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10.31.2013

Pumpkin and Golden Apple Soup


The chilly air of fall is perfect for hearty soups. Some of my favorites are butternut squash and pumpkin soup which are in abundance in the fall/winter season. The cold just makes me want to linger in the kitchen chopping, baking and cooking while listening to music, possibly with a glass of Moscato to keep things even happier. This particular recipe is one of the easiest ones yet - simply because the oven and the immersion blender does all the work for you. I believe that soup is the best first recipe to try out if you're one that's not much of a cooking person, because I know once your first batch comes out great, it will give you the confidence that you need to try making something else.

Ingredients

4 small baking pumpkins (or can substitute for 2 15oz. cans of pure pumpkin. Just make sure it's not for baking)
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves peeled and chopped
2 golden apples, peeled, cored and cut into cubes
4 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp plus 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground white pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
Creme fraiche, for garnish
Chestnuts, roasted, peeled and coarsely chopped for garnish and some nutty crunch*
2 tbsp chives, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.


Directions

Wash and cut the pumpkins in half. Poke holes with a fork in pumpkins before baking. Brush the flesh of the pumpkins with 1 tbsp melted butter and season with 1 tbsp salt and 1 tsp white pepper. Lay the pumpkins, flesh side up on a baking sheet. Roast them at 350 degrees for 1 hour until the flesh is nice and soft.

In stock pot over medium heat, melt 2 tbsp. butter. Add onion, apples and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 10 minutes. Scoop the flesh of your pumpkins from the skin into the pot and add the broth 1 1/2 cups water, bay leaf, coriander, salt and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Turn off the heat; discard bay leaf. Using an immersion blender, puree soup in pot until smooth. Stir in cream and turn the heat back on. Cook over medium heat until heated through, for about 4 more minutes.

Once your soup is done: ladle into bowls, garnish with 1 tbsp of creme fraiche, sprinkle with fresh chopped chives and finish with a pinch of your toasted chestnuts or walnuts.

*If you can't find chestnuts, you can always substitute for toasted walnuts chopped.


~Happy FALL cooking!~





10.29.2013

The Unexpected Discovery at a Plant Nursery



A few weeks ago, I was feeling blah and uninspired. I thought to myself 'why don't I get out of my home office and go look for some pretty fall plants for the house to lift my spirits.' The hubby and I made our way to this nursery that we've driven by quite a few times but really never had the time to stop in. As soon as we inched closer inside, we quickly realized that this place wasn't really your typical nursery with rows and rows of plain terra cotta pots, dirt and plants, but more like what I would I consider a 'boutique' nursery where you find one of a kind items as well as vintage home accessories. Suffice to say, that just browsing through the small aisles of the store instantly revived my wilted soul that day - honestly, I didn't want to leave. I think I might have told one of the sales associates that 'I wanted to live there.' Her response was: "be my guest!" The place felt so cozy with all its plush cottage-y types of furnishings, unique vintage lamps, antlers, vignettes, and shimmery vintage vases which totally put some pep in my steps to the point that I literally wanted to skip about in the store...aaah...[giggles]. I was so inspired by every corner in there. In the end though, instead of coming home with plants, I scored this unexpected piece that now resides in a corner of our home serving a well-appreciated function reminding me/us daily of the experience being in this store. Isn't it amazing how sometimes you leave your house with one intended purpose, but totally experience the most unexpected turn of events - at times for the better? I love when that happens, especially when it ends on a positive note.









Have you made any exciting discoveries like this recently?

*Images via: my iPhone... 


10.28.2013

King of Pop Military Jacket


After spending a cozy Saturday in bed catching up on some needed Zzzzzzzzz's, the hubby and I were well rested for our afternoon adventure. A friend recommended a shopping stop in the OC known as 'Fashion Island' so that's where the wind took us. An afternoon of shopping on a gloomy/foggy day called for nice comfortable casual clothing.  I opted for an oldie but goodie striped cotton scoop neck shirt with a soft slight ribbed texture, an old-time favorite double-breasted military jacket (that makes its appearance every now and then as a tribute to the unforgettable legend of the king of pop) paired with one of my most easygoing skinny jeans. Finishing the look - a popping statement necklace and an old pair of suede grey booties.







