Friday, August 31, 2012

Magic Pasta Sauce

My brother's fiance says my mom's pasta sauce recipe is like magic, and is so good that she eats and eats and eats and doesn't talk until it's all gone.  The magic sauce, I believe, was adapted from my grandma's recipe, which was probably pulled from somewhere else.

To continue the tradition of giving the sauce my own spin, I try to make it as healthy as possible by using my baby food processor (best birthday gift ever from my mom) to grind up as many veggies as possible to mix into the sauce.  Kale, spinach, zucchini, squash, peppers, carrots, you can't taste or see any of them, but they make eating pasta a whole lot healthier!

Mom's Magic Pasta Sauce

2-3 cloves garlic, smashed through garlic press
1 large onion, diced
1 package (~1 lb.) italian sausage
2 tsp olive oil

2 large cans (14-15 oz) whole tomatoes, undrained
3 small cans (8 oz) tomato sauce
1 bag of spinach or kale*
1 green pepper*
1 red/yellow/orange pepper*
1 bag shredded carrots*
1 yellow squash*
1 zucchini*
1 large handful of fresh basil, chopped
1 small handful of fresh oregano, chopped
1 tsp. fennel seed
Salt and pepper to taste

*All of these need to be run through the food processer into very small pieces.  Whatever is available and fresh in your farmer's market or grocery store will work fine in this recipe instead of the vegetables listed.  However, try to go for vegetables that are red/orange/yellow, otherwise your sauce may end up a color other than red.

In a large pot, add garlic, onion, and olive oil over medium heat.  Once you can start to smell the onion and garlic, add the italian sausage (either cut it out of the casing or, if you don't want more dishes like me, you can push it out if you apply enough pressure). Continue to cook, breaking apart the sausage into small chunks, until the sausage is no longer pink.

Add in the rest of the ingredients, excluding one can of the tomato sauce.  Stir everything together.  If the sauce is no longer as red as you would like, add in the last can of sauce.  Simmer on low for 60 minutes, occasionally poking with a spoon or fork to break up the tomatoes.  After 60 minutes, it's ready to serve, or let cool completely before storing.  When serving, make sure to top with lots of fresh parmesan! 

This sauce stores really easily in the freezer.  Since I'm usually only cooking for myself and/or the boo, one batch of sauce can last a loooong time.  Or not really that long, because it's that good.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A love affair...

... with skirts!

I have been obsessed lately.  Semi-dressy skirts have been slowly taking over my wardrobe, in fun patterns and colors that can be dressed up or down.

This particular skirt was purchased for a trip to Vegas a few months ago, and I really thought I could only wear it dressed up for a night out on the town.  However, thanks to the dryers in my "cheap and tacky" apartment breaking, I hung my clothes to dry all over my room and noticed there were a lot more ways to mix up my wardrobe than I thought.  Oh, and yes, my apartment building is sporting a giant sign that says "cheap and tacky apartments."  Just my style ;)

Skirt - Express, Shirt - H&M, Jacket - Kohls, Necklace - eBay, Bracelets - Loft, Flats - Payless

Monday, August 27, 2012

You know you have a problem when...

... you manage to buy a pair of jeans while running late for your train!

Ran past the Gap on the way to catch the Metra up to my parents' house on Saturday (and when I say "ran past" I mean remembered that I had a 40% off coupon in my wallet and the Gap was only a block or two out of my way) and grabbed the perfect skinny jeans.  Mid-rise so no muffin top, slim through the ankle, and somehow the regular length worked for me even though I usually get longs.  Can't wait to rock these once the weather in Chicago decides to cool down!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Ensemble: Orange

So this skirt has been giving me some major struggles.  In that I really wanted it and saw it in all of Loft's advertising and emails, yet it wasn't available online or in stores.  I stalked the store in my neighborhood and downtown.  I checked the website relentlessly.  I bought a similar skirt from Banana Republic and later returned it because it wasn't quite the one I wanted.

