My Aunt has always wanted to rent a house in Tuscany.  Ever since Under The Tuscan Sun, who didn’t want to rent a house in Tuscany!?   After years and years of talking about it, thinking about it, she’s finally done it!  And the family is coming along for the ride.  My Aunt, cousin, sister, future brother-in-law, husband and I will be spending a week eating food, drinking wine and sitting under the Tuscan sun… soaking it all in.  I couldn’t be more excited if I tried.  Oh, but then Chris & I are taking a little pit stop in Barcelona & Madrid on the way home.  If we’re flying over it, may as well stop in for a bit!  Yep, over-the-top excited. See you in a few weeks!

Italy 113 Under The Tuscan Sun

A few frames from our last trip to Italy!  More here, here, here & here.

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June 14, 2012 Holy.Freaking.Crap.


The zucchini is ready!  Looks so good, no?   And normal sized?

Italy 124 Holy.Freaking.Crap.

hahahaha… it’s freaking enormous!

Italy 125 Holy.Freaking.Crap.

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I used to buy salad dressing.  And then, one Thanksgiving, I was in charge of the salad and I wanted something special.  I’d never made dressing before, and for some reason, it seemed that it would be super intimidating.  Why even try if I can buy something great at the store?  But I decided to take a stab at it, and now I will buy another dressing again.  Except perhaps this one because it is amazing.

I made a Pepper Vinaigrette, and it was incredible.  It’s a great starting recipe because it’s simple & easy.  Once you have this basic recipe, making your own alterations is so simple.  Sometimes I leave out the red wine vinegar, sometimes I use dill instead of basil, sometimes just pepper, sometimes whatever comes out of the cabinet in my hands.  Always delicious.

Italy 121 Black Pepper Vinaigrette

Italy 122 Black Pepper Vinaigrette


Black Pepper Vinaigrette

3/4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons tarragon or white wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon coarsely ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon chopped fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon chopped fresh or frozen chives

1 teaspoon chopped fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano


Whisk together all ingredients.


Note to self: Always clean the fresh herbs really really really well.  You never know what’s going to show up.

Italy 123 Black Pepper Vinaigrette

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I have a tea problem.  Obsessed with tea.  There’s an entire cabinet in our kitchen dedicated to teas… maybe fifty different types.  Love love love tea.  So, a few months ago I got a sample in a Birchbox from Kusmi, their Detox tea.  It is so.freaking.good.  So good.  And, perfect for those days that I feel gross and bloaty.  Takes care of it right away!  I always bring a few sachets with me when I travel, wonderful for getting rid of the plane ick.  With a bit of honey & lemon, it is perfection!

Italy 114 Obsessed: Kusmi Detox Tea

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For Christmas last year, Chris bought me an ice cream maker and Jenis Splendid Ice Creams at Home.  Best.Gift.Ever.  I spent months stocking our fridge with every ice cream imaginable.  There was so much ice cream this winter!   Then, I took a little break.  Ice Cream overload.  Now, with it being so hot during the day, I pulled the ice cream maker out of hiding and put it to work.  So good.  So fresh.  So delicious.  I’ll never buy ice cream again!

Italy 115 Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream

Italy 116 Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream

Italy 117 Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream

Italy 118 Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream

Italy 119 Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream

Italy 120 Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream

I wish I had a finished product photo… but we ate it.

The Milkiest Chocolate Ice Cream in the World, with Cherries

Makes 1 Quart

Ice Cream

1 Cup Whole Milk

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

1 cup evaporated milk

2/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt


Sugar-Plumped Cherries

1 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon water

1/2 cup sugar

Make the Cherries – Put the cherries in a heatproof bowl. Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Pour the syrup over the fruit and let cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate until chilled. The fruit will keep for up to one month in the refrigerator.

Prep -  Mix 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.  Chop the cholate and put it in a medium bowl.  Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Cook – Combine the remaining milk, the cream, evaporated milk, sugar and corn syrup in a 4-quart sauce pan, and bring to a rolling boil over medium high heat. Add the cocoa, whisking until it is incorporated, and continue boiling for four minutes.  Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.  Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat.

Chill – Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the chocolate.  Add the salt and whisk until the chocolate is melted and incorporated.  Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath.  Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

Freeze – Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy.  Pack the ice cream into a storage container, adding the drained cherries in layers and seal with an airtight lid.  Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.

Note – I buy my storage containers at Surfas.  This recipe fills two of the pint sized containers.

