Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Five! - Tropical Edition

The two year wait has finally come to an end! Tomorrow morning, Max and I fly out of Chicago with my parents and head for a week long vacation to Paradise Village in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Even though this will be my third trip to this resort, I think I’m the most excited for this visit in particular. Tomorrow marks the first time Max has ever left the country (Windsor doesn’t count) and been on a PLANE! I am so excited to experience this with him and relax for an entire week on our first real vacation together!
Here are five tropical/Mexico at Christmas/vacation inspired things that I have been looking forward to for months and just the thought of them brightened up a rather stressful week:

{alligator slide}
{bottomless margaritas}
{Christmas tree in the foyer}
{long walks on the beach – to work off the abundance of chips and salsa I plan on consuming}
{Bob Marley + Christmas music all in the same playlist = perfection (don't judge Nsync, it's classic)}
xx Meg

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Packing Frenzy

With Mexico only a couple days away I have so much to do in preparation for the trip AND to leave work for an entire week (something I’ve never done in my professional career and the only thing I’m dreading about this vacation…the work load that will be waiting for me when I return). With that being said, my OCD tendencies have kicked in full force and I’ve been working off a daily hand written to-do list with everything categorized and color coded to stay on track (I was serious about the OCD).

With all of that being said, surprisingly, I am a notorious over-packer and tend to simply throw a bunch of things into a suitcase, without any rhyme or reason. You know the feeling when you’re somewhere other than home and you realize that the one thing you want to wear is hanging in your closet back at home? Yeah, that’s what my over packing tendencies are trying to avoid. The result: over-STUFFING my suitcase with countless articles of clothing, most of which, I don’t even end up wearing. Since the overhead compartment is only so large, I decided to take a more organized approach for this trip and pack around planned outfits; rather than anything that will fit. Luckily warm weather clothes take up less space than cold weather clothes… so I can pack more options!

 Here are some of my piles:
{I always love packing my carry-on and travel day clothes the most… not sure why - electronics, snacks, socks etc* and one large awesome purse}
{beach time necessities - suits, fedora, cover-ups, sunnies}
{shoes – can’t go without at least 1 pair of heels}
{simple bottoms that go with any tank or tee}
{wispy tops, perfect for the tropics in December}
*The rat in the carry-on image is Eugene. He is a Mascot of sorts and travels around with our friends all over the world. He's already been ALL over Europe, Africa and United States. He even climbed Mount Kilmanjaro!
xx Meg

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Festival of Lights

Once Thanksgiving is over I usually get uber excited about the holidays. Probably because when I was a kid (and even to this day) my Mom decorates the house for Christmas the Friday after Thanksgiving while listening to cheery tunes. Since we are leaving this weekend for vacation, I don’t want to wait until we get back to decorate (the month would be almost a third over!). I couldn’t bear the thought of returning from a week long warm-climate getaway (hopefully to a Michigan winter wonderland, with no ice on the roads of course), and NOT having the apartment Christmas ready. So I decided to squeeze it into my to-do list once I got home from this past holiday weekend.

Here are a few ways that we spread holiday cheer around our Love Nest:
{first time we've ever had a wreath on our own front door}
{Max and I slowly fill these throughout December with random surprises for one another to open on our Christmas - P.S. Max's real name is David (Dave)}
{TREE! - one day we'll have a life size tree, but for our time in an apartment the Charlie Brown version is perfect}
{lights on the balcony - a work in progress since I thought I had more...}
{holiday snacks OBVIOUSLY!}
Missing: Poinsettia, which will be promptly purchased once we return from our trip
xx Meg

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thank YOU, Break Time!

Well rested. Well read. Well run.  Well fed.
That was my life last week as I had 5 whole days off of work.
It was fantastic.
I'm doing my best to get back in the groove of things, but still fantasizing about the joys of Thanksgiving break...

Not only did I get to finish the new novel I ordered for vacation, I also got to do lots & lots of reading about some dishes I'd be making for Thanksgiving,  and others I hope to make soon. Luxurious reading...

I visited Urban Roots and got myself a new family of succulents.   

Appreciated the peonies in the garden outside of the library.

I attended a beautiful (and mercifully short) Catholic wedding of a former co-worker and now dear friend. Lovely time. 

After SEVERAL trips to the store and DAYS of preparation, our fridge was ready for game day. 

Bright and early Thanksgiving morning, I ran the 5 mile Turkey Day Race and did quite well. I ran it in 42 minutes (+ change), 
placing #126 out of 1052 female racers.  
I felt great the whole time, body + mind + heart 
(the best way to run)
The weather was absolutely perfect! 

Next race: HALF MARATHON!! 
Seriously, getting very excited now...19 days of training left!

After my post-race rituals were complete, the apartment was clean, and the food was starting to cook, Monkey and I awaited our guests watching the Lions begin a disappointing game (sorry, Mom).

I followed the recipe recommended on one of my favorite food blogs and (first solo attempt ever!!) our turkey came out 
We were so proud!!  (Look, the legs just fell off!) 
It tasted 2x as good as it looked!

Granny & Grandpa's famous mashed potato recipe. Another hit. 

Girlfriends hanging out right before the big meal 
(the boys were in the kitchen!).  
Thursday was actually Friendsgiving for us --our first 
(with family over 1000 miles away)

I think Monkey actually got sick of me being home, 
day after day, 
hour after hour 
for an entire week.

I constantly took pictures of him. 

He was seriously annoyed...

But that didn't stop me!

Now, only 19 [school] days until Christmas break. 
(Yes, Meggie, all teachers count down until the next time we're off).

Hope I'm not the only one who had a glorious Thanksgiving! 

Happy Holiday season to all!!! 

Friday Five! (on Monday...)

Thanksgiving could not have been more relaxing. I was able to enjoy time with friends and family over great food, cocktails and conversation (ending the evening with a few friendly games of pool, or darts, or Uno, is just icing on the cake). Even though I didn’t have a chance to post my Friday Five last week, I would still like to share… obviously. Other than Thanksgiving Day, my weekend was jam packed, filled with finally seeing this, Christmas cookie making (which was even more lively than usual) and a few MSU victories!

Here are five (or six) things that made me happy this last week:

{Christmas cookies J}
{tea party with my favorite 2 year old}
{chocolate + magical center piece at the wedding last weekend}
{fun market that has everything from eclectic groceries to wacky clothes and nic nac’s; not to mention, the grocery store portion holds the largest selection of gourmet cheeses I’ve ever seen!}
{the ridiculous line at Menna's after a Wednesday-bar-night-before-Thanksgiving}
{catching up on blogs and enjoying a bloody mary... pre cookie making chaos}
 xx Meg

Friday, November 23, 2012

Tomato Basil Soup

There is a French market-style cafe here in town called La Madeleine and they make the most incredible tomato basil soup. Their version is much less healthy than the one I'm about to share, but for anyone planning to visit NOLA and likes tomato soup, it's worth one guilt-free try. 

[A view from the inside of the cafe].

After trying it for the first time (instantly obsessed), I came home and researched different recipes for a soup like it.  The one I settled on can be found here.  What I do is only slightly different. 

Here's the ingredients I gather to  begin the process (and let me warn you--
I don't measure much): 
  • 3-4 large carrots, peeled, chopped, and cooked until very, very soft
  • 4-5 fresh vine tomatoes (more instructions below)
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 2 cans stewed tomatoes
  • Huge handful of fresh sweet basil leaves
  • Dried sweet basil
  • Salt & pepper
  • Ground sage
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Chicken broth (I'm sure veggie broth would taste just as good)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 fresh lemon (squeeze this over carrots while cooking with spices as well as the tomatoes)
  • 1 stick of butter (unsalted is fine...the stuff you bake with). 

[Just like when we make our homemade guacamole and add 
ridiculous amounts of cilantro, I add way more fresh basil than the 
average person would. Makes the soup taste so fresh and earthy.]

Spices.  The "ground" you see is ground sage. Bought in the fancy spice section of one of those new fresh market stores...Sage will soon join my basil as one of my personally grown herbs.

The "wet" ingredients, I guess you could say. I think I've added white wine to this recipe before as the tomato-cooking phase of the process.  
Nice touch if you think of it (not shown: fresh lemon).

What you see here is the butter, very soft carrots (previously cooked), 
chicken broth, and olive oil.  
Allow it to simmer for about 15 minutes, then slowly add in the spices.

These are fresh vine tomatoes, with more spices: dried sweet basil, minced garlic cloves, salt & pepper. 

Eventually, once the tomatoes were nice and soft, 
gradually stir in the carrot mixture from the sauce pan. 

Into a blender, combine the two bubbling pots 
(along w/ 1 can of tomato sauce & 2 cans of stewed tomatoes).  

Give it a few strong pulses and you're done. 

If you're lucky, the texture will stil bel slightly lumpy, but smooth enough 
that it now resembles slurp-worthy soup.

[Storing the soup in a Ball jar looks way cooler 
than an old, crusty plastic container.]

Suggested ways to enjoy this healthy, fresh, & aromatic soup: 
  • Toasted French bread (the soup serves as a dip in this scenario).
  • Side of steamed broccoli and/or beans and/or peas and/or asparagus...anything green. The contrast is beautiful with the coppery-red soup.
  • Side of soft, hot corn bread. My choice every day if I could. yyyyUUm. 
  • Talapia, ahi tuna or chicken.  Here, you could either sip the soup as is, or drizzle it over a serving of whole wheat pasta, allowing it to be a sauce...then of course sprinkle some parmesan).
  • Dip a hot, flaky grilled cheese sandwich into it. 
  • Any other suggestions? 


Wednesday, November 21, 2012


There aren't many things better in life than re-discovering songs you used to be obsessed with.

By obsessed, I mean you played these songs on repeat on your stereo or walkman or discman or iPod for an hour or more at a time.
Songs that connected to something or someone so big in your life that the very. first. note. could instantly send you back.

These songs are the great loves of your life. They are (or were at the time) such a part of who you were, they'll never truly be gone from your mind. 

I've been setting the iPod on shuffle on my last few runs, and stumbled on the following past (and now, once again, present) loves of my life: 

  • I Want You----Third Eye Blind                                            
  • Sullen Girl----Fiona Apple                                       
  • The Funeral---- Band of Horses                       
  • The New Pollution----Beck                             
  • Paperweight----Joshua Radin & Schuyler Fisk                                                          
  • Strawberry Swing----Coldplay                                                
  • Pay For What You Get----Dave Matthews Band                                        
  • Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect----The Decemberists        
  • Brothers on a Hotel Bus----Death Cab For Cutie                              
  • Torch---- Alanis Morissette                                                                   
  • Here With Me----Dido                                                 
  • Only Got One----Frou Frou                                               
  • Reverend Girl----The Verve Pipe                                                                    
  • Black Hole Sun----Soundgarden                                            
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit----Tori Amos               
Some are from as early as high school, some from college, and the rest bring me up to the past couple of years. This is now my newest playlist that I will cherish until I am reunited with more reminders of my past. 

Some are likely very familiar and likely on your playlist...but hopefully there will be a few new finds for you.

Or you could even take a little journey of your own in your music library. 

Happy reminiscing! 

So Much to be Thankful For!

I need a vacation.

I’m not one to get overwhelmed easily but, this year especially, there was a lot that went down between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, and it didn’t hit me until this week how thoroughly exhausted I am. Productivity typically outweighs fatigue… until you finally stop! This weekend, I look forward to stopping J

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It equates to long weekends, mashed potatoes, champagne (even more than usual…CLINK!), making Christmas cookies, and spending time with family and friends. BONUS: It kicks off a 6 week long festivity marathon (along with Christmas and New Years I have a few birthday celebrations on the horizon)!!

Along with the health and happiness of myself and my loved ones and all of the love and support they provide, here are some additional things I am thankful for this year:

{new home office – your surroundings really can have a huge impact on your work life experience and I am so grateful to the company for truly investing in their employees}

{biggest bar night of the year! I always love catching up with old friends when we migrate back home for the holidays} 

{Dominic Michael – a perfect edition to our circle of friends}

{this time last year, I was in New Orleans celebrating the holiday with my amazing sister! I’ll miss her immensely this year, but thanks to modern technology her smiling face is only a push of a button away! - so we can CLINK our champagne with Lions football on in the background!}

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

She's All Grown Up

Before Jackson, my only "babies" were my plants. 
Of my MANY plants inside our home & on our balconies, 
the one dearest to me is the aloe.  

[Jackson standing guard to the precious succulents.] 

I connected with my husband's oldest friend when we discovered our shared love for urban gardening. We both have green thumbs and could talk for hours about the different varieties we collect & how to maintain them-- we even share clippings with each other while we still lived in Chicago.  

My husband & I lived literally across the street from him in the South Loop, so we hung out with he and his fiance often, comparing plant notes. 

[A view from the balcony of our Chicago condo.]

Our first winter down here in NOLA (2007), said friend gave me a very small aloe plant...said he just couldn't do much with it. He happily handed it over and said that the warm, tropical climate might be just what the 
[plant] doctor ordered.     

Since then, that particular plant has grown so fast and so strong and become SO BIG, I've transplanted it 3 times into bigger pots. 

I've also taken the babies (new growth) from the "mama" plant & started a second pot full of aloe...and then before I knew it, had to transplant those.  They were out of control. 

I've even payed it forward and gifted some of the mama's grand-aloes! 

[Mother & daughter BEASTS, separate for the last time.]

Today, as I enjoyed the summer-like weather, and emerged myself in some urban gardening,  I gathered the biggest & strongest pieces, 
preparing them for a move to yet another, much larger,  pot. 

This is the biggest of all transplanted pieces.  
The fleshy leaves are bursting with aloe, which makes the plant very heavy.
This came from the original given to me 5 1/2 years ago. 

[Perfectly tight, organized root system...but definitely ready 
for some  room to stretch.]

[I sorted out the best parts for their new home.] 

Next, I mixed & stirred & massaged the old soil, then added in some new cactus (special draining variety) soil, & prepared for the big move.  
This was a long and messy process. 

I will use these (youngest) babies as gifts to other people, as well as bargaining chips for more gardening advice at my local nursery


 So strong and beautiful.  She stands nearly 4 feet tall and about 3 feet wide. 

She was my first child...and now she's all grown up.