{Recipe} Butternut Squash Soup

Chicago has been experiencing some unseasonably warm weather for this time of year. It has been glorious! Until yesterday that is, when we got our first day of what felt like full blown winter. What better way to warm up than with a savory bowl of soup? This butternut squash soup will not disappoint!

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Ingredients

1 large butternut squash (about 2 lbs)
1 honey crisp apple, peeled & shredded
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
 1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk
2 cups chicken stock
 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Instructions

  1. In a large stockpot, melt the butter on low heat
  2. Add the onions, garlic, apple and squash and cook on low heat, covered, stirring occasionally until translucent but not brown, 30 minutes to an hour
  3. Add the chicken stock and spices; cook two hours, until contents are soft
  4. Add the cream cheese and milk
  5. With an immersion blender, mix soup until smooth and creamy
  6. Season with salt and pepper

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Packing for 2 weeks in a carry on

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We recently returned from a 2 week trip to Italy for our honeymoon and I have been asked “how did you pack for that many days in a carry on?” The key is packing as light as possible; knowing we would be traveling to different parts of Italy by train every 3-4 days, I knew I didn’t want to be lugging a huge suitcase all over the country.

Here are some tips:

  1. Research your destination. What will the weather be like? Are there any cultural sensitivities or clothing not acceptable in certain places? (ex: churches, temples, museums).
  2. Consider your activities. We did a lot of walking, excursions and beach time on our trip. I opted to leave my heels behind (hello cobblestone streets) and bring a pair of black flats that helped dress up an outfit instead.
  3. Plan out your outfits. It’s totally worth the effort and helps prevent overpacking. Pick versatile pieces you can mix and match and add accessories for different looks.
  4. Pare down your makeup and toiletries. Leave behind the bulky hairdryer, as most hotels and AirBnB’s provide you with one. If you must bring one, travel sized is best.
  5. Tightly roll everything. Rolling takes up less space than laying clothing flat, and minimizes wrinkling.
  6. Leave some space. Leave some extra room in your suitcase for a few travel treasures to bring home.

Without further ado, here is what I took on our 2 week long vacation to Italy, packed only in my carry on.

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Using Poshmark to sell my closet

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The story begins when I decided it was time to do something about my closet. I accumulated a ridiculous amount of clothing over the years and was bad at letting things go. In the past I’ve taken clothes to a consignment store, but on a whim decided to try out Poshmark… and am so glad I did.

What’s Poshmark?

It’s a marketplace where you can sell gently-used items from your closet and buy items from other ladies’ closets. You can use Poshmark through the iOS and Android apps or computer browser. The Poshmark app is so easy to use! To sell, you simply take photos of the items you want to sell directly through the app. Then, you fill in the information, like brand, size, price, and a description. It seriously only takes minutes to put up a listing.

Potential buyers can use the “Buy Now” option and snatch something up on the spot. Or, they can make you an offer, which you can choose to accept or submit a counter offer. Once you negotiate a price you both like, you’ve got yourself a sale! Once you sell something, Poshmark emails you a pre-paid USPS Priority Mail shipping label that you print out and attach to your box or mailer. Then, you simply ship your item!

Once the customer receives their item, they must “accept” it through the app, which releases your earnings. Poshmark takes a 20% commission on every sale over $15 and $2.95 on sales under $15.

You can have your earnings direct deposited into your bank account, or you can request a check through the mail. Or, you can use your earnings to shop on Poshmark.

How Much I’ve Made on  Poshmark

I’ll go ahead and disclose that I have sold 24 listings totaling $458, which makes me a Top 10% Seller! Check out my closet HERE. Some of the listings were “bundles,” which means multiple items were included in the sale. That’s an average of $19 per listing sold, which I’m confident is more than I would have made taking the same items to the consignment store. Some women make THOUSANDS on there, especially if they’re selling luxury items.

My Top 5 Poshmark Selling Tips

  1. List a lot: The more items you have in your closet, the more visible it will be.
  2. Have realistic prices: At the end of the day, I’m selling my USED clothes. No one is going to pay $15 for a used Forever21 top, because they could go get a new one for that price. HOWEVER, I do usually list a little higher than the price I think is fair so there’s room for negotiation.
  3. Use nice photos & thorough descriptions: I take photos on my iPhone directly through the Poshmark App. I try to take photos during the day when there’s natural light in my house. In the descriptions I am as descriptive as possible. I share measurements when I think it would be helpful. If there is any damage to a piece, I disclose that. If something runs small or large, I also disclose that.
  4. Encourage bundles: A bundle is where a buyer chooses more than one item from your closet to purchase at once. It’s great for the buyer because they only have to pay shipping once (Posh’s standard shipping is $5.95). It’s great for you because you get to clear multiple things out of your closet at once. In your Poshmark settings you can create an auto-discount for people who purchase multiple items. For example, I give customers 10% off automatically if they purchase two or more items.
  5. Participate in shipping specials & sales: Pretty frequently, Poshmark does deals where if you drop the price of an item at least 10%, anyone who likes that item will get discounted shipping (sometimes as low as $.99).

Have fun and happy selling!

Blueberry Everything {Recipe}

What do you do with 6 lbs. of freshly picked, Michigan blueberries? Answer: you bake. Bake a lot. I made the best ever blueberry muffins, lattice-top blueberry pie, and a blueberry cobbler. After all that baking, I still had blueberries leftover to eat plain, put in Greek yogurt, and add to vanilla ice cream! Sheesh, no wonder I’ve put on a few extra lbs!

You guys, Michigan is the best. It’s where I grew up spending the majority of my summer days on the lake, and picking fresh fruit and vegetables at farms. See for yourself:

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Blueberry Muffins:

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Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • About 1 tablespoon white sugar for the top (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. You may want to lightly grease your muffin tin so that the crown of the muffin doesn’t stick to the pan (I didn’t though).
  2. Combine the sugar, egg, oil, milk, and vanilla in a bowl and stir until well combined.
  3. Add the flour, baking powder and salt. I stir the baking powder and salt into the flour right on top of the wet ingredients so I don’t have to get out another bowl. Once the baking powder and salt are pretty well distributed in the flour, stir them into the wet ingredients until combined. Don’t over mix. Just stir until it’s no longer lumpy.
  4. Stir in the Greek yogurt just until well distributed. Fold in the blueberries (I left about half for the top so some would be visible on the crown of the muffin).
  5. Evenly distribute the batter in the muffin tin. If you are making 8 high crowned muffins, you will be filling them all the way to the top. If you want to make shorter muffins you could probably fill 12. If you saved some berries for the top, sprinkle them on and press them in lightly. Sprinkle the tops with the 1 tablespoon of sugar if you want.
  6. Bake muffins for about 30 minutes.

 

Lattice-top Blueberry Pie:

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Ingredients:

  • Pilsbury double pie crust
  • 5 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Directions:

  1. Roll out one pie crust half and place in 9-inch pie pan. Trim edge to 1/2-inch beyond rim. Heat oven to 400°F.
  2. Rinse and drain blueberries. Put into a bowl. Toss lightly with sugar, flour, salt and lemon peel. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Drizzle lemon juice over filling. Dot with butter.
  3. Roll out remaining pastry. Cut into strips about 1/2-inch wide. Place 4 to 5 strips across filling in pie shell. Angle 4 to 5 strips across first ones. Weave strips in crisscross fashion to form lattice top. Trim ends. Fold trimmed edge of lower crust over ends of strips. Seal and flute.
  4. Bake 55 minutes until crust is golden. Cool on rack.
  5. Serve with scoops of ice cream, if desired (….I guess).

 

Blueberry Cobbler:

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Ingredients:

For the Blueberry Filling

  • 6 cups fresh blueberries, sorted, rinsed and dried
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons flour

For the Buttery Biscuit Crumble Topping

  • 1 cup plus 5 tablespoons flour
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled & cut into bits
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg, optional

Directions:

  1. Arrange oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 375ºF.
  2. Prepare the Blueberry Filling: Place blueberries into prepared baking dish. In a small bowl, combine sugar and lemon zest. (I like to work the zest into the sugar with my fingers to release the essential oils for maximum flavor.) Add the flour and whisk until thoroughly combined. Sprinkle mixture evenly over berries in prepared baking dish and toss gently. Make sure the sugar and flour mixture is evenly distributed over the fruit with no mounding in the center or in any one place. This will ensure the sugar will caramelize and the flour will thicken evenly throughout the cobbler with the berry juices. Set aside.
  3. Prepare the Buttery Biscuit Crumble Topping: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt until well combined. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal with small pea-sized pieces of butter. In a small bowl, whisk vanilla into beaten egg using a fork. With a fork, gently toss beaten egg and vanilla into flour mixture until moistened and dough starts to hold together. Continue to toss and blend gently with fingertips until well combined yet taking care not to overwork the dough.
  4. Assemble the Cobbler: Sprinkle biscuit crumble topping evenly over fruit filling. Sprinkle biscuit crumble topping with sugar and, if desired, dust with freshly grated nutmeg. Alternatively, dust with cinnamon-sugar combining sugar and cinnamon before sprinkling over topping. If desired, dust freshly grated nutmeg over cinnamon-sugar.
  5. Bake the Cobbler: Bake in preheated oven until topping is golden brown and filling is cooked through and bubbly, about 40 to 45 minutes. To prevent over-browning of topping, cover with sheet of aluminum foil after 25 minutes of baking. Remove foil and carefully transfer to wire rack to cool.

