28.6.12

winner of the jacaranda designs giveaway!

I am excited to announce that the winner of the crackled egg bird necklace was Debbie (#127). Congrats Debbie! Please email me at morgan.designblanc{at}gmail{dot}com with your information.

And special thanks to Jane from Jacaranda Designs for sponsoring this giveaway!

{image via here}

better-for-you beauty products, part 5

This is part five of my search for natural and organic beauty products. You can find the other posts here, here, here, and here.
1. Tarte Gifted Amazonian Clay Smart Mascara: I really like this mascara. Considering I haven't had much luck with the organic mascaras I have tried out, this is awesome. My lashes actually look and feel healthier. The only thing that bugs me is that I still get a little mascara under my eyes at the end of the day but some days are worse than others. I will still look into other mascaras but I know I can come back to this one if I can't find anything else. Although this is not organic, it is free of parabens, phthalates, sulfates and is cruelty-free. 
2. Pangea Organics Egyptian Geranium Facial Scrub: This scrub isn't that bad but it isn't that great either. I don't feel like it has done anything great for my skin. I like when my skin feels a little smoother after I use a scrub and this just doesn't make it feel that way. Plus, I am not wild about the smell.
3. Burt's Bees Tinted Lip Balm: LOVE THIS! It goes on so smooth. (I actually stopped using Burt's Bees  items because that tingling sensation that a lot of their products give you is actually alcohol, is drying, and, in turn, is actually making you use more of the product. This doesn't do that.) It is 100% natural and it is great for hydrated my lips while giving it a bit of color. The tint is subtle making it look more natural. It is great for summer when you don't want to wear a ton of make-up. I have this in Rose but I plan to buy other tints. 
4. Alima Pure Nourishing Lip Balm: I actually bought this only because it was on sale and I love it. It leaves my lips smooth and moisturized while adding color. It is scented with a bit of peppermint oil so it smells good too. The lip color is much stronger than I thought it would be but I like using it when I want a bit more color but I don't necessarily want to wear lip stick. I bought this in mango but I plan to buy other colors. 
5. Josie Maran Argan Tinted Moisturizer: I like this moisturizer but I don't love it. Mainly, I feel like it doesn't absorb into my skin as well as other tinted moisturizers I have used in the past. (However, who knows if my skin is just really dry or something like that.) What I do like is it has SPF 30, is cruelty free, and doesn't have parabens or toxins. I think I will look for other tinted moisturizers but this is always good to fall back on. 
6. Pangea Organics Nigerian Ginger Facial Cream: Like the scrub, this moisturizer isn't bad but it isn't that great either. It hasn't really done anything wonderful for my skin and I am not too wild about the smell. I also wish it had SPF. However, it is organic, fair-trade and cruelty-free. 

Have you tried any good organic or all-natural products lately?

27.6.12

shop: i gigi


I am obsessed with the styling and photography of the i gigi general store catalogue. It is so dark and moody while still be cozy. I certainly want to go to the store one day which seems like it is beautifully styled as well. Located in East Sussex, England, they have a general store, men's shop and cafĂ© with a women's boutique down the street. 

What do you think? Any ideas on how to get moody photos like these?

26.6.12

csa box: pistou mashed potatoes

This was my first CSA inspired recipe. I came home with red skin potatoes and basil and I immediately wanted to mix them together. That is what I am really enjoying - putting together foods I wouldn't have thought to before. 

Pistou is almost like the French pesto. Traditionally, it is made with a mortar and pestle but I went the quick route and used a food processor. And also, I do not own a mortar and pestle. You may not use all the pistou in this recipe. Just add until you have the right flavoring. You can use the leftover pistou on fish or chicken. 
PISTOU MASHED POTATOES
serves 4, as a side

2 lbs. red skin potatoes, cut into similar sized pieces
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp. kosher salt
4 1/2 c. basil, torn into pieces
1/4 c. EVOO

Add potatoes to a pot of salted water. Bring to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, add garlic, salt, and basil to food processor and blend until smooth. Slowly add in olive oil and blend until emulsified. 

Drain potatoes and then add back to pot. Mash with potato masher. Add a little bit of pistou at a time, mashing to incorporate, until desired taste is achieved. 

Enjoy!

(See another pistou recipe here.) 

