Notebooks

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I love notebooks. The cute ones.

I’m old-school in the way that I love to write little notes. When writing an article [or blog post], I’d rather write it on paper first. The other day when browsing some of my favorite sites, I came across this adorable and motivating journal from Urban Behavior with the words “carpe diem” across the front. Carpe diem is a well-known Latin saying meaning “seize the day.” Something about having those “go-getter” words right there in front of me when writing gives me a little more of a boost to write my best.

My current journal is similar. It was a TJ Maxx purchase [for $4]! It’s in my bag everywhere I go.

follow your heart. live your dream. be passionate. happiness is yours to take. never give up. your energy is limitless. embrace possibility. love your life.

Happy weekend! Hope this gives a little Friday inspiration on this rainy day in Connecticut. Go on out and find yourself the perfect motivational notebook. I guarantee it will put a smile on your face.

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Homemade… Laundry Detergent

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I’ve been researching making my own laundry detergent for a while now. I’m big into authentic and homemade.  Rather than purchasing Tide detergent for outstanding prices and having no certainty what mixture of chemicals are being used to wash my clothing, I fell into this little trend of homemade detergent.

So many of the recipes that I have stumbled across involve grating three bars of soap. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s the lazy side of me, but I would rather not spend my free time grating soap. I have done it once before when making homemade hand soap, and boy, was it tedious. So I turned to Etsy and came across the shop HomeGrownCreations89. Her laundry detergent is awesome. Well worth waiting the couple days shipping. Best part: clothes smell so much better than standard Tide… and you get a cute mason jar to get creative with when the detergent is all gone.

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Eggplant Dish

When it comes to figuring out what to make for dinner, I’d say about 75 percent of the meals created are done so on a whim by my boyfriend. I don’t think he knew he was this creative with food until he met me and was forced to fend for himself more times than not. He did, after all, have to transition from an incredible Portuguese cook of a mom to me, the daughter who takes after her father in the kitchen [love you Dad]. Granted, I love attempting to cook and learning new techniques and recipes, but I am in no way a top chef.

So the other day in the grocery store, I glance down to see the shopping cart full of eggplant and spinach. Spinach is a staple in our kitchen. It adds nutrients, color and flavor to just about anything – and it is so easy to cook! But we had not bought eggplant in quite some time. My boyfriend [whose name is Hobson, and I think I’ll refer to as H from here on out :)] proceeds to explain his idea for dinner that night. Hearing about it was almost as mouthwatering as smelling it in the kitchen a couple of hours later.

I know you are all itching for the recipe, so here it is. One of a kind.

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Eggplant Layered with Spinach and Assorted Cheeses

Serves 2

Ingredients
1 eggplant
1 cup spinach
swiss cheese (block)
goat cheese
olive oil
tomato sauce
1/4 cup wine
grated parmesean cheese
oregano
basil
parsley
dill weed
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. Cut the eggplant into six strips. Depending on size, you may have one extra piece of eggplant. Coat eggplant in flour and place in pan with oil on medium heat. Cook each side until brown.
3. In another saucepan, take spinach and a dash of olive oil and cook in pan on low heat.
4. Take browned eggplant and place biggest pieces on bottom. Layer spinach on each piece. Put next smallest piece of eggplant on top. Layer two thin slices of swiss cheese. Put final large piece of eggplant on top. If you had a leftover piece of eggplant, cut in half. Place tablespoon of goat cheese on top, and cover it with the smaller eggplant. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
5. For the sauce, take 1/2 cup tomato sauce and place in saucepan. Add dried oregano, basil, parsley, and dill weed. Add wine and 1/8 cup of grated cheese. Stir. Keep on low heat until ready to be placed on top of eggplant.
enjoy!

Flea Market Heaven

Jars galore.

Jars galore.

I’m on the hunt for a new piece of furniture to hold our television. Currently, it sits on an old peeling Walmart television stand that is slowly but surely bowing in the center. Not very pretty.

I love original pieces with a story behind them. The best part is that bargain deals are not just limited to cheap Walmart furniture that will fall apart within months [case in point with my current television stand]. The trick is patience in your search. Garage sales and flea markets are secretly treasure chests. I’m lucky to live not 20 minutes from one of the best flea markets on the East Coast: the Elephant’s Trunk. I would be there every Sunday morning if I could. Yesterday, that’s where our day began.

Unfortunately, the search for a television stand was not completed yesterday, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a successful day! We bought this handmade rustic “wine country” sign for our bar. We’re winos. Vineyard visits are some of our favorite excursions. All of our wine currently on our bar [and in our fridge] is from recent trips to local wineries, so this sign just screamed at us. The best part? Only $5. My guess is you’d pay anywhere from $10 to $20 for a machine made sign similar in any department store. I’ll take authenticity anyday.

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Flea markets are also great for buying local foods. This past weekend’s flea market outing was complete with fresh squeezed lemonade, egg sandwichs and a bag full of Italian goodies, including sharp provolone cheese and sausages.

I can’t wait to find the perfect stand for our television but for now, the hunt is so much fun!

HGTV's Flea Market Flip filming at the Elephant's Trunk.

