Monday, October 31, 2011

Cheese Tortellini with Fresh Spinach & Herbs

This recipe is brought to you courtesy of my friend Kristy. I recently made it for Sunday lunch with friends and it was a hit. Kristy, you have excellent taste. Actually, your Aunt Mary has excellent taste because she made it for you. And the circle of recipe sharing continues. If you're in the mood for a lighter pasta dish with the flavors of fresh herbs paired with spinach, you'll love this. It's surprisingly filling and great the next day too. This recipe serves about 8, so you may want to divide accordingly.


¾ cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1-2 garlic cloves
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
¼ white pepper (or regular pepper works too)
2 LB Cheese Tortellini
5 scallions, chopped
2 Tbs fresh parsley
10-12 fresh basil leaves, torn
Parmesan or Romano cheese
Baby spinach or other greens


Whisk 3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Add 1 or 2 chopped garlic cloves
1 Tbs Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp white pepper

Toss with 2LB cooked cheese tortellini drained and cooled a bit.

Add 5 chopped scallions
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley

10-12 chopped fresh basil leaves
Toss all with a bit of freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Arrange on a platter lined with fresh baby spinach or other greens and top with more grated cheese.


Thanks for sharing this delicious recipe with me Kristy. You rock AND you have a beautiful new kitchen! Maybe you should send me some before and after photos so I can talk more about it...hint, hint :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Three Weeks with My Brother, by Nicholas Sparks and Micah Sparks

While I was lounging by the pool in Arizona (how I wish I was still there), I started reading Three Weeks with My Brother by Nicholas Sparks and Micah Sparks. I have been a fan of Nicolas Sparks (along with everyone else) since I first watched A Walk To Remember (no, I didn't read the book first, but I should have). I also enjoyed The Notebook, The Wedding and Dear John. Sparks writing speaks right into your heart and paints beautiful stories. I have a list of other books he has written that I want to read. 

Frequently inspired by real people and stories, Sparks writings are from the heart. Three Weeks with My Brother is a memoir of his own life story. I would say it's the most compelling of his books that I've read. I don't think I've ever felt so much emotion (or cried so much) while reading a book. I hoped the people sitting next to me on the airplane didn't think something tragic had happened to me, as tears rolled down my face. That's how touched I was. 

Without giving it away, the book takes you through a trip around the world with Nicholas and his older brother Micah. Woven throughout their journey is the story of their, childhood, their family, growing up together and experiencing love and tremendous loss. If you're like me, it might cause a little change inside of you. Definitely worth reading.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Three Cool Stores

It's no secret that I like shopping. No, I love shopping. I could honestly be a professional shopper. A really, really good one too. I especially like shopping in new and different stores. While in Arizona, I got to spend an afternoon shopping with my Mom, which is simply the best. We hit up the mall and a few favorite plazas. I now have three new favorite stores. If you're lucky enough to have them in your area, go there. Now. 

World Market. Have you been to one of these beautiful stores? It's like Pier 1 on steroids, but better. They have all types of goods from around the world, jewelery, soaps, candles, furniture, coffee, chocolate, wine, dinnerware, kitchen goods, home decor. Oh, how I wish there was one my area. I think the closest location is in Ohio. I wanted to buy gifts and food and goodies, but they wouldn't fit in my suitcase.

Charming Charlie. Accessory and bling heaven basically sums it up. I have been hearing about this new fashion accessory boutique popping up around town. As soon as I set foot inside the two-story shop in Phoenix, I knew this was my kind of store. Jewelery arranged by style and color. Big rings. A table devoted to cute owl necklaces. Scarves and bags. Earrings. Formal and casual accessories. I looked around, and it was good. Very good. 

Forever 21. I know, I'm officially the last girl on the planet to set foot inside a Forever 21 store. No excuse. But I finally did, and it took going to Arizona to do it, and I loved it. I had no idea. I definitely had a complete misconception of what the store was like. For starters, I could not believe how HUGE it was. The place iterally seemed to go on an on, from one side of the mall to the other. The selection was overwhelming. I've been in a lot of stores, and this one had my head spinning. I wasn't sure what I wanted to look at first.

I did buy the first thing I laid eyes on - this three strand gold necklace with little vintage style medallions. My jaw dropped when I looked at the price, expecting it to be a pretty penny, only to learn it was an affordable $5.99. I thought it was a joke. As I looked around the store, I couldn't get over how reasonably priced most of the items are. Shirts for $14.99. Dresses for $24. I got another necklace for $2.50. I think I may have found my new favorite place to shop. I will need a few hours next time. I'm glad we have one in our area.

