READ THIS! {The Tiger's Wife}

Can you believe that March is almost over? Lately, time seems to be flying by - before we know it, the summer will be here! Before that happens though, I want to share with you my review of this month's READ THIS! novel, The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht.

Every so often, a reader has the good fortune to come across a book that gets caught in their heart; a story that works its way into the soul of the reader and stays with her for a long time to come. Tea Obreht's The Tiger's Wife is exactly that type of novel. Even as I type this, I wonder how I can describe the immensity of the emotions that this story created for me and I think that the only way that I can even begin to do it justice is to tell you this: The Tiger's Wife is a beautifully heartbreaking piece of literature that takes its readers on an almost unexpected journey, and along the way, invites you to share the truth that everyone should have hope for something.

Amazon describes the novel as this:

"In a Balkan country mending from war, Natalia, a young doctor, is compelled to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather’s recent death. Searching for clues, she turns to his worn copy of The Jungle Book and the stories he told her of his encounters over the years with “the deathless man.” But most extraordinary of all is the story her grandfather never told her—the legend of the tiger’s wife."

Obreht's intricately created characters allow for this beautiful story to expand into something more than a simple mystery. And more than wondering how Natalia's grandfather has passed away, the reader finds herself learning about the life of a truly amazing man, and mourning the loss of his life right alongside Natalia. This novel will leave you feeling as though you have been lucky to meet Natalia and for her to have chosen to share this story.

Have you finished The Tiger's Wife yet? And did you fall in love with Natalia's grandfather, and find yourself mourning not only his death, but also that of the Tiger's Wife? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this novel!

And now, I'd like to introduce April's READ THIS! novel, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

This highly acclaimed novel is described by Amazon as this:

"The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead. Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart."

I am so excited to dive into the story of Celia and Marco and see where their adventure takes them! I hope you will join me in reading this exciting novel! Have a wonderful weekend!

Fifth Friday Favorites

Did you know that today is a Fifth Friday? This year, in 2012, you'll have today, and then one in June, one in August, and another one in November. With fifth Fridays being so rare and all (although, is 33% really rare?), I thought that this morning I would share with you my favorite things right now. And of course, I'll be sharing the top five with you since, after all, it is Fifth Friday.

Delicious Starbuck's Breakfast (Skinny Caramel Macchiatto & Banana Bread with Lowfat CC)
Although today is the last day, I have eaten at some delicious restaurants this year!
Reviews of Blue Inc., North 26 and Mija Cantina coming soon!
Josh and I finally started the 1st season last night, and we're hooked!
Thanks for another amazing show, AMC.
My new business cards and case! (And a little sneak peek of the new blog design!)
Tomorrow, I am officially heading back into the world of yoga!
It has been far too long since I last practiced, and I cannot wait to feel grounded again!
I am so excited for an amazing, inspired and relaxing weekend! While the weather likely won't be too great here in Boston, it will give me the perfect excuse to stay in, work on some projects and cook up a storm in the kitchen! We also cannot wait for the new Game of Thrones this weekend (I'm obsessed with the books), along with the start of the 2nd season of The Killing (we'll finish the 1st season before Sunday night) and the 2nd episode of this long awaited Mad Men season. Are you as excited about these shows as we are? And do you have an awesome weekend planned too? I hope you have a lovely fifth Friday and fantastic weekend!

Sources: Two, ThreeFive.

PS. I'll be back later today with March's READ THIS! Review and my book choice for the month of April!

Spray Painting Is My Favorite

Remember last week when I told you that I was joining Sherry from Young House Love for her self-imposed Dude, Get on That Already Challenge? Well, I wasn't kidding. And even though Sherry has absolutely no idea who I am (which yes, I'm very sad about because she is Awesome with a capital A), I'm still loving every minute of this challenge. Today, I want to share with you 2 awesome projects - both of which became mine for LESS THAN $2! Seriously, does it get better than that?

First up, my brand new kitchen tray:

Isn't she so pretty? I bought this at Goodwill earlier this year for .99. I love Goodwill. Where else do you find something as wonderfully ready to be DIY-ed as this 99 cent tray? Okay, maybe Dollar Tree, but we'll get to that in a minute. Anyway, I picked this up and it sat in our kitchen for awhile in all it's um... glory? until I finally decided something needed to be done. I thought about creating a pattern on it, but then came to the decision that I didn't actually want any of the former tray showing. So, I grabbed my trusty gold metallic spray paint and got to work.

First Coat
Final Coat - Pre-dry
After spraying on the last coat and letting it dry, I popped it back into my kitchen - except now it sits underneath our sugar/flour/tea canisters as a pretty edition to our kitchen!

But of course, I couldn't stop with kitchen additions there! A couple of weeks ago, I headed to Dollar Tree (for the thumbtacks to make my DIY: Nailhead Trim Corkboard) and when I was there I picked up this little guy for ... you guessed it! - $1!

I knew right away that I wanted to spray paint this little guy and that I already had the exact spray paint that I needed - this gray primer that I am in love with:

And I brought him outside with the tray and sprayed to my little heart's content until the fleur-de-lis was completely covered - about 5 coats of paint.

After it was completely dry, I brought him inside and snapped one more picture (below, on our table), before setting him up near our wine bottles on our breakfast bar counter (that we don't actually use as a breakfast bar).

I am so happy with how these two additions turned out - and that I was able to add some more awesomeness to our home for under $2! And I am absolutely loving the Dude, Get on That Already challenge. It's inspiring me to get myself in gear and work on some awesome projects! Have you been working on any great projects lately? I'd love to hear about them!

26 Soups: #5

So, you may or may not remember (or you may be a new reader!), but way back in October I initiated a soup-making challenge for myself. 1 year, 26 soups. It's March and with only 6 months left to go, I'm not exactly ahead of schedule, but I'm still excited about the soups I've made so far - and you can check them out here: 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Today, I'm showing you how I made soup #5 - Zucchini Soup!

I got this recipe from Gina over at SkinnyTaste (she's your go-to gal for healthy food recipes!) and made it exactly as directed. Before you run out and buy some zucchini, you should know that this soup is very much a zucchini soup. As in, if you only sort of like zucchini, this soup is not for you. But if you like zucchini and you're looking for a quick and easy way to prepare it - then this soup is your new best friend.

All you need are these ingredients:

3 small zucchini
1/2 small onion
2 cloves garlic
4 cups chicken stock
sour cream, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste (not pictured)

Then chop up your garlic, onion and zucchini (skin on) and toss them in a pan.

Next, add the broth and bring to a boil. Allow to simmer for approximately 20 minutes, or until veggies are tender.

Once tender, blend the ingredients using either your immersion blender or a real blender. I went old school with the full blender.

Then, ladle into bowls and add a dollop of sour cream to each bowl to generate creaminess in the soup. And  finally, serve your healthy zucchini soup!

I liked this soup, but it was definitely more zucchini than I thought it would be. (Note: Please don't ask why I thought that Zucchini Soup might not taste so much like zucchini.) Next time I make this, I think I may add some leeks, olive oil, and some pancetta for a little bit more flavor. This will of course, make the soup much less healthy, but I'm interested to see how it tastes with the extras.

Now that Spring is finally here, have any of you been taking advantage of the delicious veggies available? I cannot wait for farmer's markets this summer!

Recipe: Braised Short Ribs

Good Afternoon! Please excuse today's very late posting - it's been a busy one! Almost two weeks ago, my friend Kara and I got to spend our evening hanging out with one of our favorite cowgirls, Ree Drummond - The Pioneer Woman!

Okay, so by "hanging out" - I mean we went to hear her speak and then got to wait in line for over 2 hours to get our cookbooks signed and for me to act like a total awkward lunatic in front of her. I couldn't even make this up - it might have been one of the most awkward conversations of my life...

Me and Kara: Oh my gosh, we absolutely love you.
Ree: Oh, aren't you girls adorable!
Me and Kara: [awkward giggles]
Me: Can I ask you a question about one of your recipes?
Ree: Um... sure!
Me: So, I made your amazing cowgirl quiche back in November and we absolutely loved it but we couldn't quite figure out how to get it out of the pan.
Ree: You couldn't get it out of the pan?

And it pretty much just got more embarassing from there. Although, I did learn that using PAM Baking is better for non-stick purposes because it has flour in it. Who knew? Despite waiting in a very long line (until 9 pm!), almost dying of starvation, and having this seriously awkward encounter - Kara and I had a fabulous time! We love you Ree!

Ree listening to my absurd babble.
And of course, once you've officially made a fool out of yourself in front of one of your favorite "celebrity" chefs, the only logical next step is to cook one of her delicious recipes. So, without further ado, here's my take on Ree's Braised Short Ribs with (Instant) Goat Cheese Polenta.

First, you'll need to gather up your ingredients...

3-4 whole beef short ribs
1/4 cup flour
6 pieces of pancetta
olive oil
1 medium onion
3 whole carrots
2 cups red wine
2 cups beef broth
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
salt and paper to taste

Take your dutch oven (I bought mine at Target for $35!) and place it on your stovetop and set your oven to 350 degrees so it has time to pre-heat.

Then, chop up your pancetta and toss it into the pan. Cook over medium heat until fully crisp.

While your pancetta is cooking, prepare your ribs by sprinkling them with salt and pepper and dredging them in flour.

Once your pancetta is cooked, remove it from the pan (you can set it aside to add later or simply toss it as I did) and add a couple tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. Turn the heat up high and brown the ribs on all sides - approximately 45 seconds per side. Then, remove your ribs and set them aside.

Next, turn your heat back down to medium and add the onions and carrots to your dutch oven and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes.

Pour in your wine, taking time to scrape the bottom of the pan to make sure all of the flavor is in your carrots in onions. Then bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes.

Then, pour in the 2 cups of beef broth, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, to taste. Next, add your ribs back into the pan, almost submerging them in the liquid completely. Add your sprigs of rosemary and thyme on top.

Put your lid onto the pan and place into the oven (be careful, it's heavy!) and cook at 350 degrees for 2 hours. After 2 hours, reduce the heat to 325 and cook for an additional 40 minutes. Finally, remove them from the oven and allow them to sit for 20 minutes, with the lid on, before serving them. Of course, you can take a quick peek at the ribs if you want!

While they're resting (lid back on!), prepare your polenta.

If you're a better person than I am, you can use real polenta, but I'll take the instant stuff any day. It cooks in less than 3 minutes! Using 1 cup of polenta, goat cheese and butter, here's how you make instant goat cheese polenta:

First, gather your ingredients.

Then bring 2 cups of water to a boil.

Once boiling, add your cup of polenta and whisk it around. Almost instantly, you'll have polenta!

Continue to stir for a minute and then add 2 tablespoons of butter and your small log of goat cheese.

Mmm! Creamy deliciousness! And now you are ready for the final step - plating! First, place a heaping spoonful of the polenta on your plate.

Then, add the ribs - cutting them off of the bone before you place them on the plate. And by cutting, I mean gently pulling with a fork because they are that tender. Make sure you get some onions and carrots in there too. And then spoon a little bit of the wine/broth liquid over the top.

And then, enjoy! Your house will smell amazing, you will believe you are your own pioneer woman, and I promise that everyone you make these for will sing your praises - this is beyond delicious! You can also serve over mashed potatoes for almost equal deliciousness.

Have you made any of Ree's recipes? And are you as big a fan as my friend Kara and I are? I'm sure we're not the only ones! Happy Tuesday!

Guest Post at Something Swanky!

Just a little treat for your Monday afternoon! On Saturday, I guest posted over at Something Swanky and shared one of my new favorite treats - peanut butter chocolate pretzel bites! 

Please head over and check out Ashton's wonderful blog and to see this fun recipe!