Earlier this week I walked into Loft, and there it was, hanging out in the sale section!  Like it was meant to be.

Skirt - Loft (oh sure, now it's available online), Shirt & Sweater - New York & Co, Belt - Urban Outfitters, Bracelet - Banana Republic (see here), Sandals - Hive & Honey

Thursday, August 23, 2012

DIY: Shutter Memory Boards

I like to go to a lot of shows and sporting events (despite my lack of interest in sports), and I usually end up saving the tickets (or putting them in various pockets of my purse and then finding them six months later).

One of the first things I made when I moved into my apartment was a memory board out of a pair of wooden shutters.  The shutters are the perfect size to stick tickets, photos, and other trinkets in to display them.

I found the shutters at a thrift store for about two dollars and thought there must be something I could do with them.  I painted them with two coats of blue paint front and back (if you skip the back, you can see it through the shutters).  As you paint, make sure the shutters are facing the way you want them.  The individual shutters should be angled up so that you can stick stuff in between them.  When you paint them, the shutters will get stuck in that position, so make sure they are almost fully closed so there is just a little bit of space to stick a picture or ticket in.  Check me out, using prepositions at the end of a sentence on.  

After letting it dry, I attached them by nailing them directly to the wall.  You could always add picture hangers to the backs, but I wanted them to be really attached to the wall so I didn't accidentally knock them down.  Also, finding picture hangers required another trip to Michael's, and I was tired.

I added some tickets, photos, pins (including an amusing pin of a lady in a mink stole from my grandma), and jewelry to the boards, and voila!  A super easy and cheap memory board.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Arms spread wide on the starboard bow

Last Friday was my company's summer party - a cruise along Lake Michigan.

It was an absolutely beautiful day, made even better because it was the practice day for the Air & Water Show, which meant jets were streaking right over the boat all afternoon.  It was so bright I literally couldn't tell if I had taken any pictures of planes, or if my camera was full of just sky.

Afterwards we wandered down to a little river-front bar, where apparently the menu was made for the visually impaired.

Why can't we do this every Friday?!

Sunday, August 19, 2012


This weekend I went out to my parents' house in the suburbs. The intent of the visit was to help my sister nail down some details for her wedding, which is coming up in October. She is literally the least bridezilla-ish out of anyone I've ever seen. Which, frankly, as the hairstylist for her wedding, makes my life a whole lot easier. Her hair is really short right now, so we decided to just curl it loosely and leave it down. She's having a beach wedding, so something loose and undone will work well.

We also got to do some sisterly bonding activities while I was home, like going to Target, eating at the little restaurant we love down by Lake Michigan, and going running together (we decided to sign up for the Hot Chocolate 5K. Yes, I voluntarily signed up for a race. The chocolate thing is what really convinced me.)

Now it's time to head back to the city for dinner with the boo and his family. Perfect Sunday!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mixing it up

Combining a couple of items I've already shown here in a new way:

How do I know I have a shopping problem?  All of these items are still available in stores.  Blerg.

Shirt - Old Navy (here)
Belt - Target (here.  They just opened a Target a block away from my place of business.  Danger Will Robinson!)
Skirt - Loft (here)
Sandals - Payless (here)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fall Shopping List

Yes, I love summer, but that doesn't mean I haven't already picked up a few pieces for this fall!  Fall is my favorite season.  I love the crispness of the air, the smell of falling leaves, pumpkins and planning for Halloween, tailgating (even though I still have no idea how the game of football is played)...

Some of the things I'm currently drooling over:

Kinder Paper Leather Jacket by Joie
I love love love the look of leather jackets, but sadly have never owned one.  The ones I try on never seem to fit my body type.  I have a twill motorcycle jacket in a similar style to this one that fits well, so maybe I just haven't found the right shape yet.

Tipped Wool Blazer - Banana Republic
Jacket - H&M
Yes, a lot of jackets.  Isn't that the best part about fall?