I was even more impressed with Forever 21 when I got home and noticed the bottom of my little yellow shopping bag. On the gusset was printed John 3:16. How cool is that? I did some research and I learned that the Biblical quote is a demonstration of the owner's Christian faith. The company's story is detailed in this bloggers post. It's inspiring to see such a popular organization leaving their mark in the world and trying to reach their customers with the Gospel. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Back From the Desert

I've been back from Arizona a whole week already. It's hard to believe my trip has come and gone. This week was a bit of a blur, going back to work after almost 9 days of sunshine and a healthy dose of relaxation. It was a week full of blessings, big and small, and I came back refreshed. Only to catch a cold almost as soon as I stepped off the airplane back in chilly, rainy Rochester. All good things must come to an end! Makes me appreciate my trip even more. I did miss my husband the whole time I was gone and wished he could have been there with me. Somehow he managed to survive without me, living on hot dogs and not a lot of clean laundry. LOL.

The best part about my trip was getting to see my Dad and Mom and my Uncle Bob. 

I also got to meet Beau, my parents new lovable dog, a 6 year old Bichon Frise with the fluffiest fur. He and I got a long very well. 

It's such a treat going back "home" to visit my parents. When it's just me, it feels like I'm in college again, living at home, sleeping in, Mom making me breakfast. They spoil me with apple pie and home cooked meals. I love every minute of it. Even though it's not the house I grew up in, most of the furniture and decor is the same and it takes me back to my childhood. The pictures on the walls the blankets on the bed, the chairs in the living room. It always amazes me how the little things spark such memories. 

I still get a kick out of the different cacti. The prickly spikes and textures are so interesting. 

Try as I may, I wasn't able to capture a photo of a real humming bird buzzing and chirping in the back yard.  

The weather certainly delivered and temperatures reached 100 degrees! This was taken at 10:30 in the morning when the heat was still rising. Sunshine and blue skies. Every. Day. I loved it! 

Surrounding mountains in the distance. Immense and awe inspiring. It's impossible to relay their full beauty with a camera. 

I miss this spot. Lounging on the patio. Taking in the sunshine. Birds chirping in the morning. The still quiet night air. God's beautiful creation has so many forms. 

There have been many blog topics floating around inside my head, but it feels like I may have a case of bloggers-block (if there is such a thing). There's things I'd like to share and projects to tackle, but it's almost as if I need to wait until I "feel it." It's the same way with some design projects. You just know when you're ready to jump in. I think the desert sun did me some good, in that it caused me to slow down. Not stress over stuff. Take a look at what's really important to me. Something that's good for all of us to do from time to time. I was hardly on a computer the entire time I was away, and I kinda liked it. Some days it feels like a power cord is plugged into my brain and all I do is go from one screen to the next - work computer, phone, home computer, TV. Sometimes you need to cut the cord. I'm thankful I was able to do that for a few days. I have more to share about my trip another time. 

It's good to be home sweet home again.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Repainted Buffet Hutch

This project has been on my to-do list for a few years. I am so excited it's finally done! This hutch was a piece from my parents, that used to sit in our kitchen when I was growing up. My Mom would store her school books and papers in it. I have enjoyed this roomy storage unit since Andrew and I got married. I always envisioned painting it at some point. 

Here's how it used to look. Green with a light wood top and knobs. Since we were updating the green sitting room, I decided it was time to paint this piece as well. 

I went with white - clean and classic. I figured it would go with any room. It took about 3 coats of flat white paint, and two coats of polyurethane (top only). 

New brushed silver knobs - .79 cents each on clearance at Lowes!

After trying it in a couple different spots, I ended up liking the buffet under the wall of white frames in the corner of our living room. They compliment each other perfectly! And the two slipper chairs now sit in this nook too. Isn't it cute? I really like this corner.

One more look at the green before...

And the crisp white happily ever after! I might do something to the square panels on the front of the doors, but I haven't decided yet.

And if you're nosy like me, here's a peek at the stuff I stash away inside - table cloths (yes, I have quite a few), place mats, chargers, glassware and vases. I hope to use this piece for a long time, especially since it looks so pretty now!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Going to the Desert

I'm headed to Arizona for a week of business and fun! I will be attending the Pivot AIGA Design Conference in Phoenix. I am very excited about that. I've been looking forward to it for a few months. This will be my first big design conference - and I'm going solo. Eeek! I'm hoping to be inspired, learn from interesting professionals in the industry and meet other designers from all over. I don't quite know what to expect, but it should be an adventure! 

