charlotte, NC and offers quality hand-made accessories for weddings and special events. SND is committed to customer satisfaction, quality, and creative design; all while keeping budget in mind. Using only quality fabrics and colors, the customer's creative vision can be expressed through each unique hand-made piece. Not only has SND served brides but also wedding parties, wedding guests, mothers and debutantes.

Designs range from single embellished bridal gown sashes to multiple items like men's ties or bridesmaid sashes. Many of the accessories can be produced in various fabrics, colors and sizes. Only high quality fabrics and supplies are used to create each piece and because each piece is handmade, variations are to be expected and should not be considered flaws.

SND has been serving clients since 2007, selling through local bridal shops and word of mouth referrals. Many of my clients have been featured in local bridal magazines such as Carolina Bride, Weddings Unveiled and Charlotte Wedding. Blogs featuring past SND clients include, Style Me Pretty, Kristin Vining Photography and Millie Holloman Photography, just to name a few."
Shea is giving away a credit towards one shop item or custom item up to $100 in value. I think it would be so fun to create an item unique to your style and taste.

Most items in the shop are ready to ship within 2 - 3 business days. Production time for custom orders varies but please allow 6 - 8 weeks which allows time for color matching and sourcing products. Please Note: The credit cannot be used towards shipping and the unused balance is not valid for cash back. This cannot be combined with a bulk discount and the credit expires December 31, 2011. This is open to US residents ONLY.

To be eligible, you must be a follower of my blog so, if you aren't yet, be sure to sign up! (And if your "comment" name is different than your "follower" name, be sure to let me know.)

To enter: Please visit SheaNicole Designs and leave a comment below telling me what your favorite item from the shop is.

For other chances to win:
1. Write about this giveaway on your blog and leave a second comment below with a link to your blog post.
2. "Like" SheaNicole Designs on Facebook and leave another comment below telling us you did so.

This giveaway ends Thursday, March 17th at 7 pm Eastern Time. A winner will be chosen at random.


francophile friday: le flâneur

I have got a little bit of Paris for you today. Le Flâneur was created by Luke Shepard, a student at the American University of Paris. It is a visual project composed of 2000 photographs and shows many of Paris' monuments at night.

How cool is that?

{video via here}


winner of the hello violeta giveaway!

I am excited to announce that the winner of the Hello Violeta giveaway is Alana from miss alana's miscellany. Congratulations, Alana! Please email me at morgan.designblanc{at}gmail{dot}com with your information.

{image from here}