Foodie Friday: Asian Lettuce Wraps

I’m sure (or at least I hope) many of you are gearing up to eat a ridiculous amount of Velveeta cheese and Lil’ Smokies (a.k.a. super processed, terrible things) on Sunday. There’s no judgement here; I’m as excited about the Super Bowl grub as the next person American. But on Monday when you’re regretting those five—or 20—meatballs, you might seek out something a little lighter…

photo 3And I have an excellent suggestion for you: Asian lettuce wraps.

This is a really simple meal that takes under 30 minutes to make start to finish, and it’s super tasty. Thanks to the Ladies in Navy for the inspiration!

photo 1Ingredients:
1 lb lean ground turkey
3 carrots (shredded)
1 bunch green onions (diced)
20-30 fresh basil leaves (chopped)
1/4 c. – 1/3 c. soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons minced garlic
1/3 c. olive oil
Head of iceberg lettuce

Notes: I used Romaine because the heads of lettuce at the grocery looked naaasty, but it actually worked in my favored and created lettuce boats, of sort. I recommend it. Also, I don’ t have a vegetable shredder, so I bought pre-shredded carrots. I am lazy.
photo 3.8

Click here to see the step-by-step instructions. Enjoy!

photo 5

Chiberia Warms Up—In a Sense

It’s amazing what two-plus days stuck in an apartment can do to a person. The polar vortex really had me down (though I really shouldn’t complain about “working” from home for two days) until I unearthed a gem in my linen closet.

OK, first off, I don’t actually have a linen closet. It’s really just a few shelves in the back of my clothes closet that hosts extra sheets, blankets, dated throw pillows, etc. Ha, I wish I had a dedicated linen closet, but who do you think I am?

Secondly, I haven’t given my bedroom much attention lately mostly because nobody ever really sees it, and it’s a bit overrun with, um, the other tenant’s “things” (cough, cough, hint, hint). Notice I did not include his nightstand in the picture…

But anywho, when I was hunting down a missing sock in the closet (also my laundry room, medicine cabinet and handbag holder—it’s really not that big), I rediscovered this handmade quilt from my Mimi. I thought it would be just thing to brighten my mood—and room—and help me ride out this bitter cold. What do we think?

BEDROOMfinalI know there’s a lot of pattern going on there, but I actually think it works really well. I’m kind of obsessed with it, but maybe just because it’s so terrible outside and turquoise makes me think of a tropical resort on the beach, where I should most definitely be right now.

Love it, hate it, have a different way of coping? Let me know!

(Sources: Lamp-Lamps Plus, Rug-Crate & Barrel, Paisley Quilt and Throw Pillow-West Elm)

I Want That Wednesday

I’ll be the first to admit: I have a lot of bar accessories. Probably too many. My collection already includes at least two standard bottle openers. They’re perfectly utilitarian. They spend most of the time in the drawer anyway. But this one is pretty hard to resist…

ee051ea522f550631f69888a46c5ec62My bottle opening prince charming! I want it for myself, but it’d also make a great hostess gift for someone who has everything—and for under $20.

Weekend Rewind: Decade of the Woman?

I’ve been a guy’s girl for a long time. I’ve almost always had more guy friends than girl friends (probably has something to do with liking sports and disliking The Bachelor)… until now. I still like hanging with my bros, but I was feeling some major girl power on Friday night! I finally organized a Girls Night Out after different groups of my girl friends and I had talked about it for months and months. It was a good turnout, too, despite this brutal weather. About 15 of us took over Pops for Champagne, a champagne bar in River North, and then The Kerryman, an Irish bar nearby.

I was so happy to bring some different pockets of friends together, and hopefully it was a bit of work and pleasure. I’d love to create one of those awesome women’s networking events you hear about in New York and San Fran some day. (If you have advice on doing this, hit me up!) My BF and I have a running joke that it’s The Year of the Woman, and now it’s progressed into The Decade of the Woman. I just say it to rib him, but in all honesty, it’s awesome that we’re seeing women take on these major roles in business, media, politics and the like. Just off the top of my head I think of people like Sheryl Sandburg, Marissa Meyer, Jenna Lyons, Tina Fey, Malala Yousafzai, Hillary Clifton, etc. etc.