I'm also excited that I get to spend time with my Mom and Dad and my Uncle Bob, who live in Arizona. It will be a mini vacation! 

Especially since this is the 10 day forecast! Forget autumn - I'm going back in time to relive summer! Whoo hoo! Sun everyday? Check. Chance of rain = 0%. 

I may be a bit scarce around here for a little while, but I'll be sure to come back with good things to share. Gotta go pack my bag(s)! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Roasted Vegetables, Apples & Kielbasa

I found this recipe on our local newspaper's website. It's loaded with vegetables and flavor. Yes, those are Brussels sprouts. I decided to give them a try since I hardly ever make them. Andrew still doesn't like them, but at least he tried a few. He looked quite alarmed when I brought home a whole bag of the little cabbage-like greens! The recipe says it makes 6 servings, but it was more like enough to feed your whole family. On Thanksgiving. And then some. I've been eating a little bit every day! Here's my slightly modified recipe:

3-4 cups fresh Brussels' sprouts, halved
1 large red onion, cut into chunks
16 oz kielbasa, sliced in 1/2 inch-thick rounds (I used turkey kielbasa)
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (Yukon Gold or other)
2 baking apples, such as Cortland, peeled, cored and cut into chunks (not too small)
6 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil 
1 teaspoon dried parsley (or sage or herb of choice instead of parsley and oregano)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a very large bowl, toss together Brussels sprouts, onion, kielbasa, potatoes, apples and carrots. Drizzle olive oil over mixture, then toss again. Sprinkle in herbs, salt and pepper and toss one last time. Transfer mixture to a large, rimmed baking sheet, arranging in an even layer. Bake for 45 minutes, or until everything starts to carmamelize and brown at the edges. 

If you like roasted vegetables, with a little sweetness of apples, give this a try. The kielbasa makes it a bit heartier too, instead of just being all vegetables. A perfect fall side or even main dish. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pray for Stella

Please join me in praying for sweet little Stella and her family. Stella is almost 11 months old, and has a rare genetic disease, type 2 Gaucher's, for which there currently is no cure.

I grew up with Stella's mom, Kara, and her family has a special place in my heart. Kara and Dave have been faced with some very difficult decisions and have spent so much of their time in and out of hospitals, providing medical care for their little girl. My heart breaks for them. I can't stop thinking about Stella and all that her little body has already endured.

"For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." 
Ephesians 3:14-21

Thank you for your prayers. You can learn more about the Gagliano family in this news article or visit the Stars for Stella cause page.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Favorite Fall Treats

The air is getting colder. The leaves are turning red and gold (and falling). It's definitely scarf wearing weather. I have a list of treats with fall flavors that make me not mind the cooler temperatures. What better way to start the day, than with Starbucks Perfect Oatmeal? It really is the best oatmeal to-go. 100% whole grain oats, with separate toppings like brown sugar, dried fruit and mixed nuts. It's warm and scrumptious on those chilly mornings. I would have to agree that it really is pretty perfect. 

What's the perfect beverage to go with your perfect oatmeal? Starbucks Caramel Apple Spice. Steamed apple juice, sweetened with cinnamon syrup, topped with whipped cream and caramel. I just love these! 

My other weakness is Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. Espresso, pumpkin-flavored syrup and steamed milk, topped with whipped cream and pumpkin pie spices. So delicious! 

When I'm not at the Starbuck's drive-through, I might be at McDonald's for their Fruit and Maple Oatmeal, which comes in at a close second. 100% whole gain oats with brown sugar, a touch of cream and dried fruit and fresh apples. I do like the fresh apples and the more affordable price. 

Moving on to muffins. Tim Horton's has a pumpkin spice muffin with a dollop of icing in the middle and (what I think are) pumpkin seeds on the outside. Really tasty. But it's seasonal, so enjoy them while you can!
Wegmans has a mean whole wheat pumpkin muffin, (not pictured) which is a good source of fiber and is absolutely delicious.

Last week I stumbled upon a flavor that I didn't know existed - Abbots Pumpkin Frozen Custard (not pictured). If you're not familiar with Abbots, their custard is richer and creamier than regular ice cream. It's a must have during summer in Rochester. It was like chilled creamy pumpkin pie - I loved it! 

Although Dunkin Donuts isn't at the top of my list, I really like their pumpkin coffee. Great for those mornings when I need a boost of energy!