25.6.12

monday giveaway: jacaranda designs

Today's giveaway is from the Etsy shop, Jacaranda Designs, which carries vintage inspired jewelry to add a bit of whimsy to your wardrobe. There are necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and even cute hairpins to add a little spunk to your average ponytail.

Jane, the shop owner, says, "My name is Jane and I'm the owner and creator of Jacaranda Designs Jewelry. I embarked on jewelry making 6 years ago after quitting the IT industry that I had been part of for 18 years. I signed up for a jewelry making class at a local college. I took lessons for about three years, became hooked immediately and it is now my passion. I have a studio in my home and spend many hours in there, creating.

Besides a passion for creating all things colorful and pretty, I am a volunteer IT tutor for seniors at our local library, I love creme caramel, Cuban music, Adele, the Sarah Bernhardt peonies in my front garden, Merlin TV series, historical fiction, have a HUGE collection of cookbooks, can't make macaroons to save my life, have a penchant for photographing flowers, addicted to Instagram, am a hockey mom, member of a book club, dream of one day owning a beach house, go camping only under duress AND most importantly, I cannot start a day without a piping hot, really strong cup of tea.

I am often asked why I named my shop Jacaranda Designs. The name was inspired by the gorgeous Jacaranda tree. In the suburb where we lived in Johannesburg, South Africa, our street was lined with Jacaranda trees. The tree has a beautiful purple five lobed flower and when in bloom was simply spectacular. It evokes many happy childhood memories."


The item for the giveaway will be a crackled egg bird nest necklace. This whimsical, rustic little brass bird nest necklace is made from wrapped antique brass colored wire. Nestled inside are three robin's eggs made from crackled turquoise colored beads. The nest hangs from a brass chain.

This giveaway is open worldwide. Please use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

24.6.12

weekend: west oc


smith island cake . . . lobster mac an cheese at sunset grille in west ocean city . . . the hubs and i on the boardwalk . . . my grandfather and kim with their fisher's pop corn
~~~~
a little inspiration for the coming week:

25 things you didn't know about mad men

what are the lines on the solo cup for?

farm to fĂȘte
~~~
Friday, the Hubs and I ran some errands and went to bed early, tired from a long week. 

Saturday, we woke up, grabbed breakfast and then my grandfather and ex-stepmom (explained here) came over. The Hubs had to be at work all day since he was gone all last week for work and will be gone most of this week, so the three of us headed to the west ocean city outlets after lunch to do a bit of shopping. After that, we stopped at the Original Smith Island Cake Company to split a piece of cake since my grandfather and Kim had never had it. (It is Maryland's official dessert, if you didn't know.) Then we headed back to Salisbury to rest a bit and get ready for dinner. When the Hubs came home, we drove to Sunset Grille in West Ocean City. I had always heard great things about the restaurant but I was still surprised at how great the food was! Every single one of our dishes was good. I had the lobster mac and cheese and it blew my mind! (And that is coming from a mac and cheese connoisseur.) After that, we walked the boardwalk so my grandfather could get his Dumser's ice cream and Kim could get some Fisher's pop corn. 

This morning, I made breakfast for everyone and then they headed across the bridge early to beat the beach traffic. I spent most of the day resting and doing some laundry. 

How was your weekend?

19.6.12

red curry shrimp

Although fresh shrimp is superior to frozen, the Hubs and I keep a bag of frozen in the freezer for convenience when we need a quick meal. And really, frozen shrimp is nice for those on a budget who want to venture from the usual chicken dinner. Honestly, you just need to know how to defrost the shrimp so it doesn't taste like it was previously frozen. I put a colander on top of a plate in the fridge and let them defrost there. Then I rinse them and pat them dry before I am about to cook them. Don't let them defrost in their own juices and don't try and rush the process by letting them sit out of the fridge or by running water over them.

What I love about this recipe is the fact that, if you are using frozen shrimp, it can be a meal with ingredients completely kept on hand between your freezer and your cupboard. Of course, you need some time to defrost the shrimp - but you could also stop and get fresh shrimp on your way home from work if you didn't plan ahead.
RED CURRY SHRIMP
serves 2

14 oz. can coconut milk
2 Tbsp. red curry paste
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 c. frozen vegetable medley
1/3 c. water
1/2 lb. shrimp

In a large pan, simmer coconut milk with curry paste over medium for about 5 minutes. Add brown sugar, vegetables, and water. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring every so often. Stir in shrimp and cook for about 4 minutes or until shrimp is cooked through. Serve over rice.

Enjoy!

17.6.12

weekend: relaxing with a book

mussels at dinner on friday . . . the largest frying pan in delmarva at the chicken festival . . . breakfast at panera this morning . . . hydrangeas out at green hill
~~~~
Friday, the Hubs and I went out to Green Hill for dinner. Saturday, the Hubs and finally tried Pemberton Coffee House and it was pleasant sitting out by the water for breakfast. Then I cleaned up the house for a bit and read the second book in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. For dinner, the Hubs and I tried to eat at the chicken festival but we decided the lines were too long so we ended up at Fratelli's. Today, I read for a little bit and then headed off to the pool with my SIL. After that, we had dinner at the Hubs parents for Father's Day. Then we caught up on the Mad Men finale.

How was your weekend?

14.6.12

sponsor post: lax to yvr

Remember, the giveaway from here? Well, I want you to help me welcome LAX to YVR as one of our blog sponsors. This Etsy shop has a lovely selection of burlap wall decor. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Letter B: I think this would look so cute in our home since our last name starts with a B. Or maybe I need one of each letter of our last name.
2. Ampersand: I seriously think that the ampersand is one of the prettiest symbols in typography. Plus, the word "and" always means that more is coming. I think it may be one of the most adventurous conjunctions. 
3. I'M OK: This is such a pretty way to remind yourself to breath and carry on. 
4. Whale Silhouette: You know that I love anything nautical and I am just smitten with this piece. I want to decorate my first child's nursery with a nautical theme and this would be perfect for it. 

What is your favorite item?

13.6.12

guest post: toddler friendly dinner party

Today's guest post is from Renee Marchol, a former library toddler-time storyteller, certified child CPR volunteer and classroom teacher. She also blogs over at Smarty Girl Home. Her husband Nikolas is a children’s toy marketer. They live in Los Angeles with their silver cat Cleo. Their hobbies include hospitality, beach frisbee and volunteering at the local food bank.

Are you a Dual Income No Kids (DINK) couple hosting your first toddler-friendly dinner party at your apartment?

Use these 5 tips and tricks to childproof your home and select home decor that will please both parents and 18 month to 3-year-olds. The style of your home does not have to change radically to accommodate junior dinner guests. Just a few low-key modifications work well from Country French to Craftsman homes.

Even if you haven’t been to a toddler storytime featuring Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar since your own childhood, you can be a hit with kids with your child-considerate home furnishings.
1. Take a peek at Good Housekeeping product reviews for childproofing products for your home such as doorknob covers to prevent toddlers from letting themselves onto your fifth floor patio unsupervised.
2. Stow away all no-touch items such as breakable home accessories, choking hazards and decorative peeling paint Shabby Chic framed mirrors within toddler-reach. Instead set out coffee tables with rounded or padded corners. Use an easy trick,  suggested on Ask Doctor Sears and other parenting sites. such as using a paper towel roll to determine if knick knacks are large enough not to be swallowed by toddlers.

3. Avoid serving slippery foods such as whole grapes or lychees on your menu. Offer low-fat, vegan and diabetic options to all your guests. Make raw veggies and other healthful foods as attractive as dessert shot glasses for adults.

Adopt all the usual food safety rules about keeping cold foods under 40 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent food poisoning. Label all allergens, for parent dinner guests, such as dishes that contain eggs, wheat, soy or dairy.

Of course, your menu can include alcoholic beverages for adults. However, keep hot drinks for adult guests out of toddler-reach as recommended by Doctor Sears.

If you have tapas for adults, you can still delight your junior guests. Borrow easy party food ideas such as Kawaii Bento Boxes since shaping finger foods into teddy bear faces has become a food trend on Pinterest. For instance, the blog Another Lunch suggests good ideas.
4.Borrow ideas from vegan parenting and cooking sites such as black bean brownies for dessert for allergen-free dining.

Parents magazine and Babble have 5-minute tips on toddler milestones so you know what to expect at your dinner party. Will the junior guests be using the wall or furniture to steady himself/herself? Will she need room to run? Will the toddler be curious about opening dishwashers, drawers and cabinets?