I won’t go off into some femisinst rant. I do like Say Yes to the Dress after all.

Unfortunately I completely forgot to get a group shot, but here’s one of Rebecca, Mairead (who I haven’t seen since summer!) and me. 8207_10100204441264934_1562482599_n

Foodie Friday: Easy Stromboli

That time of year is upon us—Super Bowl Sunday! OK, I know it’s not this Sunday, but if you’re anything like me, you’re already thinking about the most important thing going on that day: The Food. Touchdowns? Meh. Red Hot Chili Peppers? No. Commercials? If I have to. Meatballs? Um, sure. Dips? Yes, please. Something involving bacon? I thought you’d never ask!

So if you’re going to a Super Bowl party or throwing one yourself, I have a super easy and super tasty (see what I’m doing here?) recipe you can throw together in advance: Stromboli. It’ll seem like you really made an effort (instead of bringing, say, wings from Jewel), but nobody needs to know that it only took about five minutes to whip this bad boy up.

Pizza dough (You can make it from scratch, but that seems like a lot of work… I stuck with Pillsbury Pizza Crust in the tube.)
6 provolone or mozzarella cheese sandwich slices
12 hard salami slices
Yellow pepper rings (found in a jar by the relish)
Olive oil
Italian seasoning

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet with olive oil. Roll out your dough, and stretch it so that it reaches all sides of your cookie sheet. (Make sure you patch any holes that are created to avoid melted cheese from escaping later—I failed at this you can see.) Cover the dough with the cheese and salami slices, and add peppers to your liking. Fold long side of dough over the ingredients twice, and press edges together to seal. Brush additional olive oil on the top of the roll, and sprinkle on Italian seasoning.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until the roll is golden. Remove and let sit for a few minutes while cheese inside hardens just slightly. Slice and enjoy!

What’s awesome about this recipe is that you could literally put anything in there depending on how fancy you wanted to be. Broccoli, ham, garlic, spinach, pancetta, bacon, BBQ sauce, pepperonis, pizza sauce, mushrooms, ground Italian sausage—the possibilities are endless really. Let me know if you find the perfect… play, if you will.

(Images: My apologies, these are certainly not my finest…)

Design Inspiration: “Float”

I’m really enjoying exploring the Loop—and even a bit of the South Loop—now that my job is downtown. I’ve never actually worked in the Loop proper, so the last time I hung out in this part of the city is when I moved up to Chicago for a summer in high school (shout out to Columbia College’s HSSI—one of the absolute best things my parents let me do). I can’t believe I’m going to admit this, but that was 10 YEARS ago! Omg…

Anyway, much love goes out to the Chicago Loop Alliance and their offshoot Pop-Up Art Loop. It’s an organization that creates partnerships between artists and property owners, transforming empty storefronts in the Loop. Temporary gallery, exhibition and interactive space is created at no cost to the artist and in prime real estate. What a good idea! (They also host gallery walks and an alley party, among other initiatives.)

photo 2As you can imagine, the work is always changing, but my favorite right now is Noah MacMillan‘s “Float,” a mural that wraps around the southwest corner of State and Adams. They say, “The artwork, which is the largest of its kind in Chicago, depicts a surreal parade winding through downtown Chicago, in which colorful sea-creature floats appear to swim through the streets.” You know I have a soft spot for all things nautical…photo 1

I Want That Wednesday

With all this time forcibly spent indoors (thanks, Mother Nature!), I’m really itching for a project. I even saw a great little cane chair in the alley last week, but unfortunately (or fortunately, maybe) it’s leg was broken. If the skeleton was in better shape, it would’ve made the perfect reupholstery project.