Blog Better Boston in Review

Good Morning and Happy Monday! Did you all have the most amazing weekend? I certainly did - mostly because I got to spend my Saturday with an incredible group at the Blog Better Boston Conference!

My Conference Nametag on top of my free Sox t-shirt!
I took many less pictures than I would have normally, but I was just so in awe of all the fantastic bloggers around me, that I wanted to soak up everything that they were saying, and that lead me to keep my camera in my bag for the most part. But, I do have a fun re-cap for you so that you can get a glimpse of how awesome it was and next year, you can come too!

Who: A group of approximately 150 bloggers in the Boston area - mostly women - all brilliant and so much fun to hang out with! The conference was created by Alana (of Good Girl Gone Blog) and Amy (of Stylish Year) - and they did a wonderful job! Amy and Alana were also able to get a fantastic group of speakers, including but not limited to: Lynzy Carey (of Sparkling Footsteps), Niri Jaganath (of Mommy Niri), Kate Bigam (of Suburban Sweetheart) and Lacey Rose (of Perks of Being a Jap).

Here I am with Erin and Gemana!
I also made some wonderful new friends whose blogs you should absolutely check out! These wonderful ladies include: Erin (of Reinventing Erin), Lindsay (of Fashionista's Travel), Germana (of Btch on Heels), Emily (of Emily Goes Nuts), Lindsay (of Lindsay's Look), Carley (of Finding Gravity) and Meaghan (of 2 Sisters 2 Cities).

Amazing cards!
I know that's a long list, but all of these bloggers - and so many others - were truly wonderful! I really do feel that I've made some fantastic friends - ones that I cannot wait to hang out with again!

What: The conference showcased a multitude of panels and workshops - I got to go to the Monetize Your Blog Panel, Working with Brands Panel, Blogging Basics Panel, Traffic & Community Panel and the Food Photography Workshop. I went old school and took a notebook and pen with me - filling up so many pages with great ideas and lessons. Over the next few weeks you'll likely be noticing some changes on the blog - you already know I'm in the midst of a blog re-design - and I cannot wait to put to work all of the great things I learned to make this blog even more amazing for each of you to read.

When: It lasted all day Saturday - from 9 to 5 - and then finished with a great after party at Think Tank in Cambridge. If you live in the area, I highly recommend their food and drinks! It's in the same building as the Friendly Toast, but around the other side and on the bottom level. They played great music and allowed the opportunity to hang out with some more bloggers!

Where: The Google Offices in Cambridge - an open space with ideal spots for panels, workshops and hanging out with brand new friends.

Overall, Saturday was even more amazing than I could have imagined! I feel honored to have been in the room with these phenomenal women and I am very much looking forward to seeing many of them again! I want to leave you with one last image - the contents of my Swag Bag!

This swag bag was amazing - and pretzel crisps are my new favorite snack! While, this re-cap really doesn't do the event justice, it was a great event and I was thrilled to be able to attend! Did you do anything super exciting this weekend? For those Mad Men fans out there, were you as excited as Josh and I were to finally see your favorites again? Hope you have a wonderful Monday and I'll see you back tomorrow for a week filled with yummy recipes and fun projects!

Sunday Drive {Stone}

It is a dreary Sunday morning here in Boston, and on top of that, the weather is starting to cool back down. This is a perfect day to curl up with a book, eat some delicious food and relax. It's also a perfect day to look at some beautiful houses. Here's a look at some gorgeous ones with stone exteriors - do you love them as much as I do?

                                                                 Source: via Sara on Pinterest

                                                                            Source: via Sara on Pinterest

                                                          Source: via Sara on Pinterest

                                                                        Source: via Jordan on Pinterest

                                                                        Source: via Bonnie on Pinterest

                                                                      Source: via Olga on Pinterest

                                                                 Source: via Christopher on Pinterest

I feel that stone exteriors on houses just scream elegance and grace - they have a sense of timelessness that I find incredible. And this week - I have 2 favorites - the third one down and this last one - those giant porches just get me every time! Which one is your favorite?
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