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I usually don’t eat a big lunch.  I work from home, so I tend to graze… eating a bit here, a bit there, never really making a meal for myself.  But one day, I felt like pizza.  And while I didn’t want to eat pizza, I really did want to eat pizza.  Catch me?  So, I dug around to see what we had, threw this in the oven and have literally been eating it every day since.  That was almost two weeks ago.

It’s so simple I feel a little bit silly even writing it as a recipe.  That’s ridiculous.  But it’s so good, so simple, so delicious, that I couldn’t not share it!   You will feel like you created something amazing, when in actuality you layered some stuff and let it melt.  But isn’t that what it’s all about… taking the super simple and creating amazing?!

I love to eat it with a little bowl of fresh berries.  They are so delicious right now!  The blackberries are absolutely incredible.  I haven’t added fresh basil yet, but I bet that would be incredible as well!

pizza 2 The Best, Easiest, Most Delicious Lunch

Pita Pizza

1 Whole Wheat Pita

Goat Cheese

1/2 Roma Tomato

A handful of olives

salt/pepper/oregano/olive oil


Pile everything on top of the pita.  Broil for five minutes.  Eat.

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It grows out of control!  These pictures were taken just about one month after this first round, but everything has grown so much more than I ever expected!   There are teeny little grapefruits, tomatoes, zucchini, strawberries, corn and squash.  Almost everything is flowering, just waiting for the little fruits to sprout through!  I think the squash is the most surprising… it’s ENORMOUS.  HUMONGOUS.  I literally trim it back a few times a week so that it doesn’t completely cover the plants surrounding it.  They’re not joking when they suggest planting a few feet apart.  I did not do that.

There was a little problem with the mint, whereby we tweaked the watering system and it didn’t get watered for a bit.  So it nearly died, but it’s bouncing back icon smile How Does Your Garden Grow?

Other than that, I’m not really sure what I’m doing, but it seems to be working.  Water.  Sun.  Love.



Garden2 103 How Does Your Garden Grow?

Garden2 104 How Does Your Garden Grow?

Garden2 105 How Does Your Garden Grow?

Garden2 106 How Does Your Garden Grow?

Garden2 107 How Does Your Garden Grow?

Garden2 108 How Does Your Garden Grow?

Garden2 109 How Does Your Garden Grow?

Garden2 110 How Does Your Garden Grow?

Garden2 111 How Does Your Garden Grow?

Garden2 112 How Does Your Garden Grow?

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I am a recipe girl.  If it calls for skim milk, and I only have whole milk, I will drive to the grocery store and buy skim milk.  Slowly but surely I am learning and realizing that it will probably be OK.   But, I kind of think the same way about cocktails.  I want them to be layered and a bit complex.  Surprising.  No gin & tonics around here, thankyouverymuch.  (OK, on occasion there are gin & tonics because, well, they’re delicious.)

I feel cocktails should also be seasonal.  Fresh.  Delicious.  As I have my juicer out on the counter at least twice a week, I try to make sure to have some fresh fruit juice in the house.  This week, one watermelon produced four bottles of watermelon juice! So, I started with watermelon juice. Then the rest of it just kind of fell into the shaker and the result was amazing.  So amazing that I had entirely too many of them with my sister on Friday afternoon.  Then I woke up at 5 am to run 6 miles.  (Poor, but delicious choices.)

watermelon 102 Cocktail Hour: Watermelon Cocktails

Watermelon Cocktail

2 oz Vodka

2 oz Fresh Watermelon Juice

Squeeze of half a lime

1 tsp agave nectar


Combine all ingredients in shaker with ice.  Shake.  Pour into a martini glass.  Garnish with a slice of watermelon.

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June 4, 2012 Running!?


I never would have considered myself a runner.  I have short legs.  I don’t like exercising outside.   I hate running.   Ha, I guess that last one is the kicker!   But, it turns out something you hate can become something you absolutely adore!

I started running with my Aunt.  A few years ago she started running, then added triathlons to her repertoire.  When she was in LA visiting, she really wanted to run a 5k, so I joined her.  My goals were to 1) finish the race, and 2) don’t die.  As long as I was standing when I crossed the finish line, I would chalk it up as a win!  But something kind of odd happened.  I liked it.  A lot.

So, that 5K was a bit of a gateway drug.  I started running more, adding it to my daily workouts, but only a few miles at a time.  I never planned on running more than the 3.1.  And then, I decided to run a 10K.  Because, well, I needed more of a challenge.  I needed the structure that a training program gives to my regular workouts.   I used the Bridge to 10K app for the iPhone, and it couldn’t be easier.  It beeps when you run, beeps when you walk… running intervals that get longer and longer over the six week period.