{Wedding} the vision

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Confession: I have been planning my fictitious wedding on secret Pinterest boards since shortly after G and I started dating. Hey, when you know, you know! But it wasn’t until after we got engaged that my vision completely changed.

I realized many of my saved pins were so overdone- I’m looking at you, blush bridesmaid dresses. And I knew I didn’t want to look back at our photographs ten years from now and think “our wedding is so 2016”, the way I do when I look at my parents’ wedding from the 80’s.  It didn’t take long to discover we wanted to bring a classic and timeless vibe, but without being too stuffy or boring.

Our ceremony and reception will be held in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, where we met and lived at that time. Both the Church and restaurant convey a classic, old Chicago feel, which we fell in love with immediately.

One thing we’ve heard continuously throughout the wedding planning process is how amazing the food is at our reception venue. We were absolutely blown away at our tasting. It was so difficult finalizing our menu because everything was so delicious! And we had a serious dessert dilemma when choosing between their to die for tiramisu and a traditional wedding cake in the yummiest lemon flavor you will ever put in your mouth.

We decided on offering our guests a choice of lemon chicken, baked salmon, and veal marsala. How cute is that little stamp indicating guests meal selections on place the card? Paper Source sells these adorable menu stamps, perfect for a small DIY project.

I provided our florist a list of my favorite flowers and our color scheme, and she nailed our mock-up by creating lovely blush and white centerpieces and bouquets that will accent the pale blue/grey bridesmaids dresses beautifully. She used peonies, ranunculus, hydrangea, stock, roses, dusty miller and silver dollar eucalyptus to achieve a romantic and slightly vintage feel we love.

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Since we will be getting married on Memorial Day weekend, we thought what better way to observe the holiday by adding some patriotic panache to our classic and timeless affair. We will have personalized American flags for guests to wave as we exit the Church, the guys will be sporting red, white, and blue socks,  and we will have a sparkler exit to end the night.

{Recipe} Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Today is a beautiful spring day in Chicago, with temps being in the high 60’s. The perfect day to grill and celebrate your best friend’s birthday! (Hi Kristen!) Our group of girls loves all things cheese, so spinach and artichoke dip is the perfect appetizer for a special (or any) occasion.

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Ingredients:

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 can artichoke hearts (14 oz.) chopped
1 package (10 oz.) frozen spinach, thawed
4 cloves garlic
Cayenne pepper
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together parmesan and mozzarella cheese, spinach and artichoke hearts
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together sour cream, cream cheese, and garlic. Add to spinach mixture and mix until combined
  4. Pour in an oven safe bowl and bake for 25 minutes
  5. Serve and enjoy!

 

{Recipe} Oh the weather outside is frightful…

It’s pretty nasty outside today. I don’t know about you guys, but I am SO not prepared for this impending winter weather we have recently been experiencing. I was hoping it would just stay Indian summer mode until spring. I guess Mother Nature has other plans. But an easy way to beat the cold, is by indulging in some yummy homemade French Onion Soup. This recipe is super easy and actually could even be made in your slow cooker.

Bowl of French Onion Soup with a Goats Cheese Crouton
Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 4 onions, sliced thin
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 6 oz beer
  • 12 oz beef stock
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • Black pepper
  • Gruyere cheese
  • Baguette, sliced

Directions:

  1. In a large stock pot, add the butter, onions, garlic, balsamic and sugar. Mix well, and cook until onions are soft and caramelized, stirring frequently
  2. Add the flour, and mix. Then add the beer, stock, thyme, and plenty of black pepper, and mix well again. Simmer, about 60 minutes
  3. To serve, spoon the soup into heat-proof bowls, and top with a slice of bread and some cheese. Broil for a few minutes, until the cheese is crispy. Alternatively, if you don’t have heat-proof bowls, lay the bread on a baking sheet and top with the cheese. Broil for several minutes, and then serve the cheesy bread on top of the soup.

 

 

 

{diy} Our tiny apartment and a coffee table re-do

The day we moved into our apartment, we were shocked by how small it actually was. This can’t be it, we thought; it didn’t look this tiny when we visited a few months ago. But we made do and have actually come to like it. Or maybe it’s the in-unit washer/dryer that makes us think that way.

For months, I was on the hunt for a coffee table that would be a better fit in our tiny living room. My list of must have’s for the new table were: round shape, smaller & shorter than the mammoth current table, and made of high-quality, sturdy wood. And now, I am happy to say I have found a table that hit everything on my checklist!

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This bad boy was bought on etsy and the seller even delivered it to our apartment for free. As you can see, it is painted and distressed in a grey color- cute but not really our style. I knew immediately I wanted to strip the paint and re-stain in a dark espresso color. And that is what we did!

Supplies:

Citristrip Stripping Gel
Old paintbrush
Garbage bags
Mr. Clean Multi Surfaces Cleaner
Sponge
Palm sander with 120 grit paper
Lint free cloth
Minwax Wood Finish in Ebony
Minwax Wipe on Poly
Steel wool
Tack Cloth

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I evenly applied a thick coat of Citristrip with an old paintbrush over the entire table. I then placed garbage bags directly to the top, sides and legs. (The Citristrip should still be wet). Pat down and make sure it’s “stuck” to the sides. After a few hours, I checked to see what was happening under the bag and began scraping the gunky Citristrip/paint with a spackle knife. The paint came off extremely easy. Seriously, I was going over it with only one scrape and the paint was practically just sliding off.

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Lookin good! Once the paint was completely removed, I filled a bucket of warm water with Mr. Clean Multi Surfaces Cleaner (safe to use on wood) and sponge cleaned any left over grime.

Wait 24 hours to dry.

After the table is completely dry, sand down the wood to create a nice even surface before staining. I used 120 grit sandpaper (a medium grit) to smooth out the surface, sides and legs. Be sure to sand with the grain of the wood!

Then, I wiped down the table with Mr. Clean again to get rid of any dust and dirt.

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Once the table is dry, it’s time to stain. I put on some rubber gloves and got to work.

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I went with the color “ebony” because I wanted a rich, dark, almost black color for the table. I used a clean paintbrush to wipe a thin layer of stain on to the wood, going with the grain. You could tell the table was thirsty because it happily soaked up the first coat of stain.

After about 10 minutes, I used a dry cloth to wipe up any excess stain. Make sure you don’t press down too hard when you wipe, but definitely wipe up any extra stain that is on the surface.

I then waited 24 hours and checked on the table again. The color wasn’t quite dark enough for me, so I decided to go for another coat of stain. I repeated the staining process, this time leaving the stain on for 20 minutes to soak in before wiping it up.

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To seal and protect the stained wood, I used a wipe-on poly. I literally just poured it directly onto the coffee table and wiped an even coat with a soft, lint free cloth. After it dried (about 3-4 hours), I used steel wool to lightly buff out the wood, and a tack cloth to wipe up any dust. I repeated this process 2 more times, for a total of 3 coats of wipe-on poly.

IMG_5447I’m in love with our little round table!

[Recipe] Baked Lemon Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce over Kale

I am a huge seafood lover and this is hands-down, my favorite salmon recipe. I had to share!

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Baked Lemon Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce over Kale

Ingredients:

4 6 oz. salmon filets
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Creamy Dill Sauce

1/3 cup plain Greek Yogurt
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
2-3 tsp. milk
1/2 tsp. honey
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice. Season salmon with salt and pepper. Drizzle tops evenly with lemon mixture, and gently rub over salmon. Bake 15-20 minutes.

For the Sauce:

In a bowl, mix together Greek Yogurt, garlic, dill, honey, and enough milk to reach desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Store in refrigerator, about 20 minutes to chill.

While the salmon is in the oven and the sauce is chilling, saute kale until bright green.

Place salmon over kale and top with creamy dill sauce. Enjoy!

[Recipe] Skinny Chicken Pot Pie Soup

It’s been cold and snowy here in Chicago, so what better way to warm up than with some chicken pot pie? This lightened up alternative is just as good as mom’s but with fewer calories. I made mine with Grand’s Flaky Layers Biscuits and it turned out dee-licious! Mmm.

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Skinny Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups celery, chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 chicken bouillions
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dash of thyme
  • 10 oz. frozen mixed vegetables
  • 5 red potatoes, cubed
  • 1 1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, shredded

Directions:

  1. Bring water to a boil, add thawed chicken breast and cook for 15-20 minutes or until done
  2. Shred chicken, set aside
  3. In a large pot, bring milk and 1/2 cups water to a boil
  4. Add celery, onion, potatoes, frozen vegetables, chicken bouillions, thyme, salt & pepper
  5. Partially cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes until vegetables are soft
  6. Add shredded chicken
  7. Combine remaining 1/2 cup water with 1/4 cup flour and whisk until well blended
  8. Add flour mixture to soup, stirring frequently until soup thickens
  9. Adjust salt & pepper to taste
  10. Serve with Grands Flaky Layers Biscuits and enjoy!