Military jacket (similar here - but loving this one), Striped shirt, Crystal cluster statement necklace (featured here and here), Grey booties (similar), Vintage cat eye sunglasses (similar here and here), Lemon yellow skinny jeans (also featured here), Kenneth Cole bag via Nordstrom, 'Midnight Cami' by Essie, Studded leather belt, Mixed jewelry

10.27.2013

A Fall Day With Friends


There's nothing better than cozying up at home on a crisp fall day with friends while indulging on some homemade apple cider and comforting rich creamy pumpkin soup accompanied by small bites of sweet and savory crostinis. Autumn and Winter are my favorite seasons to entertain - that chilly air is such a perfect excuse to hibernate inside to cook up seasonal favorites. A home with autumnal scrumptious fall aromas coming from the kitchen makes me the happiest person and certainly got my weekend off to a great start.




10.25.2013

Grateful Moments

{This is actually the first Tory Burch bag that I'd add to my bag collection. Sort of channeling the classic Chanel shoulder bag}

Happy Friday everyone! Hope you have a wonderful weekend planned. This weekend, I'm really looking forward to having visitors from out of town. For one, it'll be a good mental distraction for me and I'll get to do what I love to do best - cook for guests. So, I am going to indulge them with a variety of appetizers including warm apple cider - one of my favorites during the fall season and very necessary as it's been a little bit chilly around these parts.

{It felt good to see some fall colors. I had to buy me a couple of chrysanthemums just to bring some color/life to my front and back door}

{I will buy any kinds of tea if they come in a pretty tin. Thank goodness, it's the good'ol English breakfast tea which is even tastier with creamer}

{I miss driving on the Northern State Parkway:(LI}

{A desert' sunset always helps me appreciate the creator who is the ultimate artist of everything awe-inspiring}

Enjoy your Friday! 



10.24.2013

Favorite Links

 
1. I never need an excuse to enjoy a good glass of wine. As much as we learn about wine in our innumerous weekend wine tasting vacations, I never seem to remember all the technicalities of being a true wine connoisseur. So the steps on how to drink wine like a Frenchman makes wine drinking sound even more... oh, 'je ne sais quoi'.

2. A great tasting guacamole is such an enjoyable delectable when you can make your own. How ideal would it be if you could save a freshly made recipe for the next day or even up to three days without it turning brown or tasting yucky? I was amazed at reading these tips on how to do just that. Definitely can't wait to try these tips.

3. A pretty hilarious GIF on buying bags online that I think is right on! It makes me laugh every time. #7 is my favorite! [wide smile;]

4. I think it's safe to say that I'm not the only one that's always lamenting about being tired even after a full night's sleep. Knowing which one of these 8 surprise reasons why you're still tired is a start to making necessary adjustments. Which one of these surprises you the most?

5. Nothing gives me the greatest satisfaction to know that my feelings about Facebook aren't totally askew. This person's reasons for deleting her Facebook page are sure food for thought.


 

10.21.2013

Sparkling Sequins



Sequins hi lo sweater, Zebra skirt (seen here and really loving this one and this one), Zac Posen satchel (featured here), Office London for Topshop ankle booties (seen here)

I'm always surprised at how cold it can get in southern California. There were a couple of weeks that got so cold, I found myself looking to pull down my bags of turtlenecks and heavy sweaters from the top of my closet, because the weather was feeling more like the chilly days of winter rather than crisp fall air. The good thing is, I love the cold - it's a great excuse for me to wear cozy sweaters. Whenever the temperature drops below 70, I'm all smiles as I happily reach out for favorite warm fall/winter ensembles like, this sequin sweater top (what I consider a seasonal staple)  paired with a most comfortable zebra skirt infused with this bright eclipse colorblock satchel for a casual day out running errands.










