Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tuscan Cooking: Canned Tomatoes


Quick and simple pasta is a must in my home; therefore, Jimmy and I took a cooking class in Tuscany. To my delight, we learned that northern Italian cooking includes canned tomatoes! Maybe all these years I have been cooking like a true Italian. Our instructor told us that Italians avoid fresh tomatoes because they contain too much water for a thick sauce. San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes are the tomatoes of choice because they don't contain extra ingredients, and this is consistent with the Tuscan tradition -- simple cooking. As soon as I got home, I immediately went to Whole Foods and stocked up. I made a red pasta sauce this weekend, and the San Marzano tomatoes didn't disappoint. (More on how to make a Tuscan red sauce later this week.)

Here are a few other Tuscan secrets.


(1) Use either garlic or onion in your sauce, NOT both! And cook it simultaneously with extra virgin olive oil to prevent burning.


(2) Use a noodle pasta for red sauce, and shell or penne for white because it can hold the creamy sauce.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Thursday, May 26, 2011

An Urban Engagement

I was so excited when I came across my friend's beautiful engagement photos. Then I found out her photographer is the talented Sasha Gulish from San Francisco (previously mentioned here). First, how amazing is Michelle's skin? (No surprise I notice this first given my slight skin obsession.) She is absolutely glowing.

What I love best about engagement sessions are the excitement and anticipation of the couple and how much they have to look forward to. This setting is perfect and unique because the couple's love takes an urban setting, something so ordinary and plain, and transforms it into something so beautiful. Congratulations the to stylish couple!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Savoring Breakfast


The best part of our Italian getaway was the food. We spent an inordinate amount of time lingering over breakfast. In "real life" I inhale a yogurt as I dart out of the house, usually leaving stains on my shirt before I even reach the car door. But in my Italian life, Jimmy and I spent at least an hour each day savoring jam-filled croissants and the hillside views from our balcony. Now that we are back to reality, we are making an conscious effort to sit down for breakfast together, even if it means waking up 10 minutes early.

{sweet views}

{sugar-filled croissants}

{balcony views}

{rolling hills landscape}

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Marriage Maintenance

I recently had lunch with a good friend and our conversation got me thinking, how do you maintain your marriage/relationship, especially during the time when things aren't particularly good or bad? The time when things just are? I've written here about the butterfly effect when it comes to dating and the early days of marriage. We all know that marriage (or any long-term relationship) takes work, especially when solving a major conflict or problem. But what about all the other times in your marriage; the time long after the newness has faded and when no major problem is taking center stage? What do you do with this time?

Unfortunately, many people go into autopilot and merely exist. During this time, however, it is critical to consciously "maintain" what you have and solidify your relationship's foundation. During your marriage maintenance, it is key to either keep the positive momentum going or create it, depending on where you are at that give time, and make your relationship worth it. I italicize this because when you leave the house, it is important to know the value of what you have at home, and you want your spouse to do the same. Temptation is everywhere, and it is not going away. Temptation is not limited to infidelity either. It includes anything that strains your marriage, for example, a busy career. Properly maintaining your marriage is the best defense against the outside world that leads to so many bad marriage statistics (especially here in California).

What, if anything, do you do to properly maintain your marriage/relationship?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Listen Up Boys

A Must Read

Before I launch into my new favorite blogger, let me start off by saying that I usually am all about photographs. Let's be honest, most days I have too much ADD (self diagnosed of course) to read more than a paragraph. But that all changed when I found Elana over at mrsschneed. She writes about staying at home, breastfeeding and everything in between. My recent favorite was a story about the "lunching ladies of Niemen" that she observed while in the midst of a recent botox conundrum. Her writing is witty, funny and pulls you in immediately. Best of all, Elana is relatable and tells it like it is.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Love This

Food Friday: Mangia Mangia

{Tuscan walnut sauce}

The Italians are food extraordinaires. The passion they have for food is obvious in they way they talk about it, prepare food, and savor every bite. Italians also take regional pride in their food and the specialties. Cinque Terra is known for pesto, and in Tuscany it is all about the walnut sauce. The best part for me was the guilt-free eating. After all, on vacation everything is fat free, right?