Not that I would have any idea what I was doing, of course.

Luckily there’s brilliant little book out there like this one for people like me:Spruce-Book-440x600OK, so at 400 pages maybe it isn’t little per se. Page-4-5_goodSpruce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Upholstery and Design is written by Amanda Brown of Spruce, an upholstery shop in Austin. It’s packed with instructions for upholstering just about any shape and size piece, and it also gives advice on replacing the guts—the springs, padding, webbing and the like. 328-329_good1Isn’t it beautiful? I’m dying to get my hands on a copy—not that it’s hard to find, I’m just trying to save money and thus am waiting my turn for Chicago Public Library’s copy. (You can find it here and here, and probably your neighborhood bookstore, too.)378-379_goodYou can learn more about Amanda, Spruce and the book by watching the trailer!

Weekend Rewind: Passive Productivity

I hope everyone had a nice weekend! I felt like this was the first time since the holidays that I haven’t had something to do, someone visiting, a party to host or a game to catch (though we watched tons of college basketball on Saturday). It was nice. I was lazy. Well, in a sense. In another sense, I was VERY productive:

clutterAnd it felt damn good. That’s a bag of trash, a bag of recycling and a bag of donation items. (And technically there was more trash—this was my second trip!) I really try to keep my clutter, especially paper clutter, under control, and I’ve definitely improved over the years, though I’m far from perfect. I get so many magazines and catalogs that it’s hard to keep up! But here’s a few things I’ve learned:

1. Purge twice a year—at least. Dedicate an entire day to it. I usually do it in January (you know, you’re feeling ambitious with all those New Year resolutions) and August (that’s when my lease is up, summer is nearing it’s end and fall is kind of feels like a fresh start in its own right).

2. Give yourself five minutes every day. I’m a morning person so I actually like to tidy up in the morning. That way when I come home from a full day of work, I don’t feel guilty for sitting on the couch and getting sucked into the Biggest Loser for an hour.

3. Don’t keep things just because they’re sentimental. The great thing about the digital era is that you can take a picture of the item, and then let it go. Sure, there’s some things that are significant enough to save (you can frame that bib from your first marathon), but the t-shirt you got on move-in day at your freshman year dorm… it’s time to go. Same goes for old photos and paperwork: Scan it. (Just don’t forget to back-up the laptop where you’ll upload everything!)

4a. Keep an “outbox.” I like to keep a cardboard box around that I can put things in to donate to my favorite thrift store. (In the picture it’s a bag instead of a box… I used the box to reorganize my Christmas decorations in the storage unit.) It’s especially useful if you’re unsure if you want to keep something or donate it. Put it in the outbox for a few weeks, and if you haven’t used it, it’s a sign: Donate it. There’s no use in keeping things you “might” use. (Think about those cords piling up from past laptop or camera purchases… what are those even for?!)

4b. In the same vein, keep an “inbox” as well. Sometimes you get mail that isn’t junk mail necessary (that goes straight to the recycling bin, obvi), but it requires some attention. Say it’s a receipt for a doctor’s visit—it doesn’t need your immediate attention because, say, your insurance company picked it up, but it should probably be filed somewhere for now. Put it in the inbox, and then when you have an extra hour (instead of just five minutes), go through and put each item in it’s designated place. It’s more of a holding area than anything.

5. This last one is SUPER important: Understand the limitations of your situation. I’m still struggling with this. When I moved into this apartment, it was just me, and it was perfect. Honest. But now it’s me, the boy and his cat. We’re crunched. So as Slow Your Home says, this isn’t technically a decluttering tip, but it’s important to keep in mind that you can only do so much with what you have. “Rather than battling every day, do what you can to minimize the problem, keep it from getting out of hand and then let it go.”

The next thing I want to try is the reverse hanger trick: You hang all your clothes with the hanger in the reverse direction, and when you wear an item, you hang it back in the closet the correct way—whatever is left hanging the wrong way after six months, you get rid of!