HGTV’s Flea Market Flip filming at the Elephant’s Trunk.

New Orleans Vacation Prep

My only baby sister [well, my only sibling at all] just graduated college this past month with a Bachelor’s degree in Studio Art. She had hinted at us a while back that she did not want any “things” for graduation gifts. So, instead of buying her some token that would sit on her dresser for the next ten years collecting dust, we [meaning my parents, her boyfriend, my boyfriend and myself] decided a nice getaway would be appropriate. After much research and collaboration, plane tickets were bought and hotel rooms booked for a week-long vacation to New Orleans, Louisiana. Originally, my parents were supposed to come along, but scheduling conflicts left my sister, her boyfriend, my boyfriend and myself. None of us have ever been to New Orleans, so we are all very excited. We embark on this fun little trip in July. Yes… We’re all very much aware of just how hot it is going to be. Nevertheless, we are all so ready.

Brainstorming a way to give the gift to my sister was a fun task. In the end, I ended up at the dollar store sifting through the Mardi Gras section in the party aisle. Masks, beaded necklaces, and other Mardi Gras party necessities were wrapped in tissue paper in a gift bag. Her first guess was Venice. Wishful thinking, sis. At the bottom of the bag was a blank, unlabeled map of New Orleans and a blank plane ticket. Eventually, the surprise was revealed.

Amy and Josh decked out for Mardi Gras

Amy and Josh decked out for Mardi Gras

Recently, I have been doing some research on what there is to do in New Orleans. I’m a planner. As much as I enjoy spontaneity, I like to be educated on the place I’m headed and what there is to do there. I recently found a couple great blogs that have prepared me so much in learning about this fun city. Reading these have amped my excitement for this excursion by a million. From what I’ve learned, New Orleans is a city for the foodie in me, as well as the cultural student in me. Come our return in mid-July, I can’t wait to tell you all about our time in New Orleans. I sincerely hope these other blogs inspire you to add this unique place to your bucket list!

Not Derby Pie: Getaways: New Orleans

Georama: What To Do In New Orleans: Design Guide

Travel Eats

I will admit that I am a little behind on my reading these days, and in this crazy world, I’m sure I’m not alone. I recently caught up on Travel & Leisure’s April edition, appropriately named “The Food Issue.” Food plus travel equals my downfall. Of course, food is a vital part of any travel excursion. Not only does is provide a look into the culture of the place, but it tells a story of the people who live there and how their daily routines are structured. The French, for example, traditionally observe a two-hour lunch break. In Greece, dinner time is customarily late, around 9pm or later.

Food can also define a place. For instance, what would Istanbul be without spice markets and baklava? What about France without crepes and croissants? And Greece without sardines and fish markets? For many Americans, learning about culture is limited to the Western world, so cuisine acts as another outlets into these other worlds. What would we associate with India without the presence of Indian food in the United States? Or Japan without sushi?

The outdoor menu of an Indian restaurant in Budapest, Hungary.

The outdoor menu of an Indian restaurant in Budapest, Hungary.

Anywhere we go, from Chicago to Texas, Spain to Thailand and everywhere in between, experiencing the cuisine of a place is always exhilarating.

Indian food. Yum.

Reading Travel & Leisure’s Food Issue got me thinking about some of the best experiences with cuisine I’ve ever had while traveling. There are SO many. Spending four months in Bulgaria, I adapted and eventually fell in love with their food, from the awesome sirene cheese to the traditional shopska salad. There’s nothing like sangria and tapas at a seaside restaurant in Barcelona. Italy’s pasta shops are a wonder. But one of my most memorable experiences took place in Budapest, Hungary on Easter weekend two years ago.

Awesome hummus bar.

Awesome hummus bar.

Adorable confectionary in Budapest.

Adorable confectionary in Budapest.

While only there for three nights, Budapest was quick to make an impression. Everything about the city was welcoming, but the food discoveries my friends and I made were not at all expected but oh so welcomed. Let me entertain your mind for one second. Hungarian spaetzle, Mexican enchiladas, Indian curry bowls, Greek hummus and falafel, French pastries. All in one weekend. Around every corner. Living in Bulgaria, these foods are nowhere to be found. Particularly the Mexican meals. Let’s just say, cravings were satisfied.

Where have you had some of your best food experiences?

Chalkboard Paint

I’d say I’m a pretty lucky girl. There’s a whole handful of reasons to back this statement up, but one in particular that I’ll emphasize right now.

My boyfriend is that guy who loves to be with me, no matter what I’m doing. With our recent move into our new apartment, I’m going decorating crazy, so much of my free time is spent sifting through boxes and rotating photographs, vases and mirrors in and out of rooms. The one necessity I’ve [actually we’ve] discovered for an easy and quick project that adds functionality to a space is chalkboard paint.

Now I’m jar obsessed… [I’ll elaborate on that in a later post]. We store many of our food items in various size mason jars: spices, ice cream toppings, and different grains from quinoa to farro to oats. Even though the jars are transparent, when looking at them from above, it can be difficult and time-consuming to figure out what is in each. So together, we painted the lids of the jars with chalkboard paint [which can be found at your local art supplies store for less than $10]. A few coats were needed before the paint was completely opaque. Another trick we discovered was covering the lid with masking tape prior to painting, just to have a more absorbant surface for the paint.