Are you hungry yet? Those are a few of my favorite fall treats that make saying "See ya next year" to summer, a little less painful. Anything pumpkin, apple, cinnamon, or caramel flavored gets me excited. Here's to the flavors of fall!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

My (not so) Storybook Life by Elizabeth Owen

One of my favorite bloggers, Liz Owen from Mable's House, is a talented writer. Her new book My (not so) Storybook Life: A Tale of Friendship and Faith, is being released this month. I got a sneak peek at the book on, where you can purchase hardcover and Kindle edition. I'm looking forward to reading it and I have a feeling it will be both deeply personal and humorous as well as inspirational - much like Liz's blog. 

Liz has provided the except below to pique your interest. I would like to show her some support and I'd love to win an advance copy of her book!

Once one has breathed in the deep pungent aroma of sewage, you never again forget the nose-hair singeing, eye clawing, throat gagging experience. It comes over you slowly. You begin to feel like a character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as your muscles involuntarily jerk and you run screaming and blowing raspberries. Anything to get away from the mind-numbing stench.
But let me explain.
It was 6:30 a.m. I was standing in my retro pink tiled bathroom trying to open my bleary eyes and ready myself for work. As I stood there, peering into the mirror and wondering what demented nighttime fairy had planted four new wrinkles on my face, I paused and sniffed.
“Matt… what’s that smell?”
Matt staggered from the bedroom in his underwear, eyes half shut. “I don’t smell anything.”
I pointed my nose into the air like a hunting dog. “Seriously? You can’t smell that? Did you go to the bathroom in here earlier? I told you to use the room spray when you do things like that.”
Matt puffed out his bare chest and gathered his pride as best a man can with sleep in his eyes and a small hole in the side of his underwear. “I just woke up!”
I frowned, catching a glimpse of my makeup-less hot-rollers-in-hair state and tried not to think about the fact that I looked fifty instead of twenty-nine. “Well, help me figure this out. Because something smells ripe.”
We sniffed the sink drain and ruled it out as a suspect.
“Is it coming from the toilet?” Matt asked, examining it from top to bottom.
“No, that’s not it,” I snapped. I’m not known for my milk of human kindness in a disaster. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a survivor. I plan on eating my radish like Scarlet and clawing my way out of the nuclear dust while dragging my loved ones with me. But I won’t be doing it with positive phrases and a smile.
“Hon, I just don’t know. We’ll call a plumber after work, maybe it’s coming from under the house.” Matt staggered a little, trying to get past me and out of our tiny bathroom.
“Well, that’s just great,” I moved aside and pulled the shower curtain back so I could perch on the side of the tub and give Matt room to move out the door.
That’s when the full brunt of nastiness filled the air around us, a swirling mix of excrement and acrid stench that would have brought the sewer dwelling Ninja Turtles to their knees. Where the normally slightly-clean-with-a-hint-of-soap-scum bottom of the tub should have been, there sloshed gallons and gallons of brown sewage.
I clutched the front of my sweatshirt and held my breath. Matt began to dry heave.
“Get out and shut the door!” I screamed as we bumbled into the hallway.
“I’ll deal with this,” Matt grabbed my shoulders, trying to talk and hold his breath at the same time.
I could feel my eyes glaze over, the horrors of typhoid and hepatitis in our bathtub filling my mind. But more importantly, I could envision our evaporated savings account. In my mind’s eye I could see the long, gray hallway at the bank. A worker shrouded in a black suit pulled a set of keys from his pocket and unlatched a small locker labeled “Owen Bank Account.” Inside were two small stacks of quarters and a few crumpled dollar bills. It was bleak, not only because the banker with an unimaginative wardrobe gazed at me with an expression that could only be interpreted as “You’re a Big Fat Loser,” but also there was a very definite possibility we wouldn’t be able to pay for a plumber.
I wasn’t necessarily a spend thrift. In fact, I was downright frugal when it came to decorating with thrift store furniture and rewired vintage lamps. But the fact was, we were poor. We were starting out at starter jobs with starter salaries. We were starter adults with a starter bank account.
“Okay,” I nodded numbly, thankful that Matt was taking the lead on such a disastrous biohazard. “But make sure the plumber is super cheap. We don’t have much money!”
I left for work like a wino stumbling through a fog, not really remembering my commute, not really doing any work as I sipped my coffee and stared blankly at the computer screen. A disaster of such gargantuan proportions had previously been unthinkable in my life, and now I found myself attempting to push the image of a vast sea of bathtub poop from my mind. But I was sure of one thing: Anne Shirley never had to get ready for work while breathing raw sewage.