What do you do to keep your home clutter-free? I’d love to hear your tips!

Foodie Friday: Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze

photo 9“Where’d you buy these scones?”

I had about five people ask me that at the Countries of the World Party last weekend. And that’s of a group of only 15, so it was pretty significant. Now, they could have been asking because they have zero confidence in my cooking skills. That’s warranted. But I’m pretty sure we can all agree on one thing: coffee shop scones suck.

photo 7They’re normally stale and flavorless. At the least ones I’ve had, which granted, aren’t a ton because I don’t drink coffee and thus don’t hang out much in said coffee shops.

But what I’m trying to get at here is that scones are incredibly easy to make, so stop settling for those chalky pucks at Starbucks! I’ll walk you through it:

photo 3Ingredients:
(Makes 8 scones, adapted from Sandra Lee’s recipe)

2 1/2 cups Bisquick or baking mix
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
All-purpose flour, for work surface
1 cup confectioners’/powdered sugar
1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Whisk together the baking mix and sugar in a large bowl. Slice up the butter, and mix it in with your hands until the butter is roughly the size of peas. In a small bowl, beat together the eggs and milk. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and combine just until blended. Do not over mix.

Then, gently fold in the blueberries. (Tip: Leave your blueberries in the freezer until right before you’re going to mix them in because otherwise your batter will turn blue!) Don’t like blueberries? Feel free to sub in the berry of your choice.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and pat into a 3/4-inch thick square. Cut into 4 squares, then cut each square into 2 triangles. Arrange the scones on an ungreased baking sheet, and bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Let the scones cool at least five minutes before glazing; otherwise, the glaze will melt off.

photo 5For the glaze, squeeze the juice of half a lemon into a bowl (make sure to remove any seeds). Add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla, and whisk together until smooth. If your glaze is still too thick, add a little more vanilla and lemon juice. Pour evenly (I put the glaze in a Ziplock bag and cut the tip off to create a poor man’s piping bag) over scones. Enjoy!photo 7

Urban Nesting’s Top 10 Pins

How are we feeling about Pinterest these days? I’ve had more than one girl friend over the past few weeks say she’s overwhelmed by it, or that she still likes it but no longer “love loves” it. I’m not going to lie: It makes me anxious some times. So much inspiration, so little time! I try not to look at it right before bed.

But I also know I’ll never leave it. It’s such an amazing resource, even in just in the organizational sense. I’ve been old-school “pinning”—aka ripping pages out of magazines—for years and years. Just ask my mother. And my filing cabinet. But now that we have Pinterest, I can have all those ideas in one place. And it’s portable. And sortable. And searchable! So long clutter. Pinterest in amazeballs.

OK, I should never say that again. Sorry.

So I mostly use Pinterest for three things: 1. Home decor inspiration (including home DIYs), 2. Recipes and 3. Gift ideas (in a secret board, of course!). Sure, there’s the other boards about architecture, beauty, fitness and fashion, but those kind of fall by the wayside in terms of my main interests. What do you collect on Pinterest?

Well, if these numbers are any indication, recipes are where it’s at. I checked out my most repinned items specifically from Urban Nesting, and five of the top 10 are food! Here’s a rundown (and don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest… if you’re not completely sick of it):

1. Foodie Friday: Pesto-Stuffed Chicken

IMG_01822. Foodie Friday: Strawberry Mango Salsa

IMG_10003. I Want That Wednesday: Urban Backyard

brammy-kyprianou-residence-exterior-pool-family-portrait4. Foodie Friday: Pumpkin Streusel Muffins

IMG_14535. Foodie Friday: Brown Sugar Balsamic Pork Tenderloin

IMG_1120Rounding out the top 10:

6. I Want That Wednesday: Indiana Basketball Card
7. Completed This Space: Entryway Vignette

8. Dining Room Revamp: Part I
9. DIY: Dipped Wooden Spoons
10. Foodie Friday: BBQ Shredded Beef Sandwiches