{tomato and mushroom ravioli}

{pesto from Cinque Terra}

{egg pasta from Varenna, Lake Como}

{vegetable soup - so amazing I had it twice}

{dill olive appetizers}

{the best picnic lunch}

{pesto gnocchi}

Thursday, May 19, 2011

4 Years and Counting


Today marks four years. Here is to many more wonderful and exciting moments!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Italy: Cinque Terra 5 Town Hike


The hiking in Italy was the perfect offset to my enormous pasta intake. The best hike was in Cinque Terra between the five towns. After a difficult hike up the mountain, there was nothing better than looking down at the destination, a beautiful seaside village. I must say, I owe it to Jimmy for actually finishing because there were many times I was cussing up a storm and ready to take the train to the next town.

{after a steep hike up, the first town peeked behind the mountain}

{view from the other side of Vernazza - heading to town 3}

{beautiful destination}

{after four hours, the final town!}

{grand finale}

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Real Men . . .

Wear satchels!

Italy: The Itinerary

A trip to Europe from the States can easily become a whirlwind experience that leaves you exhausted. Jimmy and I are too busy in our ordinary lives to take a vacation from our vacation; therefore, our itinerary focused on relaxing. We stayed at 3 hotels in small northern Italian cities.

Jimmy planned our entire vacation, (literally the whole thing) and I was along for the ride, sun, and pasta. We started in Lake Como, then set off to Cinque Terra, and ended in the Tuscan hilltown of San Gimignano. We got our "big city" culture from day trips to Siena and Florence, but the majority of our time was spent hiking, soaking up the sun, and enjoying lazy lunches "Italian" style.

Stop 1: Varenna, Lake Como (3 nights)
-Highlight was renting a boat and cruising the lake.

Stop 2: Cinque Terra (3 nights)
-Highlight was the five town hike.

Stop 3: San Gimignano, Tuscany (4 nights)
-Highlight was the Tuscan landscape.

Stop 4: Day trip to Florence
-Highlight was finding The Jersey Shore house and seeing the cast!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Italy 2011

{Varenna, Lake Como}

My little hiatus was spent internet free and across the pond! Jimmy and I just returned from a fabulous 12 day vacation in Northern Italy. There is so much to tell (which will be the focus over the next several days), but let's just say I indulged on wine, gelato and pasta every single day!


Friday, May 6, 2011


I am going on a one-week electronic free hiatus. This time will be spent reading, practicing yoga, and writing in my journal. I am looking forward to being unplugged.

See you in a week!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Jimmy's Meal


To offset my McDonald's binge, Jimmy made a great Sunday supper. It is no secret that Jimmy loves to cook, and that is great for me. He tried a new recipe and made an amazing sausage and pea pasta. He completed the meal with baked artichoke, farmer's market salad, and Italian wine. My contribution? Strawberries and cream (a simple and quick dessert), and the oh-so-coveted job of dish duty.

{the greens/reds}

{berries & cream}

{the complete dinner table}

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Calling All Bookworms


Attention all bookworms, I really need help here! I am in desperate need of good fiction summer reads. Any suggestions? Here are a few of my favorites.

The Help
Time Traveler's Wife
American Wife
Water for Elephants

All Emily Giffin Books
Something Borrowed
Something Blue
Love the One Your With
Baby Proof
Heart of the Matter

Monday, May 2, 2011

Deliciously Out of the Ordinary


I hardly ever eat fast food, but hey, I am not perfect. Breakfast is one of my favorite meals of the day, and you can't beat the taste of hash browns and hotcakes at McDonalds. I mean really, they are delightful! Now I know some of you are judging me and thinking "gross," but bring on the judgments because this breakfast was well worth it. The best part? I rode my bike a few extra few miles this weekend, so there is no guilt here!