So, on Saturday morning, bright & early, my husband drove me to Long Beach and I finished my first 10K!   yaaah!  It was fabulous.  I felt good, I even had fun!  (what!?)  I turned the final corner, saw the finish line in sight, and I sprinted for it.  My body straightened up, my arms pumping so quickly in front of me, my legs seeming to run independently of my body.  I may have accidentally gotten a teeny bit too close to one of the other runners… but what’s a little shoulder check among friends?  And I crossed the finish line at 1:03:54.  My goal was 1:10.

running 1 Running!?

So, when we get back from Italy, I start half marathon training.  What’s another 6.9 miles!?

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Jessica is my literary friend.  I imagine as a child that she kept her nose buried in a book at all times, with a waiting stack not too far out of reach.  Her apartment has multiple walls dedicated only to the storage of books, and this girl reads mostly on a Kindle.  She has collections of books… old books, pretty books, classic books.  She is funny and smart and creative and happens to know me super well.  So, whenever I’m looking for something new to read, she’s my first, and well, only stop.  Because anything that she has every recommended to me is absolutely superb!  She gives me books that I absolutely can’t put down.  Books that I never thought I would enjoy.  Books that I try to go back to after the last page, forgetting that the story is over and the characters aren’t moving on among those pages.  Books that make me sad they aren’t part of a trilogy!

So, my lovely friend has been kind enough to be a contributor!  I know that I find her recommendations absolutely wonderful, and I hope she can inspire you!

jess 1 199x300 Flipping Pages: An Introduction

Hello, my name is Jessica and I have a reading problem. (This is where you’re all supposed to say, “Hi Jessica.” Do it. It’ll be fun.)

I was beyond thrilled when Jordana asked me to contribute this little series on everything book-related! It is my firm belief that one cannot lead a truly fabulous life without a regular reading regimen. In other words, books are my cardio. This does nothing for my figure, but if only you could see my soul! After majoring in English Lit in undergrad and grad school, I have a pretty solid foundation to build upon. That doesn’t mean I’m (too) snobby about what I read. After years (and years) of being told what to read and when, my philosophy is: pick whatever strikes my fancy at this very moment. This means choosing from all (err…most) categories and genres, to whatever makes me happy. Because Jessica’s Reading Rule No. 1 is: Above all, have fun. I find that after I’ve finished a book I truly enjoyed, I want to run out and tell everyone about it. The best thing anyone can ever say to me is, “I’m looking for a good book.” There’s just nothing better than passing on a great read to someone I know will love it as much as I did! So, so looking forward to sharing all my great book finds here with all of you!

Here are some of my most memorable reads over the years. Some of them are embarrassing.

collage1 Flipping Pages: An Introduction

1. The Great Gatsby. I come back to it every few years and it’s always absolute perfection.

2. A Song of Fire and Ice. Ok, here’s where I really let my dork show. Yes, this is a fantasy series. Yes, there’s magic and dragons. But I stand behind my love of this series and remain forever thankful to good ole’ George R. R. Martin for leading me on an unforgettable journey through this incredible world.

3. Anything Jane Austen. My favorite is Persuasion, but I hold a deep and burning love for all of Austen’s novels. They’re such cheeky fun.
4. Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea. I loved Jane Eyre as a child, but enjoyed it even more as a grown-up. Jean Rhys’ quasi-prequel, set in the West Indies, chronicles the life of Bertha, Mr. Rochester’s ill-fated first wife.

5. Charlotte’s Web.  I recently read this to a child and found myself sobbing as poor Charlotte said her goodbyes. Made a mental note to compose myself a bit before reading it to my own children someday.

6. Moonstone. A completely engrossing Victorian detective novel that kept me awake, reading furiously for several nights.

7. The complete works of David Sedaris. At least once a week, I lament not being born a Sedaris. I go back to his stories over and over again and find they still make me ugly-laugh every time. They’re also great as audio books because, to be honest, Sedaris’ voice is hilarious all on its own.
8. The novels of John Grisham. These really did it for me during junior high. I definitely knew more legal jargon than most 13 year olds.

9. Babysitter’s Club. I was so engrossed in this series that my parents had to intervene. They’d pry the book out of my hands and force me to play outside. I still hold this against them.

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