family-style cooking…

Unfortunately, I tend to worry. I also tend to be a people pleaser. Don’t get me wrong, I can definitely stand up for myself and I have my own opinions, but I generally want others to be happy…and I sometimes see it as my job to help them get there.
This is a problem on vacations when I feel like I need to bring something home to show family that I was thinking of them while I was away. I can spend a good chunk of time worried over finding a meaningful gift for each person that is within budget…it’s a difficult task…especially when you’re in Europe dealing with the added problem of a weak dollar.
In Rome I focused on enjoying myself during the first part of the week, but as our return flight edged closer I began to scope out gifts and panicked when I realized that budget, meaning and luggage space were definitely going colide in a way that made it immpossible for me to accomplish finding anything.
And then my genius husband came to my rescue.

After making several local Italian friends who schooled him on different areas of his native culture, he purchased three jars of a sauce called “Nduja” (it comes from the region his family originates in Italy) to share with his family at a big dinner some night upon our return. And then he called it a day. Ah, to be so uncomplicated.
I, on the other hand, still looked and worried and looked and worried over what I should get my family. Finally, he convinced me that I should do something similar with my family and we ended up purchasing a bottle of wine, a block of cheese and some chocolates.
This Sunday, I will be cooking an Italian family-style meal for my family and sharing all the goodies we brought home for them in a way that also allows us to share some stories and quality time.
Genius.

I have been looking over recipes trying to find the perfect Italian recipe to share…I think I’m going with homemade pesto pasta, since it was a favorite of mine over there.


Wish me luck…I’ve never made pesto before, but I believe I’m up to the challenge. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Here’s the recipe I’m thinking about using, in case anyone feels like trying it for themselves:

Ingredients
2 cups basil leaves
2 cups arugula leaves
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 tablespoons walnuts
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled
3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/3 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 cups hot cooked linguine (about 1 pound uncooked pasta)

Preparation
Place first 6 ingredients in a food processor; pulse 7 or 8 times or until mixture forms a smooth paste. Add cheese, broth, salt, and pepper; pulse until combined. Combine pesto and pasta in a large bowl, tossing to coat.

Oh, and by the way, the Naniamo bars were excellent!!

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italian beauty…

We got back from Italy Monday night and still haven’t fully adjusted to all the time jumping, hence the reason I’m up drinking coffee and writing before 6 a.m. It will all even out soon, but I’m trying to make the most of these spare awake hours while I have them.
Before I post anything about the trip, or post our own pictures I have to get into the Italian fashion trends that were most prominent. I’m not sure you could even call them trends. Actually, I was looking for more of the “fashion average” so to speak. Not necessarily what the most daring among them was wearing, but the feature or fashion that most Italian women seemed to have in common.
I picked up on a few.
1) Well-tended eyebrows
Let’s face it, pretty much everyone looks better with eyebrows that are in check. Most Italian women must subscribe to that theory as well since almost all of them – young and old from all different areas of society – have perfectly tweezed eyebrows. I pointed this fact out to Michael and he mentioned that he had noticed it wasn’t just the women who tended to their eyebrows, many of the men also kept a tweezed brow in a way that didn’t necessarily look over done or even very noticeable, just well tended.


2) Boots
Boots are probably “in” anywhere the temperature falls below 50 degrees, but let’s face it…when you live in a country known for your fashion houses and leather production, you are probably a step beyond the average American town with a Payless or a Target. The boots these women wore were beautiful, in variations much further along than what the average Atlantan wears. There were over-the-knee (which I’ve wanted since I first saw them last spring, as many of you can attest!), ankle boots, strappy boots, heeled and flat in a range of colors that would be very at home inside of a rainbow.
Oh, how I wanted to splurge and buy the most beautiful pair of boots strolling along Via Condotti! But “champagne taste on a beer budget” just doesn’t work for us, unfortunately. I pointed out so many boots to Michael, he told me I should buy some…what a good husband. Although, I didn’t take his advise and our bank account is the better for it, even if my closet isn’t.


3)Wool leggings
Most leggings here in the south are made of nylon or cotton, which may have more to do with the mild winter (even though it doesn’t feel mild to me!) than any kind of fashion sense. But in Rome the leggings were so intricate and made of a heavier wool or cotton blend. I think this look is easily translateable since the Roman climate mirrors our own quite a bit.

4)Skinny or straight-leg jeans only!
I literally didn’t see one jeans-wearing person who wore anything other than these two slim-leg options. I’m not quite sure I’m ready to give up my bootcut during the summer months when a t-shirt, flip flops and a pair of great bootleg jeans make me feel very free and ruggedly American for some reason. But for the winter I’m pretty much with the Italians.


5)Dark eyes
Last but not least, the make-up….We’ve stared in wide eyed wonder at the easy sensuality of Italian women since film starlets like Sophia Loren graced our silver screens. But the thing I noticed is that most of the Italian women I saw – from the metro to Via Condotti and Via Cavour – kept a clean, bare-looking face, only highlighted with a swipe of smudgy eyeliner and mascara. Oh, there were exceptions to the rule and definitely other makeup trends, but pretty much across the board women didn’t leave home without their eyes lined. I’m not talking all smoky and glamorous, just a simple deeping of their eyes. It’s a sensual and mysterious look that dates back to Cleopatra, which is probably where the Romans got the idea in the first place. Because, let’s face it, who couldn’t benefit from feeling a tiny bit mysterious 😉

inspirational compilations…

I don’t feel very well today, so I am distracting myself with inspirational blogs.

There are some really good ones out there.

I don’t really feel like moving and at the same time I feel like running out and trying to spruce up my house on the cheap. Instead, I think I’ll compile some of my latest inspirations into a file so that I can continually refer to them. While I do that…check out this post on decor8.

I LOVE the way the photos make me feel, it makes me want to design a space around them. I probably won’t ever do it, but I love thinking about it for now.

home improvement…

Some of you know that my brother and his family moved in with us last year. We had the extra space for them, we just needed to do a little bit of renovation for us.

Somehow, I don’t think that need for renovation will ever end… 😉

To accomodate them, we gave them the two bedrooms and Jack/Jill bathrooms upstairs, as well as the finished basement space. But that meant Michael (and his dad and brothers) had to get to work on our own master bedroom/bathroom, which we had been using as storage space previously.

The master in this house was hardly “master.” It consisted of a strange hallway space that could be closed off, a small bedroom and a weirdly shaped, very dark, bathroom that is hard to explain unless you saw it. Additionally, there was no half-bath/”powder room” anywhere in the house.

We’re still not completely done…we need a few little touch ups here and there (ie. doorknobs, switch plates, drawer pull, ect.) But it’s light years away from where we started….see for yourself…

Oh, and stupidly I didn’t take pictures before the work started…I remembered to take pictures only once the entire space had been gutted. Here they are:

was the toilet and stall shower room...soon to become the half-bath

the "almost" finished product...we still need to touch up the ceiling and add crown molding

facing the bathroom then

facing the bathroom now

what will be my vanity and the toilet room...

my vanity now

the toilet room now

Michael hard at work building our new bathroom...he and his dad did everything from plumbing to electrical and tile...amazing!

the gorgeous shower (this is where Michael was standing in the previous picture)

from the bathroom looking out to where the bedroom will be

and now...

then...

and now...

we've improvised using cool old leather chairs as side tables until we get a new bedroom set one of these days...

the subfloor....

and finally the new tile...Michael's pride and glory...