Chalkboard paint is awesome. I had two wood plaques adorned with a 70’s style flower painting that I wanted nothing to do with. They were leftover from a cheap apartment decorating Walmart shopping spree back when I was in college. Instead of throwing them out, I decided to “upcycle” them into chalkboards. They function awesome in our kitchen for notes and lists and double as aesthetically pleasing wall decor.

I challenge you to get creative and discover new ways to use chalkboard paint and let me know what you come up with!

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Post-Memorial Day

As the tweets and facebook status updates rolled in this morning about how awesome everyone’s long Memorial Day weekend was, I decided to look forward to this beautiful Tuesday rather than dread another week. After all, it is already Tuesday, and we all have an amazing weekend to be thankful for.

Like my friends in the social media world, my weekend was full of fun, too. The weather here in Connecticut was questionable on Saturday, but apparently many people had the same idea with the rain pouring down outside and January temperatures causing thermostats to be cranked up. I heard on the radio on my drive to work this morning that us Americans broke the record for movie ticket sales this weekend! Well, I was right alongside my fellow Americans at my local movie theater seeing The Hangover 3. What did you all think of it? I’ve heard mixed reviews, but my opinion stands that the first movie in a series is always the best. Don’t you agree?

 

Sunday and Monday consisted of significantly sunnier weather and party hopping. My highlight was seeing my favorite little toddler turn two! He loves all things Elmo and all things fruit, so I made an Elmo fruit platter. Needless to say, there was a strawberry in his mouth within seconds of me setting foot into his adorable Elmo party. Today was his real birthday, and so we spent the morning at the playground and got lunch, complete with milkshakes, at Bilda Burger in Woodbury, CT. Such a neat place. Hope you enjoyed your birthday, little man. Thanks for brightening my day, everyday.

One last thing. Hope you all smiled today at how lucky we are. Nothing like Memorial Day to put our lives back into perspective. We have many courageous men and women to thank for that. happy memorial day america

Elmo platter fruit dip recipe: mix 1 package of cream cheese (softened), 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla

[discovered this great recipe from a fellow blogger! check out her blog here: http://lifeaslyndsey.blogspot.com]

Little Explorations

Hello readers! So… after a long break from blogging, I have made the decision to come back to this exciting world of sharing ideas with people from the North Pole to the South and back again. That, I think, is what I find so invigorating about this whole idea of blogging. The connections that have the potential to be made. I saw this quote the other day about human beings craving connections, and after some thought, I realized just how true it was.

After a long and warm food-filled day of cookouts, my boyfriend and I ventured out on a bike ride through our neighborhood. At about 6pm on a late May evening, the weather was beautiful – sun still shining and a light breeze keeping temperatures just right. As we rode, the smell of grills and the sound of laughter were clearly evident. Cars were piled in driveway after driveway. It is hard to imagine what the day would have been like if human connections weren’t as much a part of life as they are. There would not have been Memorial Day parties yard after yard on my bike ride tonight without these connections because the vital factor to this annual tradition for many people is family and friends to enjoy the day with.

So that is one reason why I am looking forward to re-entering the blogging world. The title of this post may seem broad, but no other words could better describe my writing. The two words are almost contradictory when thought about. “Little” of course means small, minute, etc. “Exploration” is sometimes a large, daunting adventure. Life is full of these little explorations and that is what this blog will be about. The globetrotter in me will most definitely lead to the creation of many travel posts, whether it be my own travels, places I dream to go or hidden destinations. But the smaller adventures and creations in everyday life are just as important as a dream expedition to the Galapagos Islands. If you read my short bio, I am a lover of writing, travel, reading, culture, nature, but I have a newfound passion for little explorations of everyday life, too. Safaris and sunsets. The big adventures are the safaris and the everyday occurrances are the sunsets. The sun has to set everyday, yet every one is unique.

Whether I’m the sole reader of this or one day have hundreds, I thank you and hope you are as excited as I am about this new adventure. (I greatly hope it’s the latter… human connections…)

Throw A Dart: Where In the World To Go?

This past week, I was looking at the globe sitting atop my bureau and this thought came to mind: just pick a place and explore.  I can go anywhere in the world I want to, so what am I waiting for?  On a “why not” sort of whim, I spun the globe, shut my eyes, and placed my finger back on the globe.  Where did my finger land?  On the southern-most tip of South America.  Now I had pictured myself in Chile one day, but venturing down to the southern tip was not something I had specifically forseen.  But why not?  I spun the globe again, closed my eyes, and repeated the process.  This time, my finger told me I should get on a plane and head to Romania.  Chile and Romania.  Two places worlds apart, geographically, culturally, historically, but it looks like my future sees me there one day.

Now we all have our bucket lists that we want to check off before our time here expires, but sometimes it is the spur of the moment trips that we will remember.  So forget the logic and go off the beaten path for a while. 
Spin the globe, throw a dart at a map, and just go.