5. Visit Parents.com for 10 Surprising Safety Hazards and avoid pre-filling your dishwasher with soap. Use child safe locks on your cabinets. Take a tip from HGTV and secure your bookcases with brackets to avoid toddler pull-down.

Lastly, get down on the floor at toddler crawling level and remove all stray cat and dog toys that may have rolled into tight spaces that might be discovered by junior guests.

What tips do you have for a kid-friendly dinner party?

12.6.12

greek salad with chicken

I love feta! I actually can sit and eat it straight out of the container. (And I have been known to do this, secretly, late at night, standing right at the fridge.) The salty, tangy taste is absolute perfection. So, naturally, I love Greek salads. 

I actually learned to marinade chicken in yogurt just a few years ago. I had always marinated it in oil and some sort of acidic liquid like vinegar or lemon juice. At my first job, right out of college, I had a coworker from Turkey. I told him how much I loved eating kebab while I loved in Bordeaux and I was always dumbfounded on how moist the chicken was. He simply said "yogurt." That is how his mother had always made it. 

This meal is perfect for summer. There is no cooking involved except to grill the chicken. And honestly, grill a little bit of extra chicken. You can use the leftovers for a chicken pita for lunch.
GREEK SALAD WITH CHICKEN
serves 4

for the marinade:
1 c. plain Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
juice of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves, minced
sea salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes

for the dressing:
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
dried oregano, to taste
1/3 c. EVOO

for the salad:
romaine lettuce, chopped
tomato, chopped
green pepper, chopped
cucumber, chopped
feta, crumbled

Whisk together first five ingredients for marinade. Add chicken and mix to combine. Marinade for three hours. 

Heat grill (or grill pan.) Thread chicken on skewers, making sure to wipe off excess yogurt. Grill until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear. 

Meanwhile, add first four ingredients for dressing in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in EVOO until blended. 

Add romaine to plate. Top with tomatoes, green pepper, cucumber, and feta. Top with chicken. Add dressing (you will have some leftover.) Serve with pita or flat bread. 

Enjoy!

11.6.12

monday giveaway: absolutely kismet

Today's giveaway is from the Etsy shop, Absolutely Kismet, a shop that has unique wine charms and jewelry.

Kirsten, the shop owner, says, "I started Absolutely Kismet two years ago and have been delighted to see how my shop and style have evolved in that time! I started with more of a focus on beaded jewelry, and while I still make some for family and myself, I've really had fun expanding my wine glass charm collection. This summer in particular I'm hoping to come out with three additional 'lines.'

One of my main inspirations has been when I've been creating a special set of charms for someone. I put myself in her shoes and think about how they'll be used and any other factors that may be important. For example, my mom wouldn't use wine charms on a daily or even weekly basis, but she does like to entertain, so for her, I made a set of 18 different colored rings with a different "random" charm on each so her guests could choose something they connected with. 

Conversely, my newest line of magnetic clasp wine charms came about as I created a set for a friend who has some arthritis in her hands. I didn't want her to have to bother with the small clasps on regular charms. That then made me think, 'Hey, maybe other people would appreciate this as well!' And suddenly, I have a whole new direction to explore."

Kirsten is giving away wine charms from her Bow Tie Collection. Kirsten came up with the collection while brainstorming for something that would be fun and noticeable on a glass but for those that don't like the look of the wine charms that hang down. These charms give the glass a classic, adorable look. Kirsten remarked, "Who wouldn't like their glass to be as sophisticated-looking and dressed up as they are?"

Please use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter. This giveaway is open worldwide. A winner will be chosen at random.

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10.6.12

weekend: for the alumni

before going to the door on friday night . . . around campus . . . down by the waterfront . . . saturday night . . . before brunch on sunday
~~~~
a little inspiration for the coming week:

globe and map inspired: a baby shower after my heart

a raw fiesta

the last diet you will ever need 

a super sweet birthday wish

the best pizza in dc

a "stately" way to eat
~~~~
Friday, I took a half day and headed down to St. Mary's for alumni weekend. We stopped at Blue Wind for dinner and then headed to campus to move into one of the suites for the next two nights. That night, we celebrated our friend, Conlon's, birthday with cupcakes and then headed to the Door, our one bar near campus. 

Saturday, we headed to St. James for a breakfast sandwich and then headed down to the waterfront to hang out and attend the crab feast. For dinner, we headed to Monterrey's for dinner. It was one of our go-to places in college because it was cheap and you got a lot of food. I walked in noticing they had renovated and fancied up the menu. But it was still good and I tried something new. After that we headed down to the waterfront to dance and see a band that was playing.

This morning, we headed to brunch and then packed up to leave. It was so fun to play college students and see everyone this weekend but I am seriously exhausted. It is so weird to think I have been out of school for over three years. (I was class of '09 but I graduated a semester early.)

How was your weekend?

7.6.12

shop: toast


I just discovered the shop, Toast, and I am absolutely smitten. Although they have some really pretty clothing, what I am more enamored with is their items for the home. I just want to crawl into their catalogue kitchen and cook up a storm! (And then of course use their beautiful tableware to take pretty photographs of the food.)

Here are a few items on my wish list. (And, trust me, it was hard to narrow it down.)

What would you choose?

6.6.12

csa bounty




I know I have professed my love of farmers markets on here. But sometimes, I wish I was picking up a CSA box. It would be convenient and would force us to eat more vegetables so they don't go to waste. Lately, I haven't been feeling that inspired when it comes to cooking which is strange for me, so I would love to discover new things through my CSA box. I also have been wanting to cook what looks good and what is in season versus planning on what to buy ahead of time.

Each spring, I debate whether or not to join one. But then, I get nervous. What if I can't figure out what to make with certain items? What if I waste food?

The one I want to join here is only two weeks in, so I could easily still join. I guess I am wondering what your thoughts are on this. Do any of you have a CSA membership? How do you plan meals? Are there certain things you keep on hand to create meals? What is the craziest thing you have gotten in your box?

{image from here}

5.6.12

white bean ragu

When the Hubs is away, I eat a lot those foods that he hates to eat. He can't stand beans so this was the perfect solo meal. I also love a healthy meal that leaves me with leftovers so I am not cooking every night when he is not here.

This meal is satisfying but still light. Plus, it is budget friendly.


WHITE BEAN RAGU
serves 4
recipe from here

2 medium onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
3 garlic cloves, finely grated
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 1-inch-thick slices crusty Italian bread, grilled or toasted
5 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan, divided
1 19-ounce cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups vegetable broth, divided
2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Pulse onions in food processor until finely chopped. Transfer to a medium bowl. Pulse pepper until finely chopped. Transfer to same bowl. 

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion mixture and season with salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring every few minutes, until vegetables are soft for about 30 minutes. Stir in grated garlic and tomato paste and cook for about 3 minutes. Add beans and cook for about 1 minute, until heated through. Stir in 3 cups of vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 3 minutes, scraping up brown bits until, until sauce thickens. Add tomatoes and simmer for 3 minutes more. Stir in 3 tablespoons of Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

Divide bread between plates. Top with bean mixture. Garnish with Parmesan and parsley. 

Buon Appetito!

3.6.12

weekend: a birthday in arlington

my new specs . . . my cover for my new iphone . . . alissa's pretty peplum dress . . . alissa and her boyfriend . . . at red line . . . outside the bar in chinatown . . . snuggling with peyton . . . summer grilling
~~~~
a little inspiration for the coming week:

the opposite of loneliness 

venice of the netherlands

coolest photobooth

fancy food frauds

french-themed dinner party
~~~~
Friday, the Hubs came home from a three day business trip. When I got home, I went for a run and then we ordered dinner in and watched a movie. 

Saturday morning, we ran some errands, including going to get my new iPhone. I absolutely love it! After a quick lunch, I headed to Arlington to celebrate my friend Alissa's birthday (and law school graduation.) Her boyfriend's roommate cooked us dinner (chicken and risotto) and it was so yummy! I am not used to being cooked for and I was very impressed considering it was his first time cooking risotto. The, we headed to Chinatown to meet up with a bunch of her law school friends at Red Line. They had a great DJ! It was a nice mix of new and old music - think Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston (my request), and Salt-N-Pepa. 

This morning, I left early to head back to Salisbury. The Hubs and I went to lunch and then I came home and took a much needed nap. I have been doing a little cleaning and a little bit of relaxing. 

I was wondering if I could ask you guys a small favor. I was talking to Alissa and she said she can no longer pin to Pinterest from my blog. Do you guys have that ability? If not, would you mind contacting Pinterest about it? I am really confused why my blog seems to be blocked. I tried pinning from my blog a few weeks ago and couldn't anymore but I thought it was because I was the one doing the pinning. I haven't gotten a response from them about it. 

How was your weekend?