Vegan Leather Peplum Top by Tinley Road

Booties - Loft

And this isn't really fall related, but seriously, drooling.  Showed it to the boo and he pulled out his cell to take a picture so he'd remember I wanted it.  My sister has a similar watch from JC Penny - this doesn't count as copying, right?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday Sunday

Had a fantastic weekend at Starved Rock with the boo and some of my best ladies (that includes you, Ben).

Great mini vacation.  Now back to reality tomorrow.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

Happy Friday!

Just wanted to share a couple of things before I head out for the weekend - going on a trip with a couple of my friends to a cabin in the woods.

Last night my brother and his fiancée came over to finalize the save the dates I'm designing for them. Won't post the designs here, don't want to spoil the surprise! They also brought a whole chicken to roast with them, so I had a much more balanced meal than all those grilled cheeses I've been making ;)

They said it's a fairly authentic Vietnamese meal (except the green beans I contributed). They both spent over a year in Southeast Asia, so I feel like they know what they're talking about. Roasted chicken, sticky rice with sautéed scallions, and a dipping sauce made from the chicken drippings, chili garlic sauce, and soy sauce. Super yum.

Also, I was handed a paint chip thingie (is there a name for these?) at work today and told to pick out paint colors. An excellent Friday activity!

Finally, free lunchtime concerts in Millennium Park. Happy Friday indeed!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Obsession: Grilled Cheese

I cannot get enough of grilled cheese lately.  When I was a kid, someone turned me on to white bread and Kraft cheeses singles, which I preferred despite the fact that my mom was was serving me whole grains and real cheese.  I kept up with the Kraft singles on my grilled cheese as a grown up, so they were on a very limited rotation - good but not great.

Recently I decided to try real mozzarella and started cooking them in olive oil instead of butter (if you still want it to taste like butter, you can melt a teensy bit into the oil).  Oh. my. gee.  I seriously want to eat these every day.  Sometimes I've fancied them up, here are some of my favorite grilled cheeses:

Caprese Panini from With Style & Grace
Okayyyy, it says Panini, but I turn this into a grilled cheese ;)

Spinach, Goat Cheese, & Pesto from ExPress-O

Bacon Guac Grilled Cheese from Closet Cooking

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

California (here we come!)

Just booked some tickets for a trip to California next month with the boo!  I'm super excited for palm trees and sunshine.  I've been to Southern California once before, but it was for business so I didn't get a chance to do any sight-seeing.  We're going to LA, Orange County, and San Diego.  Any ideas for where we should go/stay/eat/do?

Monday, August 6, 2012


Essie Watermelon.  Yummmmmmmm.  Just looking at my nails makes me happy.  This is the perfect summer color.  Yes, it is still summer, despite all of the fall fashion on the horizon.

I also just purchased a new topcoat from Essie - Good to Go.  I had been using their no-chips version, but the drugstore confused me this morning so I came home with the quick dry instead.  I absolutely love it!  Usually after I paint my nails myself, I'm like, eh.  But today they really look like a pro did them.  And they've managed to hold up despite going to the gym and scrubbing dishes with a brillo pad (forgot I did my nails - whoops!).  New favorite!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sunday Fashion Don'ts

Spotted on the red line: two different colors of leopard print?

Spotted at Sheffield and Diversey: these leggings were also slashed all around the front.  

Saturday, August 4, 2012

I won't give up...

At the wedding I went to a couple of weeks ago, the couple played "I won't give up" by Jason Mraz for their first dance.  Somehow I'd never heard the song before (I never listen to the radio, and Jason isn't really my style), but it seriously almost made me cry.  I am now obsessed.

Also, I love the cello.  Helloooooo, string quartet version.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Look what I got in the mail...

My bubble necklace finally came!  Of course, it wasn't the color I ordered (it came from eBay) but I'm not really complaining.  I was worried it wouldn't work with my large chest, a lot of longer necklaces often end up looking too delicate, but this one works perfectly!

I bought my necklace here.  Also, the shirt is from Loft.