10.17.2013

Galvanized Tray Stand To Bar Cart Makeover



Ever since I turned my small butler table into a mini bar cart here, I've been keeping my eye out for a real vintage brass gold bar cart like this one, here and here. On the rare  occasions that I did stumble upon some bar carts, they were either astronomical, or didn't draw me - until, I was browsing for plants at what I'd call a state-of-the art landscape facility (I'll share photos with you just to show you what I mean) and saw this galvanized tray stand in the back of the store with pretty varied size vases displayed on it.  I said to the hubby "this would make an ideal, unexpected (just how I like things) bar cart...", and he said: "if you think so, let's get it." I gave it a double look and thought, 'all it needs is a coat of metallic gold paint on the legs and the tray rim to give it a dash of glam. Definitely an exciting addition to our dining room that would make a great conversation piece in its unexpected environment as opposed to serving its true purpose as a plant stand. Since I know it's going to live in one corner of our dining room and would never be moved to any other area of the house, I didn't mind it not having any wheels. Just staying true to being unique in fashion as well as in my décor.


 To add a little sparkly shimmer - I used my gold jewel nail polish on the tray's rim  



In the process of styling this particular one, I just followed a few simple rules:

~ One, I didn't want to overcrowd it even though it has the room for storing a lot of bottles. I selected the prettier bottles that I felt were display worthy including this recent bejeweled diy.

~ Secondly, I added some pretty season appropriate cocktail napkins, shaker, a pretty large blue glass vase turned ice bucket, tong, an antique key bottle opener, red and white striped paper straws in a mercury glass vase, fresh flowers and fresh lemons to add color, interest and make it all look beautiful. But I know things on here will be in constant rotation as I see fit for each entertaining occasion.





I've since added a few of the following pieces that I was missing in my bar arsenal:



10.15.2013

DIY: Bejeweled Bottle Topper


I'm a person that hates clutter or keeping around unnecessary items that have not been used in a year. At the same time I hate to waste, so I find myself recycling many things like, pretty jars, funky/oddly shaped bottles and condiment containers that can be used for storing other items in a visually appealing fashion. Like this clear curvy 'almost in the shape of tower of Pisa' bottle that we bought in Capri a few years ago.  It was filled with one of my favorites- creamy limoncello. It's one of those bottles that I'd never toss for obvious reasons - one, because it reminds me of our lovely trip to Capri and second, its shape and texture is very unique. Recently, I've been rebottling some of our liqueurs from their non-exciting bottles to prettier decanters, prepping them for my newest fun non-traditional bar cart find that I can't wait to share with you guys pretty soon. I thought the blue HPNOTIQ liqueur would look so much better in that curvaceous fluid bottle, and what's more, a bedazzled topper would be the crown jewel. Its blue hue reminds me of a beautiful shapely woman wearing an ice blue gown dripped in diamonds twinkling amidst a crowd at a party...in this case, the crowd of all the bottles on the bar cart.

5 simple items needed: Embellishment, glue gun, wine stopper, wine funnel and a pretty bottle.

 
1. Pour your liqueur in your preferred bottle using a decanting funnel. I'd suggest to do it after you've already applied your embellishment atop your bottle cap. In my case, I poured it before simply because I got a little too excited at working on this project and didn't think about it until after I was gluing my embellishment as can be seen in the photos. Pure imperfection. What can I tell ya.
 
 
2. Apply glue on top of (chosen) bottle cap and piece of jewel.

 

3. Adhere your jewel atop of your bottle cap and apply pressure until it's dry.

 
4. Replace your old liqueur bottle with a fashionable air tight wine topper, if you still have liqueur remaining in the old bottle as I did.
 
 
...Some great tips on properly storing your liqueurs.

...Here are a few cool bottle toppers that I really like: